“Girls Only Lego Club”: Washington State Teacher Creates Boy Free Area To Allow Only Girls To Play With Legos

Fairytale_Princess_Series_12_LEGO_MinifiguresSVG_brick_manKaren Keller of Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary on Bainbridge Island, Washington has a rather controversial approach to eradicating gender inequality in her kindergarten class: she reportedly bars boys from playing with Legos. A local paper below quotes Keller as saying that she wants to combat lower spatial and math skills among girls. While she says that girls want to play with dolls while boys want to play with Legos, she refuses to give boys permission to play with the Legos to try to reverse the trend. For many of us, Keller’s approach is not simply discriminatory but completely irrational and abusive. Yet, she clearly feels comfortable in adopting such discriminatory rules and speaking about them publicly. The issue is not the practices at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary but the rise in such discriminatory practices — something that I have criticized through the years.

Adults manipulating the toys that children play with is nothing new, unfortunately. The obsession with toy guns is one such example. I have previously written columns on the campaign against toy guns (here and here). I fail to see the alarm over such play and, as noted in the prior columns, the obsession of some parents is often based on inaccurate accounts of academic research. Plenty of women played with dolls in childhood and went on to become powerful leaders from lawyers to politicians to scientists . . . and yes architects.

Keller stated that boys always ask to play with Legos but she treats them as girls only to try to get girls to use them: “I always tell the boys, ‘You’re going to have a turn’ — and I’m like, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head. I tell them, ‘You’ll have a turn’ because I don’t want them to feel bad.”

Putting aside the constant false statements made to the children, Keller insists that she has greater objectives in mind than equality or honesty. She has taught at the school since 2008 and observed self-segregation where boys inevitably went to the building blocks while the girls played with crayons and dolls. She finds that unacceptable and her solution is to prevent boys from playing with the blocks and Legos to address cognitive disparity between men and women. Of course, that means barring the boys from the useful playtime for cognitive development but Keller insists that it is the girls who need the opportunity.

Keller further says that she is just counterbalancing marketing stereotyping in toys by barring boys from playing with these educational toys: “I just feel like we are still so far behind in promoting gender equity.” She said that she decided to bar boys after she tried a positive approach to get girls to play with Legos. She selected pink and purple Legos but it is not help. The girls simply wanted to play with dolls and crayons. She said “it wasn’t enough” and thus required her discriminatory policy.

What is particularly troubling is that the school appears fully aware of this loony and discriminatory practice. Indeed, Keller was able to use Classroom Enrichment Grants to purchase LEGO Education Community Starter Kits for three Blakely classrooms. However, the grant was offered for all students. Keller however had no intention of letting little boys use the new toys. She said “I had to do the ‘girls only Lego club’ to boost it more. Boys get ongoing practice and girls are shut out of those activities, which just kills me. Until girls get it into their system that building is cool, building is ‘what I want to do’ — I want to protect that.”

Not surprising Keller’s view of equality and fairness is a bit twisted. She insisted “fair is getting what you need to succeed or to get better.”

It is not clear who gave Keller the authority to engage in this type of social engineering through gender discrimination. There is no indication that Principal Reese Ande has criticized, let alone moved to stop, this practice. What concerns me is how comfortable Keller is in her use of such a practice. We have seen interesting same-sex classrooms and even schools as educators rediscover principles of “separate but equal.” Here a teacher is actually barring the use of toys (bought under a grant) by boys to try to change the preferences of girls and enhance the development of girls. There is no evidence that such a practice would produce those results while it is clear that does produce a dishonest and unfair treatment of the boys in the classroom. I have both young boys and girls. I would want neither in Keller’s class, but particularly not my daughter. She does not need a teacher creating boy-free areas to develop her cognitive abilities. That is particularly true when the lesson some with an added dose of discriminatory values.


Source: Bainbridge Review

34 thoughts on ““Girls Only Lego Club”: Washington State Teacher Creates Boy Free Area To Allow Only Girls To Play With Legos”

  1. This is blatant discrimination. Parents of sons who were discriminated against should file a discrimination suit to have here removed.

  2. This is public school, not Harvard.

    The taxpayer’s burden is a Yugo education not the Maserati version.

    Can you say communistic unconstitutional, counterproductive usurpative teachers unions.

    The military constitutes government workers.

    The military does not allow unions.


    Return education to the basics, eliminate superfluous “indulgence” curricula and require only strong high school diplomas with teaching certificates.

    Unions use absurd and unnecessary educational requirements to make it impossible to hire strike replacements.

  3. Teachers with tenure. What does that really mean? Can they not be fired? Is this what Pedophile Priests have in the Catholic Church? Clue me in.

  4. What an insane lady. I say this because she clearly believes she is doing a good thing, forcing social change. She can not see the harm she is doing. She should not be an educator.

    That said, I will poke fun at Justice Holmes, who said, “I don’t agree with sex segregation for any reason.”

    Bathrooms? Changing for gym? 😛

    I know what you’re saying, you just made the blanket statement which I believe could be taken exception to. I support sex segregation for the armed forces, as well as athletic leagues. In regards to public schools, I actually think sex segregation would benefit most of the kids.

    Now I’m not arguing they would learn a different curriculum, just that boys would go into one room and girls into another. The sexes understand and perceive things differently, and bond with each other in different ways. The two classes could come together at regular intervals to do their coop work. Recess could be coed. Lunch as well.

    Issac – I think everyone should be forced to take Home Ec and all Shop classes. These are basic life skills everyone needs to be at least aware of- even if a student does not get enthusiastic about said class, and does the bare minimum- they will at least get an exposure to the requirements of being alive.

    Here is where I am also not the complete freedom proponent I hold myself to be. Force the kids to learn life skills! That’s right! I favor coercion in this regard (if you’re in a government school). If you’re in a private school, your parents will do the coercing. That is their right.

    Jim22 – Celebrate our differences. I heartily agree. Embrace diversity (of thought, and ability). Skin color don’t do sh*t for diversity.

    Legos are fun for everyone. Although when you get old enough, the shop takes their place…

  5. Paul, Under normal circumstances I would agree. But, this girl goes to a private school for advanced kids. They are considering having her skip 2nd grade next year. As I said, dad is an engineer and mom is an MD. The girl speaks in questions. She is constantly processing. I’m going to Costco this week, if our store has it I’ll take a look and see if she’s up to it. Thanks.

  6. Paul, Thanks for the heads up. There’s a 1st grade girl we know that we get a Christmas present. She loves Lego’s. Unlike this teacher, the parents merely encourage her to play w/ Lego’s, they don’t discourage her male cousin when he visits. They both build together in sort of a competition, but more a nice, show and tell. Her dad is an engineer.

    1. Nick – they had another set, too. I would think Shakespeare would be a little advanced for a 1st grader. I would wait until 3rd grade when they can start to read the script.

  7. Two sets won’t work. Then there would be competition. Now, normal people know competition is a good thing. But the education industry thinks competition is bad.

    1. Nick – I noticed, at my local Costco, that Lego was making a set of Shakespeare Legos. They are set to do 4 comedies and 4 tragedies.

  8. Repeal the 19th Amendment.

    Representative government begins at home with the male vote representing the family.

    The sole function of women is perpetuation of the species.

    No other endeavor will persist.

    Without a viable birthrate, the right to vote is moot.

    The salient effect of the 19th Amendment is an American birthrate “death spiral.”

  9. Dealing with the discriminatory and abusive policies of this teacher would not be difficult within the school tenure system. It’s just a matter of dong the paperwork–she has provided the necessary evidence.

  10. Being a normal boy is a serious liability in today’s classroom. Boys tend to be disorganized and restless. Some have even been known to be noisy and hard to manage. Sound like any boy you know?

    But increasingly, our schools have little patience for what only a couple decades ago would have been described as “boyishness.” As psychologist Michael Thompson has aptly observed: “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools. Boys are treated like defective girls.”

    As a result, these “defective girls” are not faring well academically. Compared with girls, boys earn lower grades, win fewer honors and are far less likely to go to college. Boys are languishing academically, while girls are prospering. In an ever more knowledge based economy, this is not a recipe for a successful society.

  11. I am surprised with all the legal eagles here on this blog, that this hasn’t been mentioned . . .

    This is a federal civil rights lawsuit so easy so as to make heads spin.
    And it makes little difference if it is a private or public school.

    The teacher and the administrators and the school, and the municipality – all defendants.

    Jeesh, they couldn’t make it any easier, handed over on a silver platter, it doesn’t even need a trial, summary judgment is obvious.

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