“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.

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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. I think one of the saddest parts of our current society is that we refuse to notice our differences, let alone celebrate them.

  2. issacbasonkavich – ” You don’t force guys to take home economics courses and you don’t force girls to take shop courses. However, you don’t stand in their way.”

    You reminded me of my junior year of HS when my guidance counselor wanted me to take French. I had no interest in learning any language, I was a math/science kid and I knew it had no bearing on what I was going to be doing in college. So, they forced it on me. So, I purposely failed the class and was such a disruption that the teacher finally had me kicked out after two quarters. It was the only class I ever failed in school. I went on to the college of my choice and have since never needed to count to 10 in french.

  3. The school will not overcrowd other already crowded classes and let her have a diminished classroom.

    Tenure in elementary school isn’t like tenure at Universities. I think something this obviously discriminatory could be ordered remedied judicially. Even the threat of a lawsuit would likely cause action by the school board. Naturally parents of the remaining girls can object to their being segregated which means they’d have to be removed also. Then the teacher would either be reassigned to some support capacity or termed.

  4. Rick:

    “Every boy’s parent should demand he be moved out of her class.”

    This is the joys of the tenured, public school system. You can demand all you want. The school will not overcrowd other already crowded classes and let her have a diminished classroom. She can’t be fired. She’ll be rewarded based on time served.

    The parents out where I live had been so burned by the tenure system of poor performing schools that they stood and cheered when the new charter school declared at a meeting that there would be no tenure.

    Private industry gets along just fine without it.

  5. “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.”

    I agree. Forcing boys to play with dolls and girls to play with Legos, against their will is injurious, and creates more issues than it solves.

    There are natural differences between girls and boys. There is nothing wrong with instinctive play drives.

    The better approach is to let the kids play with what they want, and encourage their innate talents. If a girl wants to play with Legos, let her. If she doesn’t, don’t force her. If a boy wants to play with Legos, don’t prevent him.

    What is most distressing is that if this is a tenured teacher, she cannot be fired. Her attitude shows a persistent prejudice against boys, and lack of understanding in natural behavioral differences between girls and boys. She is not a good fit for teaching young children.

    I recall one of the mothers at my charter school pulled her kids out of public school because the teacher who was making her child suddenly hate school told her there was nothing she could do about it. She could complain to whomever she wanted, and she’d still show up to the classroom every day. She had tenure.

    Tenure protects poor performing teachers. The only just system is a meritocracy.

  6. Every boy’s parent should demand he be moved out of her class. What an awful person, it shows how political activism can poison someone’s mind.

  7. There is an obvious difference between opportunity and manipulation. Regardless of the stupidity of this imbecile that might be supported by some educational gurus, to manipulate children to be anything other than who they are is disgusting. If the opportunity is there the traits will out. You don’t force guys to take home economics courses and you don’t force girls to take shop courses. However, you don’t stand in their way.

    Our son in the fifth grade was ecstatic when he came home to make us Fettuccine Alfredo, something he learned in class. We ate it with great gusto and always complemented him on the other crafts he brought home. Still won’t clean his room, wash the dishes, though.

    On the one hand kids should be presented with every opportunity and encouraged to follow their strengths but on the other their weaknesses must be addressed as well. However, you don’t jam square pegs in round holes, vive la difference. What a bad teacher.

  8. This appears to me to be a gross violation of the civil rights of these boys to nondiscrimination under Title IX.

    To join me to seek justice for these kindergarten boys, please find:

    “Action Opportunity: End Misandry and Gender Discrimination Against Kindergarten Boys in Violation of Title IX”

    on reddit dot com slash r slash mractivism

  9. The War Against Boys by Christine Hoff Somers is a must read for anyone w/ a young boy. I returned to college in the later 90’s to get the education credits needed to teach high school history. Much of the PC appalled me. But, there was an offshoot of PC. I had 2 professors, both females, who were anti male. They preached[not teach] that teachers needed to keep boys in their place. That boys would dominate a class if allowed. They said to not call on boys who raised their hands w/ the answer, but to call on the girls. They preached having active boys evaluated for ADD and ADHD. There is a radical feminist agenda in the education industry, and it is anti boy. The statistics show more boys failing and more girls attending college.

    Regarding the spatial differences between boys and girls. Feminists preach that all differences between the sexes[NOT “gender” but sexes], is societal. That if you take away the stereotypes, there will be no differences. The problem w/ this feminist myth is it is counter to SCIENCE. Males are more spatial because of anthropology. Men were hunters which developed the spatial in their genes. Women have better olfactory senses. That comes from them needing to be able to smell who was of their family to avoid inbreeding. So, in this warped feminist teacher’s mind, if she were really wanting to create equality, she needs to put clothespins on all the girl’s noses!

    Parents, how many examples of lunacy coming out of the education industry is needed until there be demands to dismantle departments of education in colleges and universities. If a college student wants to be a teacher, have them take more courses in their field. The education courses I took were worthless. Create teachers who are KNOWLEDGEABLE on their subject. Then, have on the job training in the classroom. Teaching isn’t rocket science. Expose teaching bound college students to the classroom as their training. Require them to volunteer w/ at risk tutoring programs or coaching sports. Coaching is teaching.

  10. I mis understood the Lego thing. I thought the boys wanted to play with the girls’ legs. Lego is the name of a town in Sicily where the mob runs things.

  11. One teacher is not going to change a culture. Cultures change slowly but surely as scientific discoveries create new conveniences and then new cultural behaviors — such as birth control, in vitro babies, surrogate moms, sperm banks, economies of scale, led to more widespread gay marriage, less marriage generally, women in highly technical professions, female leaders, etc.

  12. Most of the research and testing is showing that girls are succeeding better than boys as it is. Now what this woman is doing is making it a little harder. The good thing is, most of these boys have a set of Legos at home to play with.

  13. The idea is to restrict the development of skill sets in boys rather than try to find a way to raise skill set development in girls so that the overriding goal, equality, can be reached. I wonder what the “educational establishment” has to say about the idea of deliberately limiting options for students based on gender ideology.

  14. I don’t agree with sex segregation for any reason. I think this teacher is irrational. Unfortunately the segregation of the sexes is a growing response to what teachers and parents claims are “problems” boys have learning. Entire schools are segregating the sexes. While it is being done in some public schools, it is more likely to happen in “charter” schools. It needs to be stopped.

    Men and women have to work together. I think the sooner they learn to do that the better.

    As to who gets to play with the logs I say everyone!

  15. Chinggis think teacher should teach all kids how to plunder and pillage like proper Mongol warrior. Not allow any kids to play with Legos until they learn proper pillaging skills.

    Then teach all kids how to grow garden with herbs. Need to have equal thyme.

  16. Oops forgot to mention….notice how she lies to the boys? Great work in promoting gender equality and modeling the feminine?

  17. Two items:

    1. It’s Bainbridge … take a distilled liberal element of Seattle and place on an island of grand affluence.

    2. It’s Bainbridge … take a distilled liberal element of Seattle and place on an island of grand affluence.

    Yes the above are identical just as 3 through whatever number you want. I lived in the same county for a number of yrs.

    Its latest local magazine (p 40) speaks to the myriad of opportunities for our children to grow and thrive……..

    This teacher does not follow in the footsteps of the Captain, a hero of the War of 1812 and the honor and provision accorded to his daughter upon his loss at sea.

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