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Gender Bias in Irish schools

             "Sugar and Spice and all things nice, that's what little girls are made of", "Frogs and snails and puppy dogs tails. That's what little boys are made of". We enter this world amidst a barrage of alternating and varied attitudes towards gender, we are labeled immediately from day one and we are treated differently depending on our sex. Walum (1977) carried out a study of parental attitudes towards male and female babies. His experiment consisted of mothers being shown "Beth" and "Adam", both 6-month-old babies, "Beth" being dressed in a frilly pink dress and "Adam" being dressed in blue rompers. "Beth" was viewed as sweet with a soft cry, was given a doll to play with and was smiled at more often. What transpired was that it was the same baby dressed in different clothes. The research concluded that from very early years, girls are talked to and cuddled more, while boys are tossed around vigorously implying the rambunctious and lively characteristics of boys and the sweet docile nature of girls, and that pupils come into school with clearly stereotyped ideas about boys and girls. Mahony focuses on the notion that children are born into a social world where the environment is structured through language and symbols . Through the early years, outside influences such as nursery rhymes, fairy stories, where this attitude is carried right through to the idea of the maiden in distress stereotype along with her knight in shining armour, clothes, toys, games, television and books begin to form and develop attitudes before children even step into a classroom. These types of influences have an impact on later attitudes towards extra-curricular activities and subject choice and are always propelled and intensified by a school setting, school curricula and teacher attitudes. Sara Delamont (1990) states that "it would be ridiculous to argue, or even imply that schools create sex stereotyping against the trend of the wider society, that schools reflect the society in which they are imbedded" .

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