Parents in Salt Lake City, Utah are up in arms over a sexist homework assignment given to 11th graders at Highland High School—one that reads like something out of the 50s. The handout was shared on Facebook by Jenn Oxborrow, whose 16-year-old daughter Lucy Mulligan received it as a mandatory assignment in her Adult Roles and Financial Literacy class (a course that Utah students must pass in order to graduate).
The assignment demands that each student go on a date with a member of the opposite sex, with the stipulation that they can't spend more than $5. But if only the instructions stopped there. Girls and boys in the class received different handouts, each featuring suggestions from the opposite sex on how they should conduct themselves on the date. Here's just a sample of what the girls' ditto said:
-Eat the food you order. Don’t waste his money.
-If you think you’re too fat, etc., keep it to yourself.
-Be feminine and lady-like, don’t use vulgar language or swear.
-Don’t criticize his driving (unless it’s not safe).
And the version given to the boys was not much better.
Here are a few gems from this one:
-Make plans for the date and let the girl know what they are doing.
-No gross noises.
-Don’t gripe about the money you’re spending or don’t have.
-At a restaurant, say what you’re going to order so she will have a guide in ordering.
Oxborrow's post quickly went viral, as concerned citizens in Utah and elsewhere joined her in expressing outrage toward both Highland High School and the Utah Board of Education. Happily, that outrage is having the desired effect. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that both organizations have apologized, and are removing this assignment from the curriculum. Principal Chris Jenson told the Tribune:
There's no doubt that there is gender bias in the assignment. There are some things that are relatively arcane in that assignment and that need to be updated or gotten rid of.
Oxborrow said she was pleased with the response, but indicated that it was hardly the only example of hetero-normative material in the Adult Roles and Financial Literacy class.
If you're trying to figure out where you stand with your gender identity and then you get an assignment like this, it puts our kids at risk. Our teachers and our principals have to acknowledge some of this and teach in a sensitive, evidence-based way — and they're not.
Maybe they could just give these kids a Financial Literacy course that doesn't have a "His and Hers" component? That seems like common sense.