It starts with the kids

Wisdom from the mouths of babes.

Often children see things more clearly than adults, as yesterday's opinions page illustrated. A sixth grade boy wrote a letter protesting Daughters on Campus Day. He claims that the UA is discriminating against male adolescents by inviting only girls to participate in educational activities.

And he's right.

Tomorrow is UA's Daughters on Campus Day, a day where employees are encouraged to bring their daughters to work. A local rendition of a national event, this is supposed to be a mechanism for encouraging girls to aim high and show them that they can achieve.

Of course they can.

Studies have shown that shortly after girls reach junior-high age, they suffer huge attacks on their self esteem. This avalanching self image is said to be a reason why girls fall behind boys in math and the sciences, and change their career goals and college plans.

Other studies are purported to illustrate that girls are quieter than boys in classes and often get railroaded out of class discussions, also around the junior high level.

What this is supposed to mean is that girls and boys see themselves as equals until puberty, a time where they stop being children and develop into young men and women, each with a distinct set of characteristics and societal roles.

Apparently after puberty, boys eclipse girls scholastically and socially. Girls are shoved aside as boys hog the limelight, a pattern which is said to continue for the rest of their lives.

To combat this phenomenon and plunging self esteem, which does carry over to scholastic and career endeavors, organizers decided that one day should be dedicated to showing girls what they can achieve.

UA's Daughters on Campus Day is supposed to follow suit, with activities and workshops planned to illustrate the theme and get the girls excited about participating in higher education and the work world.

These are admirable goals, and there is nothing wrong with encouraging girls to set lofty goals for themselves and helping them meet those goals. Girls should be exposed to as many educational and career possibilities as they can, and see the world of higher education as the exciting place is can be.

Girls should not only have high expectations of themselves, but should be expected to meet standards set for them by their parents, teachers and society. Girls must know that they are important members of society and are expected to contribute and be productive.

But so should boys.

Biology is not an excuse for expecting less of a person, nor is it a reason to expect more. Girls must never get the impression that it is satisfactory for them to sit back and let the boys take over. And boys must never be taught to expect a girl to move over simply because she is a girl.

It is important to consider the impact of these types of specialized days. Every child needs to feel special and smart, but what does separating boys and girls say to those children?

Daughters on Campus-type events have the potential to raise questions where there were no poisonous assumptions of inequality. How does a relatively young mind comprehend the larger societal concept of chauvinism? How do you explain to a little girl why she is being singled out for special treatment, without making her feel inadequate and in need of that special treatment?

Daughters on Campus, and its national counterpart, have the ability to be positive events, but also run the risk of introducing kids to prejudices that don't come into play for them yet.

Children do experience sexism, just as they experience racial and ethnic prejudice. They may not know what it is called, but they pick up on adults' behavior and file it away as they learn. This is the type of negative influence special-focus days try to combat, but separation is not the answer.

Daughters and sons should be invited to campus together, as equal participants in enrichment activities. Daughters and sons should be nurtured and encouraged to set and reach their goals. They both need to see women in the work place, and come to accept that as a reality, not as a special event. Kids on Campus Day would become an opportunity to instill equality and cooperation, instead of showing examples as rarities.

How will negative stereotypes of women will be counteracted, and boys' respect for girls be fostered, unless both see women in as contributing members of society in the work force?

It's vital to expose children to all the possibilities, not to limit their choices.

Sarah Garrecht is Wildcat editor-in-chief and a journalism senior.

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