A Child Called ‘Friend’: Swedish Preschool Eliminates ‘Him’ and ‘Her’

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At the Egalia preschool in Sweden students aren’t referred to as a “him” or a “her.”

The school instead uses the gender neutral term “friend” to address its wee pupils as part of an overall effort to spare kids from gender stereotypes that can force them to conform to certain roles and hinder their self-expression.

From the books they read, to the color of the toys they play with, the 33 students at this school — ages 1 to 6 years — are given an opportunity to “be whoever they want to be,” an Egalia teacher told the Associated Press.

The mission behind the school is reflective of the country’s effort to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood on up. That’s because the egalitarian-minded country thinks society gives boys an unfair advantage.

(MORE: Poll: More Americans Prefer Sons to Daughters)

But while the schools policy may sound outlandish to some, there is research to back up its use.

In fact, studies have shown that one of the reasons gay and lesbian students are bullied in school is not because of their sexual orientation but because their gender expression does not conform with the accepted stereotype (the boys don’t play sports, the girls don’t wear frilly dresses, etc.).

The school goes as far to ban classic tales like “Cinderella” and “Snow White” — as classic fairy tales are seen as cementing stereotypes. Instead they opt for books that showcase homosexual couples, single parents and adopted children.

While showcasing homosexual couples and alternative families in storybooks is to be applauded, it’s hard not wonder if this effort goes does more to shelter students than it does to educate them.

MORE: Rutgers Okays ‘Gender-Neutral’ Dorm Rooms to Help Gays Feel Safer