The Christian Science Monitor

Can schools help rid the world of sexual harassers and abusers?

Boys at the school clasp hands and give each other compliments as part of a gender-based curriculum. Source: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

A little girl named Moey, age 5, makes her way around a circle of classmates, shaking each tiny hand with a firm grip. “Good morning, my dear friend,” she says to the first student in the group, who echoes the greeting and then adds a compliment.

“You are strong,” she tells Moey.

“Your heart shows courage,” the next little girl says to Moey.

Their teacher in this preschool in Iceland’s capital gently reminds them to look each other in the eye when they speak.

After Moey has made her way around the circle, all the girls stand up in their gender-segregated classroom at the Laufásborg preschool, pretending to hold bows and arrows that they fire off into an imaginary forest. They strike warrior poses, and then raise their hands in the air to complete their morning ritual in girl power that begins every school day here. “I am strong,” they yell. “I am strong,” they yell louder. Then finally in a full-throated roar: “I am strong!”

Next door, the boys are forming their own morning circle. They are also taught to look one another in the eye, but they forgo a handshake for a hug. And there is no need to shout about their strength or courage or play warriors, the leaders of this school argue, because society reinforces that for them daily. Instead the emphasis for the boys is on caring and nurturing. “Girls need that extra, ‘I’m a winner.’ Boys need to practice, ‘I’m a good friend,’ ” says Jensina Hermannsdottir, a head teacher at the Laufásborg school. “This #MeToo thing that everyone is talking about – we are doing this every day.”

Welcome to preschool in Iceland, often called the most gender equal country in the world. Iceland has already had a female president and prime minister. It has

‘Raising boys who see girls as equals’Role models for teensChanging the ‘normal’Gender education and culture warsThe real change factor

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Christian Science Monitor

The Christian Science Monitor4 min readPolitics
Russian Internet Giant Yandex Takes Rare Stand Against State Snooping
Internet company Yandex is key to Russian economic success, but it has encryption keys that the FSB wants. Can Russia balance security and economy?
The Christian Science Monitor4 min read
‘Becoming Dr. Seuss’ Opens Up The Author-illustrator’s World
Biographer Brian Jay Jones reveals the perfectionist who gained fame with his children’s books, but feared he was not taken seriously as an artist.
The Christian Science Monitor4 min read
‘Becoming Dr. Seuss’ Opens Up The Author-illustrator’s World
Biographer Brian Jay Jones reveals the perfectionist who gained fame with his children’s books, but feared he was not taken seriously as an artist.