The workmen are collecting the garbage!
A new preschool teacher sings a song "Jobbargubbar" (which translates workmen, in this instance working on a garbage truck) to children between 3-5 years old.
The song is discussed during the pedagogues planning time. The word workmen needs to be replaced cause it identifies that men are doing the work and we want to get rid of gender stereotypes of course being a refuse collector is not a gender specific role.
In this situation the pedagogues have to make a choice.
They can either change the word to a gender neutral word and continue to sing the new word with the children, or, they can bring the children into a discussion and "problematise" the issue. By doing this they will invite the children to think critically.
The next day when the children are singing the song, one of the the preschool teachers says:
"Listen, we are singing about the workmen. Well, is it just the guys who work with garbage?"
The children are quiet and look a little confused. I am not sure they understand the question, so I am asking:
"What do you think the word workmen means?"
People that are collecting garbage answer several of the children.
The department's pedagogues do not use the expression "man" when they talk about somebody that could be either male or female.
Yet many of the children have an understanding that man means human being. This is a norm within language. The word men is understood as people.
So I tell the children that workmen mean that they are men. Is it not unfair to the women who collect garbage.
"We should sing workwomen", suggests one of the children.
But then it becomes unfair to the men, says another.
The children are thinking it through.
What should we sing then?
Everyone must be allowed to participate in the song.