"Thou shalt not exclude" has been the chief commandment of the public school system for decades, and most everyone has been on board with this. After all, kids are ruthless and frequently exclude certain classmates from the social fabric of the school due to a variety of petty reasons. Part of teaching children how to be decent human beings is teaching them that mean-spirited exclusion is wrong. Recently, however, certain public schools around the country have taken actions that are causing everyone to evaluate whether or not all exclusion is wrong. Public school systems say yes, but many reasonable parents say no.
This week in New York City, the principal of Public School 65 (isn't that where Katniss Everdeen went to school?) directed the PTA postpone the dance because of the city's gender-neutral policy. Now, it will hold a new dance in March which will be open to all students and parents. This story comes on the heels of another in which schools in the United States and Europe were reportedly attempting to ban the concept of "best friends." The powers behind both of these stories invoked "inclusion" as the main driver of their decisions.
Is this a step in the right direction as schools work to make learning environments better for children, or have schools gone overboard with political correctness? Many parents answered the latter, lamenting that their daughters had been looking forward to this special dance for months. Others answered the former, claiming they would never want to foster an environment where any child feels left out. The goal of no child feeling left out is a worthy one to pursue, but policies like these, in any context, require looking at the means of attaining a particular goal rather than at the intended outcome. Common sense will tell you these acts of forced inclusion actually snuff out behavior in children that should otherwise be normal, even encouraged, and effectively negate any benefits of inclusivity.
That dads interviewed in the CBS New York story hit the nail right on the head. The father-daughter bond is special, and should be uniquely celebrated. These girls already had their dancing shoes picked out, and they were eagerly awaiting the night they could show their friends at school how great their dad is. Unfortunately, in the progressive world, a celebration can never be just a celebration. Instead, celebrating the father-daughter bond means excluding relationships between parents and children of other genders, and that's evil. This begs the question, "what message is this sending to young girls?" It communicates that celebrating their relationship with their dad is exclusionary, and not something to be proud of. This has dangerous implications since a girl's relationship to her father is one of the most crucial relationships in her life. Public institutions would have them think otherwise, and it's something against which parents should speak out. (While the responsibility for a solid father-daughter relationship ultimately lands on the father, purging its celebration from our institutions will only do harm in a society where father figures are increasingly lacking).
A similar problem exists in a world where children aren't allowed to have best friends. It is unavoidable that kids, just like adults, will gravitate toward certain people at the exclusion of others. Nobody likes everybody equally! Schools swooping in to actively prevent children from expressing friendships on a deeper level have the potential to stunt a child's social development, or at least distort their view of what friendship is and why it's special.
There are many exclusionary behaviors in children that are unfriendly, and should be frowned upon. However, there are also natural behaviors of exclusion, like choosing good friends, that serve children well as they grow up. When taken too far, policies aimed at social justice carry the potential for anti-social consequences. The cost of denying girls the chance to celebrate their dads at school is too high to justify the prohibition of a father-daughter dance.