Parents of 11th grade students at Highland High School in Salt Lake City were shocked recently by a paper assigned in a required "adult roles and financial literacy class," according to Fox 13. The students were reportedly assigned to go on a $5 date and received guidelines over how boys and girls should act in that particular situation. While some might argue that teachers shouldn't be assigning their students to go on dates, the real problem in this instance is the "guidelines" involved, which were extraordinarily sexist and non-inclusive. Highland High parents were rightly upset by the high school dating assignment, but thankfully the school district is working to right the situation.
Two different papers were handed out to the 11th grade class: one for boys and one for girls. The paper given to the girls contained a list of bullet points advising them on how to behave during their "$5 dollar date" with a boy. The list advised girls to do extraordinarily sexist things, such as "if you think you're fat keep it to yourself," "don't correct his personal habits," and "dress appropriately for the date." It also advised the girls to be "feminine and lady like" and to "show respect to him." After the date was over, the paper had to be signed by the date to certify that all of the bullet points "were done to the best of my date's ability." (Yikes.)
The assignment went viral after one of the school parents, Jenn Oxborrow, shared an image of it on her Facebook page. She accompanied the picture with a comment reading "my 11th grade AP honors student's homework: go on a date!! With a boy. And follow his suggestions — don't correct his personal habits, don't waste his money, and show him respect. Thanks for educat[ing] our kids, Utah Department of Education. We really appreciate your evidence based misogyny."
While Highland High School did not immediately return Romper's request for comment, they have started working to correct this unfortunate situation. According to The Guardian, the assignment was traced back to Utah teachers' database of assignments. It has since been removed. One of the teachers at Highland High, who has not been identified, reportedly downloaded the assignment and gave it out to her class as "a light-hearted lesson in social norms.”
The problem with this ideology is that the assignment only allows room for heterosexual social norms to be taught. The paper assigns girls to go on a date with a boy and vice versa. It doesn't include space for any LGBTQ or asexual students. Instead it encourages sexist, outdated, non-inclusive ideas about what relationships should look like and how women should behave.
Oxborrow spoke to Fox 13 about the assignment's limited viewpoint, saying Utah is a "state that has such a high rate of teen suicide and so many issues in regards to gender identity can cause depression for teenagers. I was really sad once I thought about it." Thankfully the world has outspoken, compassionate moms like this to speak on behalf of marginalized children.
Mark Peterson, a spokesman for the Utah board of education, said that the assignment “is inappropriate and unacceptable. It is very much is reminiscent of a textbook on dating from the 1950s or earlier." He assured those worried that the paper will no longer be taught in schools and that they are further investigating its origin.
Thankfully, it seems the adults involved in this case were quick to correct the situation. Perhaps going forward, it won't be an issue at all. (One can only hope.)