Dear Pre-school: Boys are not ringmasters, girls are not wind-up dolls

Here’s the letter I just sent to my kid’s pre-school. Interested to see how they will respond.

Dear **************,

Since the last day of the school year last week I have been thinking a lot about a few things, and after much reflection I’ve decided that I owe it to you to share some of these thoughts.
First off, I wanted to thank you for a wonderful year with ********. Despite her patchy attendance, I feel that she has enjoyed and benefited a lot from the time she has spent at  ************** this year. It’s been great to have her participate regularly in an age-appropriate, structured learning environment outside the house, where she has had the opportunity to independently build relationships with other children and adults. I’ve really, really appreciated this, as well as all your understanding with respect to our particular circumstances.
It’s precisely because of how much I’ve appreciated this that I’ve really hesitated in bringing up what I’m about to say next, but as I said, I do feel that as a parent of one of your students, I owe it to you.
My concern revolves around the year-end performance of the three year olds. I struggled quite a bit to understand what characters the children were intended to be playing. As ******** explained it to me, the boys were “ringleaders”. All she could tell me about what the girls were was “Johnny”. I have no idea what this means, but they appeared to be some kind of wind-up doll? Perhaps I’m missing an important cultural reference, but here is what I understood to be happening: the boys cracked whips, and the girls, who were dressed in tutus with faces painted like dolls, responded by raising and waving their arms and screaming. Were they intended to be circus animals? Clowns? Something entirely different? Whatever the case, I was deeply troubled by the take-home message. ***** has been very firm in informing me that only boys were allowed to be ringleaders. She has also asked me why this was the case. Not having any context on this, I have been at a loss to explain it, and have only been able to tell her that in a real circus girls not only can, but often are, ringleaders. But the damage is done, and I imagine I will spend the rest of the summer trying to undo it.
I don’t want to be presumptuous in reminding you that Maria Montessori was a first-wave feminist. I only do so because it’s relevant in explaining why, against an extremely challenging array of circumstances, I flat-out insisted on sending ***** to *********  this year. It’s because I believed that I was sending her to a place where her gender would be totally irrelevant to the pre-school education she received. As such, my sense is that this has largely been the case.
Which leaves me all the more confused about why and with what wisdom this particular performance was chosen for the children.
Please believe me when I say that my intention here is not to hurt or offend anyone. However, after several conversations with others (including ****’s father, babysitter and other friends and family), I do feel that it’s important to bring it to your attention. I am very eager to hear your response.
Thanks so much, and I hope you’re having a wonderful summer,

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