As someone who was born in the late 1970s and grew up listening to “Free to Be...You and Me” a lot, I’m loving this Slate series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the album and delving into the history of its production and impacts. Like the author, I’m curious what a Free to Be for today would look like, particularly in a world where girls take for granted that they can (and must) pursue a variety of professional careers, but boys trail girls in reading, writing, and college completion in part because social norms lead some boys to reject reading and writing as “girl stuff.” One of the great things about Free to Be was that it didn’t just seek to increase girls’ horizons of what was possible, but also to encourage greater freedom for boys to express emotions and engage in “girly” pursuits like playing with dolls (or reading!). Unfortunately, many conversations around improving boys’ achievement today seem to proceed as if the best way to improve boys’ achievement is to double-down on gender-based stereotypes on both sides of the equation--even though the research evidence that clearly establishes some differences in boys’ and girls’ brains also suggests very little in terms of practical applications of those differences for instruction and student learning.
Gender aside, I think everyone engaged in education policy debates would benefit from listening to Shel Silverstein’s “Helping” (probably my favorite Free to Be Song).
For your viewing enjoyment, here are YouTube clips of Free to Be Songs.
The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.