The Pink Academy vs. the Blogosphere

The founder of an all-girls preschool fights back against Internet criticism

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The Players: Donna Wood, founder of an all-girls preschool called The Pink Academy in Santa Cruz, Calif.; KJ Dell'Antonia, a former lawyer and blogger who aired some grievances about the endeavor at Slate's XX Factor.

Opening Serve: Dell'Antonia said it would hardly be worth her time to list all of the arguments against a single-sex high school. "But a preschool? An all-girls, pink, girly, nurturing, fairy-winged preschool? I'd sooner send my daughters to learn to field-dress a deer." Soon enough other bloggers expressed outrage: Critical Sass blogger Gina proclaimed the school, which she learned about via XX Factor, deserved "five gold stars for creepiness." And Debra Nussbaum Cohen wrote at the Jewish Daily Forward, that the Academy "sounds less empowering than limiting, if you ask me. Generalizations like Wood's are troubling becasue they are so reductive."

Return Volley: After a week of abuse on the web, Wood has gone to her local paper the Santa Cruz Sentinel to defend The Pink Academy. She says she decided to go ahead with the all-girls preschool, an idea proposed by her 5-year-old daughter, after researching single-gender education provided no overwhelming reason against it. Wood told the local paper that "The Pink Academy can be pro-girl without being anti-boy."

What They Say the Spat's About: Though Dell'Antonia has remained mum since her XX Factor post, others who have spoken out against The Pink Academy have made it clear they're in favor of co-ed schooling as the best preparation for real life. Childhood education expert Jean Gallagher-Heil told the Sentinel's Cathy Kelly that "keeping either [gender] separated during those years doesn't give them the same opportunity to understand who they really are."

What The Spat's Really About: The color pink and its loaded symbolism. Peggy Ornstein's recent book "Cinderella Ate My Daughter," for example, argues that the promotion of "girly-girl culture" actually promotes "a culture of narcissism in children" as well as "sexualizing girls as they get older." Also: the blogosphere's ability to turn people into villains overnight. As Wood says today, she was "blindsided" by all the criticism her preschool recieved and insists those outraged are being closed-minded.
Who's Winning Now: In the face of criticism, Wood stills plans to open the Academy for twice-a-week classes at the beginning of April. But based on shere volume, the blogosphere is ahead here. Aside from the sympathetic ear of the local paper, no one's rushing to defend The Pink Academy.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.