PARIS - France is scrapping a plan to teach children the "ABCD of equality" between boys and girls after protests by some parents who feared it was a stealth effort to erase gender differences, a new example of the Socialist government's failure to stick to its promises and a growing ability of conservative Catholics to weigh on policy.
A vocal minority has been increasingly influential in pushing back against France's leftist government on a range of social issues.
In recent months, it has succeeded in getting officials to delay approval of medically assisted procreation for gay couples and abandon an environmental tax on long-distance trucks, and is lobbying against a drive to legalize euthanasia.
The Education Ministry said last week it would replace the "ABCD of equality" program, which was introduced at some schools earlier this year and aimed at encouraging boys and girls to see themselves and their opportunities as equal.
The policy had been tried at 275 schools and had come under attack from Roman Catholic leaders, the French far right, and some parents' groups. Critics say the plan is insulting to professions that have been traditionally female, and expressed fear that it promoted a supposed gender theory that would deny any differences between boys and girls.
Officials said teachers would receive new training when the new school year begins in September, and that they will be able to decide how to broach the topic of fairness for the sexes, especially with the youngest students.
Education Minister Benoit Hamon insisted that the government's goal is "not to deny a difference" but to show that boys and girls "are equal."