Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Girls like quiet time, a cooperative learning environment and creative disciplines. Boys like getting A's.

If you haven't heard of it by now, there is a suit being filed against a school district on behalf of a 17-year-old boy who says that school curricula are designed to the benefit of boys, and the detriment of girls. There is a good deal of controversy in regards to how well the school system is serving boys versus girls, and given the gender disparity seen in high school and in college, something is obviously going wrong. I think it's hyperbolic to call it a "War against boys," but I'm not trying to sell a book here.

Unfortunately, this suit is riddled with ridiculous gender stereotypes and other complaints that seem to relate more to the preferences to this one kid, and not gender. Some of the greivances include:
Among Anglin's allegations: Girls face fewer restrictions from teachers, like being able to wander the hallways without passes, and girls are rewarded for abiding by the rules, while boys' more rebellious ways are punished.

Grading on homework, which sometimes includes points for decorating a notebook, also favor girls, according to Anglin's complaint, filed last month with the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
''The system is designed to the disadvantage of males," Anglin said. ''From the elementary level, they establish a philosophy that if you sit down, follow orders, and listen to what they say, you'll do well and get good grades. Men naturally rebel against this."
Right, because girls love following rules, but boys shouldn't have to follow them. This suit demeans the argument of those advocating for boys in the school system, plain and simple.

The conversation on this topic followed even further down this road, however, with even more absurd accusations against a school system apparently set up to the detriment of boys and the benefit of girls (in a numbered list, no less):
1. Group work, group think, group graded projects. THe most innovative students often dislike competing with loudmouths and fade into the background.

2. Grading notebooks and the like heavily, ie focusing on process instead of results (test).

3. Focus on following rules rather than demonstrating objective knowledge and logical ability.

4. Cutting back on recess, longer class times, etc.

5. Projects that require obedience rather than logic, bureaucratization skills rather than individual thought.

6. efforts to Redesign the standardized tests to favor skills women are better at.

7. the curriculum, by being dumbed down and geared toward the middle ground, has hurt males, as men tend to be more extreme: more of us are at the lower end, but more of us are also at the top end.

8. Taking away the competitive spirit of the classroom. Most men, particularly high achieving men, are geared up to battle and that is what gets one motivated. by eliminating competition and replacing it with namby pamby feel good "everyone is a winner" ethic, men lose interest and motivation. Strong intelligent men are typically disgusted by egalitarianism and lose interest.

9.Boys being subjected to out an out and out anti-male agenda where men are taught to feel guilty in 6th grade that there are fewer women lawyers and doctors in the phone book. As if a 12 year old has anything at all to do with that?

10. Reshaping of history lessons so objective achievement is not the measure of how someone is covered, rather their race or sex most important. (cover some minor female inventor to greater debth than Thomas edison.)

11.Teaching that men throughout history have been the evil sex.

12. Most males realize at a young age that most of their teachers are raving morons, with the lowest sat scores of any profession. Men prefer to learn from people they can look up to, rather than dults who know only how to follow orders form a top heavy educational bureaucracy.
As I said in the thread, this curriculum appears to be designed to the benefit of monkeys or very bright parrots - not women. Last time I checked, girls didn't benefit from moronic teachers. Men are not the only "innovative" ones, and as it turns out, girls are perfectly capable of finishing their math problems. (If I'm not mistaken, partial credit is given to emphasise critical thinking, not girls' grades.) And I'm as sorry to say it as this poster is, but discrimination is a real part of history - shining light on its existence isn't "anti-male" in any way. By my calculations (and I could show my work, but I'm not going to ask you for credit for it), this list is 75% bullshit. Reducing recess time and eliminating competitive elements of classwork do strike me as valid issues that would affect boys more than girls, but where in the hell did the rest of this come from?

I don't have kids, I don't have brothers, and I didn't lead an especially gendered childhood to begin with. I've called myself a feminist since I was in elementary school, and I never really played with dolls, pots and pans, or trucks. My room was decorated with posters of basketball players, cute kitties, and Saturn (and the probes that took pictures of it). In other words, I don't feel highly-qualified to speak on the subject of what helps girls or boys out in school.

On the other hand, I think we're seeing demonstrated one of the pitfalls of this debate: coddling gender stereotypes in the name of educating our kids. Even if you were designing a school system to benefit girls and hurt boys on purpose, it wouldn't require dumbing it down because girls are not dumb! Following rules is something we all have to do, male or female, and no one likes it. Obedience is not an innate female trait (conditioned obedience through threats, however, obviously can be extracted from women).

I think this is an important and interesting topic, especially as the proportion of male students in college and graduate and professional schools continues to decline. But what we want are solutions that will help all kids be successful in a real, competitive, but equitable world. If supposedly unatheletic girls (I don't have to suppose in my case - I was a disaster, in regards to athletics) can endure PE, boys can decorate a notebook or two. Gender-based privlege is not good for anyone, and needs to be eradicated from the education system, period. This means not enforcing old ideas of male privlege (the only actors in history were men, "girly" things like arts have no academic value) in adjusting a curriculum to help more boys stay in school. I have no clue what kinds of changes in schools need to occur, but I am pretty sure that before real progress is made, the terms of the debate need to change.

UPDATE: Ann Hurlburt at Slate adds some substance to my somewhat superficial treatment of this subject.
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