It's Not Boys Vs. Girls, People
posted by Amy
Writes Pollitt about criticism that public education favors girls because it emphasizes things girls are supposedly better at than boys, like, uh, sitting:
Education has always involved a lot of sitting, a lot of organizing, a lot of deadlines and a lot of work you didn't necessarily feel like doing. It's always been heavily verbal--in fact, today's textbooks are unbelievably dumbed down and visually hyped compared with fifty years ago. Conservatives talk as if boys should be taught in some kind of cross between boot camp and Treasure Island--but what kind of preparation for modern life would that be? As for the decline of gym and teams and band--activities that keep academically struggling kids, especially boys, coming to school--whose idea was it to cut those "frills" in the first place if not conservatives?
As a parent of two boys, I worried a lot about all the negative things I was hearing about boys in elementary education: they were gonna be bored, diagnosed as ADD for not being able to sit still, discriminated against by teachers who prefer quiet, well-behaved girls to rowdy boys.
Yeah, right. First, both my boys are the quiet, mostly well-behaved students in their classes. (I'm talking only in SCHOOL here. Not at home. Only at school, and only because they shirk from the spotlight.) Second, rowdy kids of either gender get attention in school because they demand it. Boys talk more in classes from kindergarten on up. Men comment more on blogs, for that matter. And the idea that boys are somehow less capable than girls of making deadlines and doing work they don't find inspiring is downright insulting to girls. What--girls are naturally good at following orders, thus showing they're naturally suited to a life of subservience? And boys can't, so we should restructure everything to suit them? Please. Someone tell my daughter that she's naturally better at following orders and sitting still. Please. Really, it would make my life so much easier if she'd *just* act like the girls Tierney and others seem to imagine exist.
Sure, public education in the U.S. has its many flaws. But pretending that it's a boys vs. girls issue just doesn't help anyone. How about asking why elementary school teachers, particularly in the primary grades, are overwhelmingly female? How about demanding better education for all kids, rather than wasting our time arguing about who's got it worse, girls or boys? Or, if we have to talk about that, then how about we wait until a woman has been elected president, for instance?
Finally, here's Pollit's take on one part of the reason women outnumber men in colleges:
For most students, it's more like trade school--they go to get credentials for employment and, because of the sexist nature of the labor market, women need those credentials more than men. Believe it or not, there are still stereotypically male jobs that pay well and don't require college degrees--plumbing, cabinetry, electrical work, computer repair, refrigeration, trucking, mining, restaurant cuisine. My daughter had two male school friends, good students from academically oriented families, who chose cooking school over college. Moreover, as I'll discuss in my next column, sex discrimination in employment is alive and well: Maybe boys focus less on school because they think they'll come out ahead anyway. What solid, stable jobs with a future are there for women without at least some higher ed? Heather Boushey, an economist with the Center for Economic Policy and Research, noted that women students take out more loans than their male classmates, even though a BA does less to increase their income. The sacrifice would make sense, though, if the BA made the crucial difference between respectable security and a lifetime as a waitress or a file clerk.