I’ve been waiting for the feminist-ideology folks to figure out how they’re gonna play the mounting evidence that it’s boys, not girls, who are lagging in school these days, and that perhaps a change in pedagogy (did someone say single-sex schools?) might be in order.
Surely there’s gotta be a sex-discrimination angle in there somewhere, gals? And yes, Slate columnist Ann Hulbert has found it. Here’s the strategy for recasting girls as the perennial educational victims that feminist ideology says they’re supposed to be.
First, pooh-pooh the evidence:
“The graphs that emerged [from a 15-year study of gender differences in learning] aren’t very exciting: The trend is relative stability for all, rather than marked mobility for either gender. Boys’ reading scores have declined somewhat over the past decade, but they were lower than girls’ from the start; girls’ scores have barely budged. Meanwhile, math scores have risen slightly for both girls and boys. Gender gaps are negligible for 9- and 13-year-olds, while high-school boys hold a slight edge over their female peers. The percentage of females between 18 and 24 with high-school diplomas, too, held steady-at about 85 percent; in 2001, the percentage of males with diplomas dropped slightly below what had been a pretty stable 80 percent.
“Compared to rather blurry educational trends, PET scans and MRIs not surprisingly beckon as irrefutable support for keeping gender differences in the spotlight-except here data don’t quite match up with dogma either. Male and female brains, the new imaging technology shows, are indeed surprisingly dissimilar in form, function, and maturation. Yet experts caution-as even Time did in a cover story about girls and math a year ago-that it’s far too soon to extrapolate from neural architecture to specific intellectual potential.”
Then, say the real problem is actually something else:
There may be biological forces at work, but at the moment the most marked contrasts in educational performance and college attendance show up between races and social classes; minority and poor males lag furthest behind, especially in college attendance. (Black women now receive twice as many college degrees as black men.) Gender equity may be the sexier goal to push for, but right now socioeconomic inequality is the greater obstacle to overcome.”
Finally, argue that even though girls may look like winners in the current educational system, they’re actually losers because we’re stigmatizing them for being….dull and plodding achievers:
“It’s a disservice to girls to portray them as destined for diligence, as though conscientious effort were a second-rate recourse for slower or steadier minds, rather than what is really is: a crucial choice that helps ensure long-term success. And it’s an even bigger disservice to boys and their college prospects to reinforce the idea that discipline and self-denial are sissy stuff.”
Oh, I see. Girls may look as though they’re forging ahead of boys with all that educational success–but they really are still victims of the system. Whew!