The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Gender bias - real or imagined?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gender bias - real or imagined?

Read this article and then my comments on this case of bizarre parenting:

While the motivation may have been admirable, the method was ridiculous and will likely have long-reaching effects into the child's future.  Who does that to a child?  Obviously this couple in the UK who wanted their child to grow up gender-neutral. 

Gender bias is not such a bad thing.  Girls learn to behave in a feminine manner while boys become masculine.  What's wrong with that?  Nothing, if the parents don't go overboard and put their little girls in tiaras or expect their little boys to use their muscles on the playground against other children. 

My point here is that obviously, gender bias in school or the workplace should not be tolerated. However, there's absolutely no reason to force children to go against their genetic code.  When my girls were growing up, they had dolls, but could just as frequently have played with trucks in the dirt.  They played with their toy of choice at the moment.  My daughter has boys.  They have all their trucks and footballs, but they also have a stuffed animal and a favorite blanket.  That, in my opinion, is a normal childhood.  My girls grew up feminine, yet strong (I always said, "I don't raise no wimpy girls!") and I'm sure my grandsons will grow up to be masculine, yet caring (My daughter wouldn't have it any other way!)

Amanda Chapman in her paper, Gender Bias in Education, sums up gender bias implications in school:
"Sitting in the same classroom, reading the same textbook, listening to the same teacher, boys and girls receive very different educations." (Sadker, 1994) In fact, upon entering school, girls perform equal to or better than boys on nearly every measure of achievement, but by the time they graduate high school or college, they have fallen behind. (Sadker, 1994) However, discrepancies between the performance of girls and the performance of boys in elementary education leads some critics to argue that boys are being neglected within the education system. Across the country, boys have never been in more trouble: They earn 70 percent of the D's and F's that teachers dole out. They make up two thirds of students labeled "learning disabled." They are the culprits in a whopping 9 of 10 alcohol and drug violations and the suspected perpetrators in 4 out of 5 crimes that end up in juvenile court. They account for 80 percent of high school dropouts and attention deficit disorder diagnoses. (Mulrine, 2001) Departments of education should be providing mandatory gender-equity resource modules to in-service teachers, and gender bias needs to be addressed with all pre-service teachers. Educators need to be made aware of the bias they are reinforcing in their students through socialization messages, inequitable division of special education services, sexist texts and materials, and unbalanced time and types of attention spent on boys and girls in the classroom. "Until educational sexism is eradicated, more than half our children will be shortchanged and their gifts lost to society." (Sadker, 1994)
Mulrine, A. (2001) Are Boys the Weaker Sex? U.S. News & World Report, 131 (4), 40-48.
Sadker, D., Sadker, M. (1994) Failing at Fairness: How Our Schools Cheat Girls. Toronto, ON: Simon & Schuster Inc.

Hmmm.... is there really a gender bias in school or does that gender bias begin at home where well-meaning parents require their little girls to sit demurely at a table to finish their homework, but allow their little boys to toss a football around instead of concentrating on homework?  Or is it a genetic code that sends a message somehow?  I don't have any easy answers, nor do I have any solutions.  I simply know that children need to make intelligent choices about their activities, their toys, their attire, and their futures.  And that can only be achieved when parents respect their children for who they are and what they decide.  End of story.  Period.

Happy parenting and happy teaching!

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