24 January 2006

Rote and Results

By Ella M

Sent to me in response to this post, pertaining to two Newsweek articles; this week's leading piece The Trouble With Boys by Peg Tyre, and the essay 'Mommy I Know You' by Carol Gilligan, described as a feminist scholar.


Starting with the feminist perspective article, the writer has a valid general idea (that there needs to be more study and research on the minds and behavior of male kids and teens), but a wonky theory of execution. The article suggests that the solution is to conduct similar or parallel studies to the ones that the author has done on young girls. This method would inherently bias the data, as it would point researchers toward focusing merely on the contrasts between genders, and would color the findings to miss what might be vital commonalities if the studies were trying to address the schooling issue.

I find this to be a problem with most pieces written by older school feminists. They tend to make every given subject about women, rather than addressing inequality across the board. Want to address boys' failures at school? Let's do comparison studies based on girls info. How to make a perfect long island iced tea? Poll female bartenders and then do a female double blind taste test on the results.

If feminism is to be effective, it's supposed to help give everyone a level playing field. In that case it would mean studying boys on their own merits, objectively, singularly. Once we had some good unbiased data we could start effectively analyzing the interrelationship between the two.

Also bothersome is that neither article is fully addressing the fact that the deification of the standardized test (At least here in the US, is it the same in the UK?) is rapidly leading to the "sausage factory learning" you mentioned and that many schools are still having students graduate without basic competencies, along with declining rates of graduation and competency overall. This rote memorization style of learning shorts boys, but it also shorts girls and shorts teachers. Kids are being almost entirely judged by a standardized test score rather than individual merit.

Teachers jobs have become dependent on getting kids to hit the magic number on said tests, and thus are not able to teach to them as individuals, but must stretch their lessons to "teach to the test".

Administrators don't care that little Johnny needs extra help in reading or that his teacher gave him enough help to improve his reading level by three grades. If he can't parrot out the correct sequence of answers to pass the test, the teacher is considered a failure. If said teacher dares to do such a thing to multiple students, the loss in test high scorers might make the already overburdened school lose vital funding and the teacher out of a job.

It's a cluster fuck. The fact that this is only receiving the barest of attention when some spin doctor calls it the "war on boys" scares the crap out of me. There's already a call for "traditional masculine values" and stopping the "feminization" of our boy students. Perhaps I'm just crazy, but those traditionally masculine ideas (including the idea that asking for help or admitting to needing it are "girly") are a part of the problem. If we suscribe to the theory in the Newsweek article, it also would inevitably lead to a slippery slope as more and more behaviors are blamed on "boys being boys" and unable to help it, as if they were etched out of genetic stone (some of those habits far less harmless than being fidgety in class).

If we were at least being equal in our scare tactics about education and gender why isn't the fact that despite early success in the academic arena, women are still grossly outstripped in the top tiers of business, science and high academia the "war on girls"? ~insert sad, bitter black humor giggle here~ :D


I had to share this, even though it arrived as an email; as a chat. I'm thoroughly impressed with the rationale here; its also a bloody well formulated argument.

So what do you think?


Writer Mom said...

Cluster fuck indeed.

I'm going to have to post on this.
Might take a few days.

Thanks, Cheryl. You've given me my spunk back.

Kiss to the kids for me.

Anonymous said...

You might find this interesting. It is a bit of a smoking gun explaining the current situation:

Girls Education

Cheryl said...