'Education is geared towards girls'
Obviously, good story ideas come from all over. In the case of this one about young women dominating the latest list of Tampa Bay vals and sals, it came from Palm Harbor parent Aunna Elm. She asked The Gradebook to take a closer look, which prompted this blog post and then the story. In the aftermath, she emailed this letter, which we thought worth sharing:
The recent cover story on male underachievement ("Smart Girls Rule", 6/11/11) should serve as a local and national wake-up call to this serious problem. What would we say if the shoe were on the other foot and education were a male dominated affair? What if there were no women on the Pinellas County School Board; if we had a male Superintendent; few women teachers; few female Principals; few female administrative employees? What if girls were expelled from preschool nearly five times more often than boys? What if in elementary school girls were diagnosed with learning disorders four times as often? What if by high school, boys dominated advanced placement classes and all extracurricular activities except sports? And what if girls accounted for approximately 40 percent of students admitted to college and dropped out in significantly higher numbers? The public outcry would be enormous. Yet, advocating for boys is often perceived as anti-feminist.
Women's hard fought academic achievements were long overdue but should not have come at the expense of our sons. People who suggest that girls simply work harder than boys at school are being too simplistic. In fact, education is geared towards girls. Factors such as today's accelerated curricula, more sedentary school days (elimination of recess), and behavioral expectations that favor girls, all contribute to an environment that is often at odds with where boys are at developmentally. As early as preschool, normal boy behavior attracts a lot of negative attention. Over time many boys form the opinion that school is something that girls are better at, and that contributes to their disengagement from the educational process.
Gender equity is about the welfare of all children and when approximately 50 percent of our population is lagging behind, all of us are affected and all of us should care. I have a degree in Women's Studies. But overseeing my son's education has been an eye opener to the reality that the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. Many thanks to St. Petersburg Times reporter Kim Wilmath, for shedding light on this important issue.