Thursday, October 26, 2006

Who's Getting Attention in School?

When my son Stephen was in high school, he never had a problem getting a job. He was always employed.

His girl friend, on the other hand, had a harder time finding a part-time job. Both bright kids with good work ethics. And she had better grades than he did.

I’m convinced that gender got in the way. Bosses hired boys over girls. And I believe it’s just as true today as in 1985.

How does it play out at school? Study after study shows that teachers pay more attention to boys than girls. Do they mean to? Probably not. And it doesn’t mean that girls aren’t often at the top of their class.

Back in 1972, Title IX prohibited sex discrimination in education. No more single sex schools—at least if you wanted to receive Federal funds.

Now the Department of Education is saying that as long as you offer a “substantially equal” school to students of the other gender, you can provide single-sex schools.

Before we go any further, let me state unequivocally that I am, and have been since 1970, a Feminist. I taught Women’s Studies for years. And I rarely support this Administration’s Department of Education policies.

But Feminists don’t always see eye to eye.

Is it the same argument as “separate but equal” that meant segregation for black kids?

Or is it a way to empower girls?

Sure, in the best of all worlds, we’d be empowering girls at school with or without boys. Teachers would be paying equal attention to girls and boys. Just as many girls would be class president or editor of the school newspaper.

Remember it isn’t just grades that get girls into college. It’s all those extra-curricular activities, especially ones that show leadership abilities.

The National Association of State Boards of Education has a good overview of the same-sex school discussion although written before the latest Dept. of Education ruling.

Philanthropist Ann Tisch founded the Young Women’s Leadership Foundation. The Foundation opened a public girls-only school in 1996 in East Harlem in New York. For six years, the test scores of the graduating classes are well above the city’s averages. Despite a complaint filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, Tisch has opened five more inner-city schools for girls.

If I were an East Harlem single-mom with teenage girls, you better believe they’d be in Tisch’s school Good brain-based learning strategy. Then they’d have a shot at getting into Harvard!

Brain Gym empowers girls too.

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