Gender Gap: Natural or Artificial？
： 还是 ？
： 还是 ？
Department of Educational Management, School of Education
Beijing Normal University at Zhuhai
This photo is from Newsweek
Recent Gender-related Fever
Last month, a gender-related fever burst out since considerable reviews and comments were written on Amazon against or for Kate O’Beirne’s Women Who Make the World Worse which was approximately ranked 180 in books and, what enhanced this during that period was that Newsweek released an article entitled “The Trouble With Boys”, which has widely attracted the education circles’ attention, including we Chinese university’s curricula on Education.
From Newsweek, The Trouble With Boys stated that boys of every demographic category are falling behind. Statistics are showing that “in elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. High-school boys are losing ground to girls on standardized writing tests.” And apparently, the gap is glaringly evident on college campuses: thirty years ago men represented 58 percent of the undergraduate student body; now, they’re a minority at 44 percent. According to the article, since boys are biologically, developmentally and physiologically different from girls, special steps need to be taken to ensure that they excel. Having boys participate more and doing more hands-on activities seem to do the trick. Additionally, some schools are matching boys to male mentors for inspiration.
Generally speaking, it answered several important questions, including: #1 What is the trouble with boys? #2 How can we apply primatologists’ studies of juvenile male chimps to middle-schoolers’ behavior? #3 Are girls really better? #4How do we cope with the gender that is “maddening and failing at school”?
Laura Hamilton, a notable opponent against the article, considers that the article’s answer to #2 suggests is that middle-school boys are exactly like juvenile male chimps, which more or less explains #1 as well. For #3 the correct answer was “yes,” and the solution to #4 is, according to Newsweek, separate but equal single-sex classrooms.
She mainly claims that the negative stereotypes in the society are the exact reason for those who think boys are in trouble, and she argues against Newsweek’s suggestion that boys would learn better if classrooms were segregated with her thought that it is unfair to those who on some level have the characteristics or learning styles of the opposite sex.
Personally, I assume all
I think that Newsweek’s attitude from the article is too focused on outcome-based education, which leads to excessively seeking an “equal” result of the two genders after schools’ cultivation with lack of considering whether they have already had the equal chance and beginning of education that are the two important factors, I think, for the Educational Equity, instead of the equal result.
So my idea is that once the two genders are treated equally under the fair-and-square evaluation standard without any discrimination, those who are healthy and normal and fail in their studies shouldn’t blame anybody, for every competition has its victors and failures.
However, our educational aims are not only to choose victors, but also to help the failures to make progress which seems to be more important for educators. That is to say, we shouldn’t allow the gender gap in learning performance to develop naturally owing to the biological and psychological differences between boys and girls. Instead, it is educators’ responsibility to reduce the gap by taking effective measures after studying and researching the characteristics of teenagers, especially the differences in various fields between the two genders.
Gender Difference in Moral Level
For one hand, girls’ characteristics are more likely to legitimate moral, such as civility, respect and amity. For the other hand, Chinese traditional culture considered it is much more important for girls to be moral and well-cultivated than for boys while it is unnecessary for girls to gain talent. So girls are always feeling the stress to claim them to follow their teachers’ and parents’ advices strictly while boys are treated understandingly. Furthermore, in the society, it is even considered to be bright, clever and lively for young boys to offend against rules or moral principles.
Parents’ styles of nurturing children also have something to do with the different moral level between boys and girls. But it’s funny that there is a little difference between the culture and what parents do to their own children exactly because the culture just reflects people’s thoughts on other children but not their own children.
A research on middle-school students and their parents found that parents tended to strictly punish boys when they offend against rules and to reject their requests usually and, on the contrary, parents showed more mildness and understanding to their girls. This may result in boys’ willful treachery and girls’ positive development of moral character. And this straight influences their learning performance, which is what most educators worry about.
Sex-Role Stereotype, Sexual Discrimination and Inequality in Education
Although global feminism movements are altering the education system to be more friendly to girls in most countries, sex-role stereotype, sexual discrimination and inequality in education still do harm to girls’ development.
A statistic showed that only 22.4% of the characters in textbooks of middle schools（1998 edition） are female, who appear to be wife, mum, little girl and cleaner. And at the same time, male characters tend to be politician, revolutionist, hero, scientist, artist and litterateur. Then during the teaching, teachers usually suggest that female tend to be mild, soft, sensitive, stingy and fetishistic while male brave, guileless, strong, bright and rational.
The recent policy gratified most of us. The new edition Chinese textbook for middle school has changed a lot that female’s rate of appearance has rose to 40.9%, adding the thought of feminism into it according to the new policy of the government.
However, it has been approved that teachers interact with boys more than girls by most educators. As pointed out by Spender, D., teachers always ignore their sexual discrimination during classroom interaction. He believed that when teacher thought that the time they interact with boys and girls are the same, actually they interacted with boys twice more than with girls. And Spender also held an experiment concluded that girls were more likely to be listeners while boys speakers under the influence of sex-role stereotype.
Therefore, I think that gender gap has its artificial factors, instead of imputing it to biological reason only or mainly.
Feminism as political movement and social thought had more than 100-year-long history with the beginning in the west. In educational area, Feminist Education became focused since 60s in last century. These years, feminist education has gain great success since female students gradually have their desirability to be as strong as male from the bottom of heart. From the government perspective, lots of policies have been issued to protect the girls’ right to receive education equally. As far as individuals are asked to give effort to this process, more and more girls try to cultivate some “male characteristics”, such as brave, steady and so on.
In some western countries, feminism has developed so devilishly that it stats to do harm to male. Some teachers dare not to spend too much time solving their boys’ problems, avoiding to be rebuked for their inequality or sexual discrimination.
However, the situation in
The degrees of sex difference can be divided into 4 style: masculine, feminine, androgynous and undifferentiated. Those whose degree of sex difference is androgynous have the characteristics of both male and female, including interest, capability, desire and personality.
In modern society, people meet various chances and threats every day. Those who have androgynous degree of sex difference tend to acclimatize themselves to the changeable environment more effectively and more efficiently.
In feminist education, androgyny of characteristic has become the important aim for girls rather than boys. This is the BIGGEST reason for boys’ dropping down, I think.
As have known to all according to Newsweek’s article, boys always won’t want to be considered weak! During the girls’ turning to be androgynous psychologically, boys had rather to be still, even though they accept that “Androgynies” are the last winners. Because boys’ psychology is funny that they always laugh at those male who are like female in some behaviors even though they have great success in other fields. So it is extremely hard to cultivate boys to gain proper characteristics of female and even to be “Androgynies”!
On the contrary, with the help of feminism, girls tend to be “Androgynies” and gain success in the end!
Single-sex Classes in the Same High Schools
Based on the above, I suggest that students be divided into single-sex classes in the same high schools.
As known to all, high-school students are cultivating their interest in majors and careers for further education in higher schools or have jobs directly. And sex-role stereotype in everyday life in school may have negative influence on both boys’ and girls’ choices and development. And after the life of double-sex classes in middle schools and primary school, student have gradually built up their view of gender. So it’s time to teach them with specific ways appropriate for different genders. And there’s no need to worry about their developing of opposite-sex communication. After all, they are still in the same schools!
Single-sex classes can avoid the eyes from opposite sex. It’s easier for girls to develop their interest in mathematics and science and those majors that tend to be taken by male. In the meanwhile, boys won’t have much pressure when they are guided to be more “androgynous” and choose those majors tend to be taken by female such as literature and art.
Gender gap is both natural and artificial. It depends on how we think and what theory we base.
Yes, as Newsweek said, middle-school boys are exactly like juvenile male chimps, but have we meditated whether we have negative stereotype on boys? Whether we have paid too much attention to the outcome of education? Whether we have recognized how the traditional culture influencing education? Whether we have protected boys too much in the past under sex-role stereotype and sexual discrimination? Whether we have been planning to construct an atmosphere to encourage boys to be more “androgynous”?
Our boys and girls are living in human society. We mustn’t ascribe educational failure to inborn factors too much. What we ought to do is to spend more time solving the problems that only appear in social environment.
 Laura Hamilton: The trouble with boys? I don’t think so.[J] Chicago Maroon, January 23, 2006
Martel,A., & Peterat, L.: Margins of Exclusion, Margins of Transformation[M].
Meighan, R.: A Sociology of Education[M].