Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Gendered Mind—another myth that will not die

I am much more mellow now than I used to be. Sure I'm willing to fight when I think a fight is called for. But I think I was much more of an intellectual pugilist when I was, say, age 16 to 21.

While at The University of Michigan, I found a place for that energy. In a response to the then-new Moral Majority, a statewide grass-roots response was organized: The Voice of Reason (later to become a national organization called Americans for Religious Liberty—not a name I was excited about).

Since my interests and aptitudes lay in science, my "beat" within the organization gravitated toward the creationism debate. Among my first credited by-lines was the article I wrote for the campus publication, Consider. It was a simple, single-sheet (11"x17" brochure folded to 8.5" x 11") that featured one-page essays on the inside facing pages. A topic was identified, and authors were found for pro and con pieces. But I digress.

I was heartened by the the Edwards v. Aguillard Supreme Court decision that was argued months into my first year of teaching and handed down a few months later. It wasn't unanimous, but it was 7-2. I naïvely thought the issue was settled. But of course, it wasn't.

Years later in Pennsylvania, creationism newer iteration, "intelligent design" had to be put down by the courts in The Dover Case (Kitzmiller v. Dover). You would be naïve to imagine that that will be the end of the debate over maintaining the integrity of biology instruction in public schools. Judicial precedent doesn't seem to stick on this debate.

When I authored my master's thesis on gender equity in physics instruction, I came across the notion of the gendered mind. Boys were supposedly better with spatial geometry and mathematics while girls were better with language and communication. But the research supporting these "common sense" notions was weak. It seemed to be born from age-old gender bias, and the differences found by researchers were tenuous at best.

But they floated effortlessly in the updraft of societal and cultural gender norms. The supposed science presented a story that was "too good to be verified." And so it persists. To this day, it persists.

All of that to introduce a story I came across on Audm. The abridged title was "Of Two Minds".

The Discredited Science Behind the Rise of Single-Sex Public Schools

There are many important take-aways in this thorough investigation. One of them is that as an instructor, there's a good chance you will be subjected to these notions in a school or district-sanctioned in-service professional development session. You will be frowning in disapproval, but colleagues will be nodding in agreement. And it has to be legit, right? It was approved by administrators and district personnel.

It will fall upon you to rise up and put a stop to it. The cavalry isn't coming. You—and it may be you, alone—can shut this nonsense down before it goes any further. Arm yourself with articles like this so that you will have the strength that comes from knowing. And do the right thing.

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