In the last issue of January, Newsweek ran a story about boys and education. It used to be, once upon a time, that girls were pushed into a cookie-cutter educational approach tailor made for the male brain. Now, however, the pendulum has swung. Titled, "The Trouble with Boys", Peg Tyre's article caught my attention, as well as the attention of many others. Some of the hub-bub fell into the blogsphere. Clearly I'm late getting to it.
The topic sat in the back of my head until I could better form my thoughts surrounding it. The more I observed my children, the more concrete my thinking became.
I think it's safe to say that outside of a few extreme thinkers, there isn't anyone that wouldn't support equality between the sexes. Granted, I'm not sure everyone understands exactly what that would mean or how far we are from it still in some ways - but, I think we could all, for the most part, agree in theory.
The problem, as I see it, is that some of our loudest trumpet blowers confuse equality with sameness.
Granted my little petri dish world is a rather small sample, but having a boy and a girl has taught me something. No matter what we do in their earliest of days, there are very specific gender-typical traits that will emerge regardless. The keyword, for me, is 'gender-typical.' There will be exceptions. There will be varying degrees. I do believe, however, that within a statistical sample, you will find particular traits and attributes more common in women than men and vice versa.
There isn't a thing wrong with this.
There are those, however, that think there is. They want to deny the difference, when in fact we ought to celebrate it.
My son has two dolls. Or more accurately he had them. He's grown bored of them and dropped them neatly on their heads in his sister's room. He was about 18 months old when we conceived our second child. Those two dolls became a big part of our day during that pregnancy. They'd sat long ignored in his room - my old Cabbage Patch Preemie and a doll willed down from someone else. We dusted them off and started to baby them. We taught him how to hold the dolls, how to cuddle then. His favorite part - burping them. He was more apt to drag one around by it's foot letting it's head bounce along the floor.
On the other hand, my daughter seemed to gravitate to dolls and stuffed beasts. Around the time she started to walk (9 months old) she started to mother. She'd cuddle her dolls and stuffed things close to her, laying her cheek into their faces and rocking them gently. She feeds them. She lays them down to sleep as she rubs their backs and sings to them. Now 17 months old, she spends her fair amount of time knee-deep in Thomas trains and Hot Wheels cars, yet it's those dolls and the Little People House that bring her the most joy.
Of course that said, my son's first 'non-baby' toy was a little broom found in the "girl" section of the toy store. Damn he loved that thing right up until the handle broke off. Now he uses the real vacuum. Both my children love to help in the kitchen. In fact, we have home-made pizza month every now and then which they prepare mostly on their own. Yes, my 3 year old and 1 year old make dinner. I merely assist.
They see parents that share household chores and child care duties. They see parents with their own careers. They get it. We're equal. Yet we're also different. And that is the beauty of it all. We're equal, but not the same.
The big picture with education, in my mind, goes beyond gender differences. Certainly there are some gender-typical tendencies that prove one approach more effective for more boys and yet a different approach for more girls. Yet, it's may not be effective for *all* - and that's the real key.
I don't think it's a matter of one method screwing up boys vs girls or vice versa. I think it's an inability - whether lack of desire, lack of funding, staffing or otherwise - to recognize we ALL have our own individual learning styles. Perhaps the the best tactic in any classroom ought to be a variety of learning approaches.
I am not an educator by trade. I admire those that are - they have a hard, thankless job. Yet that said, I can't imagine approaching a subject from a few different angles is asking too much.
I, personally, can only learn so much through lecture. I do much better hands-on. I couldn't do a thing with Algebra II/Trig. Yet I could solve the very same type of problems in Chem class because the lab work helped me to visualize it. I needed to *see* it. But not always quite so literally. Sometimes a simple good story would do it. Something that caught my attention and held it. Yet the student sitting next to me might not have operated on the same plane.
Clearly there is so much more one could say on this topic - so much more depth and debate. Yet only so much space to put it out here. Instead I'll just leave it with this:
We can't fix anything if we're not willing to understand we're all equal as individuals regardless of gender or race or creed or whatever. But equal is not always 'same.' Celebrate difference - don't look to eliminate it in an attempt to level the field. It's a disservice to us all.