2.18.2006

Not same. Just equal.

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.

11 comments:

Carmi said...

How perfectly put. I think this entry should be its own published article somewhere.

I've often tossed the phrase, "equitable, not equal" around my head. What you've said here speaks volumes about that ideal.

deana said...

Equal is not the same. Well put. My sister's first child was a boy and he was all boy. Her second a girl and all girl. It is amazing how quickly they fell into stereotypical things like nurturing dolls or the boy running over them with a truck. He liked trains, she loves pretend cooking.

Yet we seem to just want to beat all those things out of us. Like it is bad to actually fit your gender.

Michelle says hello. I didn't want to skip you.

Oh and I love the photo in your banner. It is so clear its almost 3d.

Plumkrazzee said...

AWESOME post. I agree whole heartedly. Michele sent me.

Suzanne said...

I'm over from Michele's but I'm so glad I came! This has been my absolute soapbox for the last few years. It seems as if our education system has fallen into the rut of grouping everyone into the same category for the sake of measurement I suppose. Standardized testing, creates an environment where children are treated the same in order to justify results. Even in the private school sector, educators cater to the standard ideal instead of offering varied approaches to teaching that could ultimately help our children learn. oh i'm sorry...don't get me started! ha

margalit said...

As the mom of a boy and a girl who are the exact same age (twins) I feel like I've got my own petrie dish experiment going, and yes, there are big differences between how boys and girls react to school settings. Schools are more and more designed for girls, who are more compliant, social, and group oriented. As your kids get older you begin to see how boys are being left behind because they need more recreation time to get their wiggles out, they need a lot of individualized and small group interaction, and they need smaller class sizes. Standardized methods don't work well for most kids, and the more we standardize schools, the more kids are indeed left behind.

Here via Michele

kontan said...

What a great post!

I have two girls...as different as night and day. In teaching I use the gender differences to my advantage when I pair students or assign groups. The boys are eager to get through the task and the girls make sure the creative aspect is neatly met.

I laughed at your pizza comments. The girls love pita pizza night. It's simple, not that messy, and they can make their own personal pizza any way they want.

Im Chele In [dot] LA said...

What a great post..
I have 5 kids and they are way different.
In so many ways.
Yet in so many other they are the same..
Over from the other Michele's

Malinda777 said...

I too have seen the obvious when small children play. It's amazing and wonderful... the differences are there much younger than they could have been "taught". It's normal, the way God planned it in his infinate wisdom.

Here from Michele

Scouser said...

Why is it that I only really notice these things when they are pointed out to me? Excellent post. BTW Michele sent me..

Yvonne said...

Excellent post Sandy and a timely one. Children are equal but you can see the differences on the playground, in the classroom and even in the home. In a large institutionalized settings like the school system it is hard to impliment change and when they do it somehow always seems to swing too far. Hopefully one day they will find a way to address the different ways of learning children have all in one class.

thatgirl said...

Something I must know is -- WHO THE HELL IS MICHELE? :)

I'm right there with ya. Men and women are DIFFERENT. That is why they are MEN and WOMEN. Yes, there is a continuum, or spectrum if you will, but there are typical male characteristics and typical female characteristics. Why deny this? Celebrate it!