Monday, July 28, 2008

Math Is Harder for Girls by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal 28 July 2008

Last week, the New York Times reported that boys and girls perform equally in math, as quoted: “researchers looked at the average of the test scores of all students, the performance of the most gifted children and the ability to solve complex math problems. They found, in every category, that girls did as well as boys.”

The excellent City Journal points out the fallacies and distortions in the claims made by the Times.
Math Is Harder for Girls by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal 28 July 2008: "The Wall Street Journal, it should be noted, had no difficulty grasping the two main findings of the Science study: that “girls and boys have roughly the same average scores on state math tests,” as Keith J. Winstein reported on July 25, but that “boys more often excelled or failed.” That the New York Times, in an article over twice as long as the Journal’s, couldn’t manage to squeeze in a reference to the fact that boys outperformed girls at the top end of the curve should put its readers on notice: trust nothing you read here."
I note this for two reasons: one, to suggest that there is nothing untrue about stating that boys are different than girls, and two, to mock the New York Times.

As a teacher of teens and pre-teens, it is a daily reality to me to see students whose genders are somewhat predictive of their abilities and choices. Boys will be more likely to blow off work simply because they don't care; girls are more likely to let interpersonal conflicts take priority over everything. Women outnumber men in education programs and men outnumber women in college-level math. (Predictably, anecdotal evidence suggests that at Harvard, where I am currently studying math education, the women and men are evenly numbered.) What's wrong with that?

Feminism exists to fight the culture that told women they must be X because they are women. That's discrimination - closing doors on the basis of gender, and gender alone. In a world where women can choose any profession and lifestyle, the Lawrence Summers brouhaha is nothing but a long-dead horse that classical feminists love to beat. But if women choose not to take math in college, who is crying foul if these women do prefer cooking, fashion and scrapbooking? There is a small area at the top - 99th percentile - where there is a substantial gender gap for whites. The rest of us have no need to care about this statistic as anything other than an oddity reflecting the occasional significance of the possession of a Y-chromosome.

The feminists of our era could find better uses for their time and political capital - like maternity leave policies in this country and breast-feeding in the workplace - two tasks that even the most enlightened man can't take on.


At 2:42 a.m., Blogger mother in israel said...

I totally agree! I have some posts up about breastfeeding in public.


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