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Gender-segregated science classrooms.

bb02 at Lehigh.EDU bb02 at Lehigh.EDU
Thu Jun 8 15:46:19 EST 1995

{_okIn article <3r24h4$oii at mule.fhcrc.org>, mbrown at fred (Megan Brown) writes:
>My high school experiences in math and science were very positive. I was
>in advanced math classes which technically were not "streamed" because
>our school district philosophy didn't allow this. But only students with
>a certain level of competence could do the work in these classes so that
>they were effectively "streamed." In this atmosphere, with very bright
>and capable boys and girls, I remember no discrimination toward the
>girls. I remember no pressure from the boys in these classes to not be a
>"too-smart female." The teachers for these classes were all wonderful.
>Once a month the class got together early in the morning at a nearby
>pancake house and had breakfast. Both girls and boys attended.
>In junior high (ages 12-14) I had a less positive experience. At this level,
>classes were not streamed, and I don't know if this is relevant or not. The
>teacher just did not like me. I know there was one other girl he really
>disliked too. I don't know if our being girls had anything to do with his
>dislike, or if his own youth and inexperience made him socially inept. I
>was very interested in his class and tried to participate fully. One day
>m{ parents received a phone call from the school administration saying
>that they needed to come to the school for a conference about me. My
>mother and I met with school administration who said that this teacher
>complained that I talked too much in class and "dominated" the class
>proceedings. Instead, I should not participate so much, let other
>students have a chance, etc. I was totally shocked/horrified/embarrassed
>by this entire proceeding. My parents were furious with me for my "bad"
>behavior in class and always after that (for years) rubbed my nose in it and
>called me a "smart aleck" or some such insult whenever they wanted to
>hurt me. Now I had a hard time telling how much truth there was to what
>this teacher was saying. I was actually on the shy side in school and
>didn't think of myself as "dominating." But yet I knew students who were
>"know-it-alls" and always raised their hands to answer every single
>question and didn't let other students have a chance. So my reaction to
>this was to never volunteer anything ever again in the science class as
>well as my other classes. I didn't want to be an obnoxious know-it-all
>and so I scaled back my moderate (I secretly believed) participation to
>zero. I later learned that the other female student that this teacher
>disliked received similar censure to me. Even in later years this
>reprimanding of my inquisitive behavior stuck with me. If I did volunteer
>an answer to a class question, I always tried to do it in a
>"non-dominating" manner and limit myself to one answer per class period
>or week or whatever. It was always in the back of my mind. How much
>better for a young girl's ego if the science teacher had simply taken me
>aside one day after class and asked me politely to give other students
>more of a chance, etc.
~r>{g#{w3_xDn another topic, that boys and girls have different learning styles, I
>have read the descriptions of boy and girl styles and realized that I
>have the learning style of a boy. Actually, I think many girls have "boy"
>learning styles and boys have "girl" learning styles. I am strongly
>against spliting science classes into single gender sections and teaching
>girls in the "girl style" and boys in the "boy style." I would have
>absolutely hated the girl class if this were the case. If there are
>different styles of learning and teaching, then I believe some of each
>style can be incorporated into a single class so as not to alienate and
>discourage individual students who do best using one style or the other.
>Megan Brown, Ph.D.
>mbrown at fred.fhcrc.org
>FxDred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
To Megan Brown and other interested people:  There is a developing and fairly
large set of research and writing that documents different learning styles of
males and females.  Also documented is how smart girls fare much more poorly
in the{ average classroom..  Teachers are usually totally unaware of how
little equity (with respect to sexes) there is in their classrooms. In the
case of graduates of colleges for women, the success rate of women (even
controlling for marriage and children) is anywhere from 2 tw#{ 10 times
greatyer than for women graduating for coed institutions.  Sure some girls
learn more like boys and vice  versa;  that's not the point.  Women frequently
never learn that they are smart and competent unless they are educated at
critical periods in their life apart from the inequity that prevails in most
classrooms.  The only reference that comes to mind is "Failing at Fairness."
If anyone is really interested, email me directly and I'll fetch a few other

Barbara Benson
bb02 at lehigh.edui]

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