Saturday, July 26, 2008

Another Egregious Example of Media Anti-Male Bias

The media breathlessly celebrated a finding by a women's studies professor that said that high school girls now score as well as boys in math. Here are just a few examples: The Associated Press/CNN, New York Times, and National Public Radio.

But the media failed to raise the obvious question: Did girls' achievement occur at boys' expense? That's not an unreasonable possibility given the the tremendous attention having been paid to girls' math education over the past 20 years: teachers being trained to to not call on boys too much, to show role models of females who achieved in math, even to redo the math curriculum to focus on what girls do better: explain things verbally.

So, I asked the study's senior author, Janet Shibley Hyde, the Helen Thompson Woolley Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison that question: 'To what extent did the score gap close because girls' scores went up or because boys' scores went down?" Her response: "We can't really know the answer to your question -- whether it's girls' scores going up or boys' scores going down."

My question to you dear reader, why did not the media ask this question or if they did, fail to report that it's unclear whether boys are being hurt by girls' gains?

An article in City Journal pointed out that the major media's reporting of the story also omitted that while the male and female average math scores were equal, there were many more high-performing boys. That may help explain why more men are scientists. But the media would apparently prefer to leave unexamined its PC belief that sexism is the reason.


Dave said...

When I think back on my years in junior high and high school (late 80s and early 90s), mathematics teachers used a 'nuts and bolts' approach to teaching the subject, rather than fostering a conceptual understanding. When solving problems, it was all about 'the formula'. At the beginning of a lesson, girls would always ask this question: "What is the formula?" Too many students learned to solve math problems by wrote memory and this is VERY bad. I fell into that trap myself and I think that kind of instruction actually hampered my mathematical ability/development. Boys were usually quicker than the girls because they could grasp the concepts. However, the kind of instruction we were given was not at all suitable for mastery of the subject.

Anonymous said...

Why did the media not ask? If they did, they may risk damaging the image of the female as victim, in the same articles that, on the surface, are supposed to empower them.

I looked at all those articles, as well as one in my local paper. All of them kept bringing up the stereotypes they say are continually reinforced, that females are not as good at math as males.

Am I naive to think that the question you posed to the study's author is a rather simple one to answer? Couldn't they just look at the average scores for boys and girls and see if they went up or down over the years?

By the way, the NPR report linked to another story from the Boston Globe, called "The Freedom To Say No" by Elaine McArdle. It reports on a study that suggests that women now have more freedom than ever in their career choices, perhaps even more choices than men, yet opt out of science and engineering careers due to simple lack of interest.

I found this line interesting:

"The concept of self-selection sets off alarms for many feminists. It seems to suggest that women themselves are responsible for the gender gap."

Marty Nemko said...

I asked Hyde that question: Is there data for the last 20 years. She said they've been changing tests too much to enable a valid comparison across the 20 years and between the genders.


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