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Educatior_s_Guide_to_Gender_Wars

Educatior_s_Guide_to_Gender_Wars - 1 An Educator's Primer...

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1 An Educator’s Primer to the Gender War By David Sadker (All Rights Reserved. Please do not print without author’s permission.) ( Author’s Note : This article, in a slightly different version, was published in the November, 2002 issue of Phi Delta Kappan .) Several recent books, a series of seemingly endless television and radio talk shows, and a number of newspaper columns paint a disturbing picture of schools mired in a surreptitious war on boys. In books with titles like, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men (Sommers, 2001) and Ceasefire! (Young, 1999) readers are introduced to education using war metaphors, and informed that boys are daily casualties of zealous efforts to help girls. These “school-at-war” authors also call for more “boy friendly education,” including increased testing, frequent classroom competitions, and inclusion of war poetry in the curriculum, all intended to counter feminist influences. They also argue that sections of Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, be rescinded. Teachers are informed that extra attention given to boys in class and school libraries dominated by books about male characters are useful strategies to improve boys’ academic performance. As one book warns: "It's a bad time to be a boy in America." After over a quarter of a century of researching life in schools, I must admit that at first I thought this “gender war” was a satire, a creative way to alert people to the difficulties of producing fair schools that work for all children. Certainly boys (like girls) confront gender stereotypes and challenges, and teachers and parents must work hard every day to make schools work for all children. But these recent books and media talk shows were not intended as satire; they presented a serious picture where girls ruled schools, and boys were their victims. The irony of girls waging a war on boys reminded me of a Seinfeld episode that featured Bizarro world. For those of you not versed in the Bizarro world culture, it is a Superman comics theme where everything is opposite: up is down, in is out, and good is bad. When the Seinfeld television show featured an episode on Bizarro world, Kramer became polite and discovered that doors were to be knocked on, not stormed through. George went from nerd to cool, from dysfunctional to popular, and was rewarded with two well-adjusted parents. Elaine’s self absorption was transformed into compassion, a move that would likely lead to a hitch in the Peace Corps, and stardom in her own Seinfeld spin-off, “Elaine in Africa.” In this topsy-turvy transformation, Seinfeld’s entire gang became well adjusted, with their ethical compasses recalibrated to do the right thing. What would schools be like, I thought, if the Seinfeld and Superman’s Bizarro world came to pass? What would school look like if “misguided feminists” were actually engaging in a “war against boys”? And then I thought, what if girls really did rule?
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