Female Gender Bias In Schools

This essay has a total of 2537 words and 12 pages.

Female Gender Bias in Schools


Sadker and Sadker (1994) reported a startling fact that few people realize. Today's girls continue a three-hundred year-old struggle for full participation in America's educational system. During colonial times school doors were closed for young women seeking knowledge, and the home was considered the learning place for young women. The home, serving as the girls' classroom, was where young girls learned the practical domestic skills for their inevitable role as wife and mother.
However, in 1767 a school in Providence, Rhode Island, began advertising it would teach reading and writing to girls. At the bottom of the advertisement, in small print, was noted the inconvenient hours of instruction. The girls were being taught either before or after the boys' regular instructional time. At this time the teachers of the boys needed additional income and opted to teach girls before and after school for an awesome fee. Thus, the idea of educating girls was formulated (Sadker & Sadker, 1994).

During the early nineteenth century, many cities began establishing separate high schools for girls. Most communities built one high school, but designated separate entrances for the sexes. The classes were on separate floors in single-sex areas where girls were taught by women and boys by men. Single-sex schools were now born! Following a considerable amount of frustration from attempting to receive an education at male-dominated colleges, men and women created a bold alternative--colleges for women.

Finally, in 1972, a historic victory was achieved. Congress enacted Title IX as part of the Education Amendments. The preamble (Valentin, 1997) to Title IX states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational programs or activity receiving federal assistance" (p. 1). Miraculously, a federal law made sex discriminations in schools illegal. Under Title IX, sex bias was outlawed in school athletics, career counseling, medical services, financial aid, admission practices, and the treatment of students. From elementary school through the university, Title IX violators were threatened with the loss of federal funds (Sadker & Sadker, 1994).

Title IX legislation changed the mode of operation in our schools. Better athletic programs for girls were instituted. Teachers began to carefully analyze books and resource materials for bias. As the 1970s came to an end, high hopes for Title IX ending gender bias mounted. However, many schools simply did not take this law seriously. In many schools vocational programs remained segregated with cosmetology and secretarial courses only for women and electrical and automotive courses only for men. In other schools, pregnancy was grounds for the expulsion of the teenage mothers, but not teenage fathers. Complaints were lodged, and paperwork was piled high (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). During the budget cuts and staff realignment of the 1980s under the Reagan-Bush administration, the heart of the equality movement was stopped. Between 1972 and 1991 not one school in the United States lost a single penny of federal funds due to gender bias. However, Valente and Valente (2001) cited two Supreme Court decisions where boards of education were held liable for the violation of Title IX provisions. The Supreme Court acknowledged in Franklin v. Gwinnet County Public Schools et al. (1992) and Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999) that institutions could be held liable for individuals in those institutions who participated in discriminatory behavior toward females.

During the 25th anniversary year, Valentin (1997) reported the following Title IX accomplishments:
* From 1972 to 1995 college women athletes increased from 15 percent to 37 percent.
* In 1996, girls constituted 39 percent of high school athletes, compared to 7.5 percent in 1971.
* Between 1971 and 1994 college enrollment of female high school graduates increased from 43 percent to 63 percent.
* Between 1971 and 1994 bachelor degrees earned by females rose from 18 percent to 27 percent.
* In 1994, women received 38 percent of the medical degrees, compared with 9 percent in 1972; 43 percent of the law degrees, compared with 7 percent in 1972; and 44 percent of all doctoral degrees, compared to 25 percent in 1977.
The gender bias movement has taken root in America, and with or without a beating heart, it continues.

Gender Inequalities Encouraged
Gender equity in education is the elimination of sex role stereotyping and sex bias from the educational process, thus providing the opportunity and environment to validate and empower individuals as they make appropriate career and life choices (Hilke & Conway, 1994). Therefore, gender bias in education can be defined as treating boys and girls differently in schools. This includes how teachers respond to students, what students are encouraged to study, and how textbooks and other resources represent gender roles.

A study commissioned by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in 1992 entitled "Shortchanging Girls; Shortchanging America" synthesized much earlier research and concluded that the average school is biased against girls in a number of ways. The study found that girls did not receive as much attention from teachers as boys, and boys were called upon to answer more abstract and complex questions than girls. Instead, all too often, female high school students focused on their bodies and neglected their minds.

Early differences in the treatment of girls and boys can result in enduring learning patterns. Skolnick (1982) reported that children spend more time with their teachers than any other adult with the exception of their parents. Consequently, teachers' expectations and actions have a profound effect on student achievement as well as self-esteem. What teachers say and do not say, their body language, what they do and who they call upon, form a hidden curriculum that is more powerful than any textbook lesson. Sadker and Sadker (1994) stated the self esteem of elementary girls remained high even though they received less time, less help, and fewer challenges from the teachers. However, the constant reinforcement for passivity results in a decline in their independence and self-esteem. Sadker and Sadker concluded, as victims of benign neglect, girls are penalized for doing what they should and lose ground as they go through school.

After 25 years of research, documentation reveals numerous examples where girls are denied opportunities to excel in the classroom. The sexism is subtle, and the bias very often is unconscious. Girls are rewarded for their conformity to classroom rules by simply being ignored, thus they pay a huge price for their compliance. Sex segregation, both during play and in the classroom, polarizes the sexes and contributes to female invisibility. Well-meaning teachers often think they protect girls by this separation when, in fact, they encourage stereotypical patterns of passivity in girls and aggression in boys (Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, 1992; Sadker & Sadker, 1984, 1994).

Despite the loss of confidence and voice, the most profound effects of gender bias are evident in today's high schools. During adolescence many girls become over-socialized to contemporary stereotypical definitions of "femininity." The messages they receive from the popular culture and media cause many girls to become preoccupied with physical appearance and perfection. Many of the models which appear in leading fashion magazines today are commonly 23 percent below normal body weight. Eating disorders, once considered prevalent among young women on college campuses, are now common among high school girls. It has been estimated that as many as 66 percent of high school girls are engaged in dieting. The stress of dieting and appearance undoubtedly uses energy that is necessary for learning in school (Wellesley College Center for Research on Women,

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