Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Republicans Heart Affirmative Action... for the historically privileged
I'm rather suspicious of the conservatives' championing of single-sex education. For one thing, I've never really thought that girls and boys learned that much differently. I know that the statistics say that women are better at verbal reasoning and men are better at spatial, but one must remember that these statistics are averages. There is no logical validity to the practice of prejudging one's learning style by one's gender.

On a historical basis, women have (until very recently) gotten the shaft whenever educational systems were divided by sex. My high school physics teacher, a Chemistry Ph.D and computer programmer (she programmed the original MacFlow), didn't take calculus in high school. She went to a girls' public high school in New Orleans in the seventies, and they didn't offer the class--instead, the senior girls took topical courses including "nurses' math". Calculus classes were offered at the boys' high school. This made things interesting in college physics courses, when in order to figure out the area underneath a simple curve before she learned integrals she'd weigh a piece of paper, draw and cut out the curve, weigh the curve, and then figure out the area.

The whole single-sex scheme looks suspiciously like affirmative action--affirmative action for males, that is. I've never heard the right worry about increasing rates of failure among African-American, Hispanic, Native American, or female students--but as soon as the position of white males is threatened, the defense forces come out in full battle mode. What, are they scared of the status quo changing? Does the prospect of having to work for their position in society frighten them?

You decide.

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