Comments on: “Better dead than co-ed” History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:41:03 +0000 hourly 1 By: On Women’s Colleges « Shitty First Drafts Sat, 22 May 2010 17:10:47 +0000 [...] 2: Tevarre at the Fugitivus forums was kind enough to point out this post at Historiann from last [...]

By: Oroboros Wed, 18 Nov 2009 16:58:15 +0000 Well I really meant it as a kind of “default position” which is why I clarified about playing with stereotypes. I wanted to come back later and add that subverting the dominant paradigm means consciously mixing it up.

Both of my parents gave me discipline and praise growing up. But as I look at the whole of my childhood, there was probably a slight bias toward discipline from my father and praise from my mother.

By: Historiann Wed, 18 Nov 2009 16:15:06 +0000 I agree that the culture of trophies-for-everyone is perhaps part of this, but unless it’s just trophies-for-boys-whatever-they-do, it doesn’t explain the gendered achievement gap.

Oroboros, I disagree with your characterization of parenting styles. I know lots of mothers who are drill sergeants, and fathers who are creampuffs. (Geoff, I think you know the family that I’m thinking about!) I really think there’s probably the same range of parenting styles among parents of both sexes, and that gender doesn’t tell us that much about which parent will be more or less nurturing.

Paul, I agree with you that it doesn’t make sense that colleges would drop their admissions standards when their potential applicant pool doubles. But, that’s the logic of male supremacy for you. I guess I find it interesting that the schools that have maintained their high standards and are regularly ranked among the most competitive colleges in the U.S. are NOT the women’s colleges that have gone co-ed (Smith, Wellesley, Mt. Holyoke, and Bryn Mawr). It’s the Mills Colleges and the Wheatons that went co-ed. I don’t have the information, but it would be interesting to look at Mills now, 20 years or so after coeducation.

By: Paul Wed, 18 Nov 2009 16:06:44 +0000 I’m kind of confused about why women’s colleges that are going coed would feel the need to lower standards for male applicants. Is there a feeling that once an academic institution goes coed, they have to aggressively recruit people from the other gender even if that means using lower standards?

As for parents raising (or not raising) boys who are respectful and well-behaved, I think that quite a few families still do a pretty good job – but not enough overall. A fairly small percentage of actively rude and disrespectful men can ruin an educational environment, and also leads to the situation where ironically men feel that they have to be less well-behaved and less respectful in order to “fit in” or be socially accepted. Using a strictly personal example, my two brothers and myself were raised in a family that was numerically dominated by men and fairly conservative as far as gender roles go, but we were also taught that casual rudeness and disrespect toward women (and other people in general) were wrong and unacceptable. A lot of men, I think, are raised this way, but still not enough.

(Back in my conservative days, I would have interpreted the post title as positive proof that feminists were highly prejudiced against men without paying any attention to the nuances of why somebody would believe that. I suspect that this kind of interpretation is at the root of a lot of misunderstanding and hostility toward feminism by people who are unsympathetic towards it.)

By: truffula Wed, 18 Nov 2009 06:59:44 +0000 Geoff: an era of excessive positive reinforcement

This is an important theme, imho, and one connected to the sense of entitlement traditional-age undergraduates of all sexes and genders seem to bring with them into the classroom these days.

My children attend a Montessori school. There are no “incentives” or “rewards” for performance. Pride in accomplishment comes from within and the recognition that mastering one type of work means you can build from it to another. It is simply expected that children will respect the classroom and their peers and by and large, they do. Children follow the behaviors modeled by the adults and older children around them. We parents had a nice reading last year about refraining from squawking out “good job” every time our kid manages to wipe hir own nose.

The mixed-age classroom is important to the Montessori model. Younger children have older children as role models and older children share some responsibility to help younger children succeed. I would argue that the same holds in the university classroom. I teach at an urban institution, where non-traditional (older, returning) students are common. Older students really elevate what goes on in the classroom. They know why they are there and what they want out of their education. They ask and answer questions and in so doing open the space up for everybody in the class. In a nutshell, they model engaged student behavior.

By: Oroboros Wed, 18 Nov 2009 05:59:03 +0000 Geoff I’ve been pondering a lot about how we are wired and I’d say that our daughters are just as important on the matter you’re raising too (well, I have no kids so I’m actually impartial and unqualified).

My personal take on it is that men are slightly biased toward their perceptions of the objective reality while women are slightly biased toward the subjective. There are always exceptions of course, and the anima/animus concept means we’re always experiencing both anyway, it’s just a question of which one we pay more attention to (and that can vary as I’ve observed in myself).

So in this case, the mother might tend to normally judge and reward every step forward as compared to the previous one, whereas the natural paternal instinct may be to only reward every step as measured by progress toward the next one. Both are valid approaches in the balance and both are needed for the child to develop a healthy differentiation between his or her own subjective experience of objective reality.

I can also see this leading to an argument against same-sex parents as being unable to provide the right amount of subjective/objective balance. I’m also pretty sure with a bit of consciousness any couple (or single parent even) could find and apply the basic concepts that would be required for balancing the child’s needs for praise and reinforcement with challenge and discipline. In fact, it seems to me that the problem of single parents requires finding a solution to that regardless.

I realize I’m pandering to stereotypes a bit of the male and female, but they exist because of a kind of fundamental truth that seems inescapable.

By: Geoff Wed, 18 Nov 2009 05:11:02 +0000 Historiann asks, “What have the parents of boys been doing for the last thirty years?” One factor that the parents have been unconsciously (mal)adjusting for is the entirely different labor market for uneducated men, which has had ripple effects throughout the educational establishment. Thirty (well, maybe forty) years ago teenage boys who weren’t college bound could anticipate working at the local factory or serving an apprenticeship with their dad’s union. They wouldn’t have to go to junior college to get a living-wage job. In 2009 the factory’s gone or the work de-skilled and gone over to primarily immigrant labor. Is it surprising that the parents of these kids are now bugging their kids’ high school teacher to give Johnny a B+ for C work? The parents know the game has changed, that the education is important, but are unable to model the proper behavior for success in an environment where a B.A. is now an almost entry-level certificate.

I agree with thefrogprincess that the educational system is not serving boys well. This summer I spoke with a (female) math professor about her twentysomething slacker son. Her insight into his lack of drive was that he grew up in an era of excessive positive reinforcement, where each forward step was rewarded, no matter how small. I find myself doing the same with my own six year old — it’s hard to escape the subliminal messages we receive about how to raise our kids. We’re not supposed to be distant drill sergeants, we’re supposed to be caring nurturers. But this is likely not always in the interest of the long-term development of our sons. When adult men set up learning environments primarily for other men — whether it be boys’ PE, the military, or a construction site, the constructive feedback is overwhelmingly negative, which makes me wonder if it has something to do with the way we’re wired.

By: Dr. Crazy Wed, 18 Nov 2009 04:34:20 +0000 I’ve never had any personal experience with a single-sex educational environment, H., though two of my good friends went to your alma mater :) At any rate, I did go to (inner-city, income-bracket-scaled tuition) Montessori pre-school (ages 3 and 4) and at least from my experience at that age, I can say it was a good thing, because it did speak to the individual needs (on an emotional and personality and energy level) of all students.

After leaving Montessori for Catholic school in K-8, I think what mattered most was the small class size. (My eighth grade class had but 18 students – and yes, our school merged with two other schools the year after I graduated.) I think that male and female students both were held to the same (high) standard, but I also think that fewer students to a class meant that behavior problems did not get out of control (teachers were really able to deal directly with behavior issues), and that there were deeper relationships between students, which meant that peer pressure worked as a more effective deterrent to bullying and to screwed up behavior problems in the classroom. I never felt that I was subordinated to male students in that environment, nor did I feel like I had to handle problems that teachers should be handling. Let’s note that I went to an inner-city Catholic school, so the home/family environments of many of my classmates’ were not supportive at all, nor necessarily conducive to high performance in a group educational environment.

If I’d continued on in Catholic school my preference was to go to an all-girls’ high school, but my parents got divorced and that changed the game for me. I ended up in a good public high school, and I was in almost all honors/AP classes, and that meant that I didn’t have more than 25 students in any of my classes. Again, small class size made a huge difference, as did the fact that I was in a school district in which the teachers were very invested in our educations, and because I was tracked into honors classes, the students tended to be invested in doing well.

(My public high school was not in a uniformly upper-class place. Think Pretty in Pink. There were students with a lot of money, students in the middle, and students who were definitely poor. It was a very well funded school district, but that was because of school levies, not just because of property taxes.)

So here’s the thing, and only from my experience. You know what I really think levels out gender in education? Smaller class sizes. Regardless of income level, regardless of family background, regardless of whatever. I think standards plus a small enough class to hold students to them, that’s the ticket. Maybe I’m naive, or maybe my experience is an anomaly, but that’s what I really think makes the biggest difference.

As for teaching, Susan wrote up-thread: “One of my former students (male) commented that in my class it was just integrated in, not a special topic.”

I really believe that student evaluations are more negative when one has the “feminism” week or the “women’s literature” week or the “women in history” week. I think that students don’t seize on the “woman” stuff as much, regardless of background or political persuasion or prejudice, if you just make women part of the whole course. I really believe that if you construct woman as “other” than students respond to woman (or black, or latina, or gay, or whatever) as other, and thus WRONG. If it’s integrated into the mix AS literature, or history, or politics, or whatever, without making the Other into a token, I think that the response is, “oh, that’s how literature/history/whatever discipline works.” This is not to say that I’ve not gotten crap evals from bigoted students, but rather to say that I’ve gotten fewer of those in courses where I made the Other into part of the subject, if that make sense, as opposed to giving woman/gays/people of color their own special week.

By: Oroboros Wed, 18 Nov 2009 04:29:28 +0000 Also it looks like better living through chemistry will solve our problems, in a way.

By: Oroboros Wed, 18 Nov 2009 01:42:04 +0000 I went to an all-male Catholic high school. There was definitely a fair amount of homophobia. I took Latin, but heard that the German teacher was fond of telling football players in his class how much latent homosexuality there was in their sport (emphasis on phrases like ‘going deep’ and ‘tight ends’). So I always considered him to be a bit subversive. My Latin teacher was a pervert in his own right and made regular reference to the subtext regarding the “sheathing of swords” in the classical literature we were reading. I think all the male teachers (clergy included) felt they had to make a lot of jokes about sex just to keep the boys interested (and I think they were probably not completely off-base in that general belief).

Our Religious Studies teacher was fired some time after I graduated for an apparently inappropriate relationship with a former student (over 18). I’m sure the fact that he was apparently gay was the real reason he was let go.

Our Sex Ed teacher was a lay woman who’d probably been practicing the rhythm method faithfully in her marriage judging by the size of her family. By that point the teachings on contraception had been considerably relaxed and so we had a reasonably complete education despite the Catholic bias toward abstinence. The most remarkable thing she taught us was that our brains were our primary sex organs. To this day I still get a little mileage out of the joke that being Catholic, we weren’t supposed to use our brains until we were married….