[EDEQUITY Dialogue] Opening Statement

From: David.Sadker
Date: Fri Dec 08 2000 - 17:37:05 EST

Dr. David Sadker is a professor at The American University (Washington, DC)
and has been involved in training programs to combat sexism and sexual
harassment in over 40 states and overseas. He has authored five books and
more than 75 articles in journals such as Phi Delta Kappan, Harvard
Educational Review, and Psychology Today. His research and writing document
sex bias from the classroom to the boardroom. He has written articles and
chapters about gender bias and males, including one of the first curricular
units on the male stereotype. Dr. Sadker received the American Educational
Research Association's award for the best review of research published in
the United States in 1991, their professional service award in 1995, and
Eleanor Roosevelt Award from The American Association of University Women
in 1995. David and his late wife Myra Sadker co-authored Failing at
Fairness: How Our Schools Cheat Girls (Touchstone Press,! 1995).

Since we will focus on a number of current issues impacting males, perhaps
the beginning of the discussion is the best place to offer a bit of
historical perspective.
(One of the dubious advantages of investing 30 years in the effort to
create more equitable
schools is that one acquires a lot of perspective!) I am constantly
surprised at our
short-term national memory. Few today realize the persistent attention
given to this issue. In the 1960s, I was teaching high school, and there
was a great deal of concern about gender bias. But people never used that
term. All the concern in the 1960s was about what was happening to boys. An
influential book at the time was Patricia Sexton's "The Feminized Male:
Classrooms, White Collars & the Decline of Manliness" (Random House,
1969). Books and articles reported how poorly boys were doing in school:
reading problems to poor grades to "getting into trouble", gender issues
were gender
exclusively male. Boys were the sex to worry about. (Sound familiar?) And
Well girls were doing marvelously in school, thank you. No problem there.

Why were boys in so much trouble? Many critics placed the problem squarely
on the shoulders of women, and most of the institutions that women touched
and shaped. Female teachers robbed young males of their masculinity.
Overprotective moms loved their sons too much and toughened them too
 And the world of work fed into this unnatural transformation, exchanging
the manly
 frontier for an economy becoming more and more dependent on female-ish
type jobs,
 such as office work. The problem of gender bias was more difficult to see
where girls were
concerned. On the surface, girls were receiving higher grades and a flood
of compliments for their quieter, more appreciated behavior. The fact that
girls paid a substantial academic price for their gender stereotype in
school, and a financial price later in life, was rarely noticed or
explored. Girls were the quiet problem, a problem that back then did not
even have a name. (While the origin of the word "Sexism" is in some
dispute, most scholars identify 1969-1970 as the time it arrived in the
lexicon. )

In 1968, my late wife Myra and I were both enrolled in a
doctoral program at the University of Massachusetts, a story we tell in
Failing at Fairness (1995). That experience led to Myra's first book,
Sexism in School and Society (1973). During the 1970s, both Myra and I
would write about the male stereotype, even as we peeled away the layers of
subtle sexism surrounding females. In Being a Man (1976) and Sex Equity
Handbook for Schools (1980), we included a report card detailing the price
boys paid for adhering to their stereotype. We were certainly not alone on
this issue,
 for authors like Joseph Pleck and Robert Brannon, among others, were
writing influential
works analyzing the price boys were paying in and beyond school. Back then
common themes included: greater discipline directed at boys in school,
heavy representation in special education programs, poorer grades, concerns
about hyperactivity, ove! remphasis on competitive athletics, barriers to
open communication, acting "tough", inability to form close friendships,
and alienation from families in adulthood. The more things change, . . .

Dr. David Sadker

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