Re: Parts II & III - Deborah Brake's

Deborah Brake (
Wed, 22 Apr 1998 13:08:07 -0700

H Furbrow wrote:
> >The ongoing problems include: discrimination against
> >pregnant and parenting young women, combined with wholly
> >inadequate educational opportunities, which exacerbate
> >high dropout rates and foster economic dependence with
> >all of its attendant problems;
> Drop out rates, according to the government, are higher for boys in all
> age and racial categories.
> >the rampant problem of sexual harassment; substantial
> >underrepresentation of females in math, science and other high
> >technology programs;
> How do you define "substantial"? Female representation has been
> increasing in all categories. On the 1996 National Assessment of
> Educational Progress math tests, eighth and twelfth grade girls did as
> well as boys. Reversing earlier patterns, girls are more likely than
> boys to take geometry, algebra, and chemestry in high school, and
> equally likely to take trigonometry and calculus.
> How does this square with the need for an "educational equity" program
> aimed exclusively at girls?
> >significantly lower scores on a wide variety of
> >standardized tests; biases against girls' participation
> >in the classroom and biased curricula;
> Girls outperform boys (and I believe, always have) by a substantial
> margin in reading, and especially writing. In 1995, Science magazine
> warned that this trend could seriously damage young men's job
> opportunities in the information age.
> >highly sex-segregated vocational education programs
> >with females overwhelmingly in training programs
> >for traditionally female -- and traditionally
> >low wage -- jobs;
> Unless you can cite figures for the above claim, I'll choose to believe
> that the problem is not as bad as you make out. Some girls *choose* to
> be secretaries or hairdressers because they plan on being mothers and
> homemakers rather than engineers, scientists, or lawyers. We will
> always need secretaries and hairdressers, female or male. And some
> women will choose full time mothering despite our best efforts to lead
> them to the corporate world. Removing these "traditionally female" jobs
> as options for young women, and continuing to discourage and ridicule
> boys who might want to pursue them sends a message that you look down on
> their choices and see them as inadequate.
> >exclusion of female students from many athletics
> >opportunities, including athletic scholarships
> >worth hundreds of millions of dollars;
> What exclusion from what athletic opportunities? The Title IX lawsuits
> which swept across tha nation in the 1980's have closed down many
> moneymaking male sports activities, the reduced funding resulting in the
> loss of programs for both sexes.
> >and the availability to men but not women of entire
> >classes of other scholarships, many for study in
> >fields in which men already have a participation
> >advantage.
> Do you have an example of such scholarships, and a source for this
> information? The discussion will be meaningless if we keep using broad
> generalizations like "entire classes" and "many" without any concrete
> examples.

I hate to prolong what I believe is a not so useful debate about who has
it worse in education, boys or girls, but I must take issue with your
representation of the facts. The last time I checked (which was within
the past year), girls and boys dropped out of high school at
approximately the same rate, but for different reasons. For girls, the
most commonly cited reason was pregnancy and parenting, while boys
tended to cite other factors. As for your opinion that girls "choose"
to be hairdressers and secretaries so that they can be mothers, I must
disagree. It is impossible to talk about "choice" without an
understanding of the available opportunities and the impact expectations
and environments have on people's choices. Why shouldn't women be able
to be both mothers and engineers? Mothers especially have an interest
in not being tracked into low paying fields so that they can earn enough
money to support their families. As for your claim that Title IX suits
are shutting down money-making men's sports, I can only ask you to look
at the facts. Women get 25% of the athletic budgets at colleges and
universities nationwide, and while some men's sports bring in money, the
vast majority do not earn anywhere near their massive expenditures.

My frustration with this debate is that it is in everyone's real
interest to improve the quality of education and the life opportunities
for everyone, including women and girls. Yet, some insist on seeing it
as threatening to boys and men to even talk about the remaining barriers
to sex equity. These antagonists will attribute such discussions to
"victimhood," as if it makes one a victim to stand up for one's rights
and to seek a more just society. I long for the day when we can get
past the men versus women approach to these problems and move on to real

Deborah Brake

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