Comments to our colleagues
April 23, 1998 8:24 AM EST

Having been in the field of equity, Title IX and educational effectiveness for
more than 25 is striking (but not surprising) to see some of the
responses to your conversations.

Of particular concern are the voices of the "males are in much more trouble"
point of view. Too often, these are individuals and groups who denied, for
decades, any gender bias in education at all! Now, that the research base and
analysis show persistent and significant disparities, they do not attack the
societal reinforcement of sexism and gender stereotyping...they attack the
opportunities for redress by females and advocate groups.

An example:

To argue that male suicide is worse than ______ (fill in the blank) is to
demean the loss of anyone's child, family or friend who is a male or female.
Did anyone suggest that what we wanted in an attempt to create a more
equitable world was to have equal suicide success rates for daughters and
sons? I DO want young males to feel that their lives should not be placed at
risk by a society who says they ought to use guns, take high risks, not
express dispair, avoid communicating problems, drink abusively and if they're
gonna do something (ie.attempt suicide)...they ought to give it 100% of their earn their manhood! What a waste...what a loss.

While many of us were busy and struggling to explain that the experiences for
women were not fair, we were stuck defending that against those who denied the
problem's existence at all. "There's no such thing as gender bias..." was
their cry. Now, they say there is a bias...and it's against boys.

If we hadn't had to use all that energy identifying and validating the
problem...we might have more smoothly looked at the consequences for ALL kids
of gender bias and intersecting equity issues.

Two examples:

#1- Yes, we absolutely needed better programs in athletics for females...yet,
the development of those programs WAS (and still is?) an opportunity to look
at the problems in athletics (and athleticism) for males, especially
economically disenfranchised males of color. That's a totally unfinished

#2- Yes, we absolutely need females to have full access and competence with
computers and technology but we have many youth in urban and rural communities
who haven't ever turned a computer on. That's a barely touched agenda.

The "males have it worse" crowd are yanking at the soul and spirit of Title IX
advocates. They (interestingly enough) want equal time (money, laws, etc.) on
the issue. We get so busy trying to maintain our place...because powers are
trying to push us off the playing field...that we end up struggling to hold on
and using whatever force we can muster to push back!

All this takes us away from examining effective and equitable education...for
any and every student. Sexism stinks for all and if it is you or your child
who is the victim, then become an advocate against oppression which affects
different groups differently! Become an advocate for quality instructional
programs which can and do support student achievement. Just because someone is
in a co-instructional classroom does NOT mean they are understanding
themselves, others and the role that gender plays in all our lives. Just as
surely, because students are sex-segregated does NOT mean they will be
empowered and enlightened about themselves and others as it relates to gender.
We DO know that informed and effective teaching, inclusive curriculums,
multiple learning styles / strategies and excellent programs (from vocational
to athletics) is good for females...and males.

Phyllis Lerner

new message to this message