Re: Comments to our colleagues
Fri, 24 Apr 1998 13:58:18 -0400

Phyllis Lerner <> wrote:

PL> Having been in the field of equity, Title IX and educational PL>
effectiveness for more than 25 is striking (but not PL> surprising)
to see some of the responses to your conversations. PL>
PL> Of particular concern are the voices of the "males are in much
PL> more trouble" point of view. Too often, these are individuals and
PL> groups who denied, for decades, any gender bias in education at
PL> all! Now, that the research base and analysis show persistent and
PL> significant disparities, they do not attack the societal
PL> reinforcement of sexism and gender stereotyping...they attack the
PL> opportunities for redress by females and advocate groups.

This is really quite revealing. Rather than enter into debate with the
"voices" who opine that "males are in much more trouble", she attempts
to exclude them from the conversation ("to our colleagues... your
conversations") which belongs to "females and advocate groups". The
dissident arguments and research need not be addressed, because, after
all, "these are individuals and groups who denied, for decades, any
gender bias in education at all!"

PL> An example:
PL> To argue that male suicide is worse than ______ (fill in the
PL> blank) is to demean the loss of anyone's child, family or friend
PL> who is a male or female.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean ("anyone's child"? whose
child is that?) but, if it is an attempt to silence the evidence of
vastly higher male youth suicide rates by affected victimhood, it will
not work. I have lost a relative to suicide and it has not prevented
me from examining the phenomenon of suicide rationally and drawing the
obvious conclusions from its distribution. I suggest Ms.Lerner stop
worrying about demeaning me and re-examine the evidence.

PL> Did anyone suggest that what we wanted
PL> in an attempt to create a more equitable world was to have equal
PL> suicide success rates for daughters and sons?

No-one suggested it so I don't understand what this is about. Non
sequitur perhaps?

PL> I DO want young
PL> males to feel that their lives should not be placed at risk by a
PL> society who says they ought to use guns, take high risks, not
PL> express dispair, avoid communicating problems, drink abusively and
PL> if they're gonna do something (ie.attempt suicide)...they ought to
PL> give it 100% of their earn their manhood! What a
PL> waste...what a loss.

This is gross caricature.

PL> While many of us were busy and struggling to explain that the
PL> experiences for women were not fair, we were stuck defending that
PL> against those who denied the problem's existence at all. "There's
PL> no such thing as gender bias..." was their cry. Now, they say
PL> there is a bias...and it's against boys.
PL> If we hadn't had to use all that energy identifying and validating
PL> the problem...we might have more smoothly looked at the
PL> consequences for ALL kids of gender bias and intersecting equity
PL> issues.
PL> Two examples:
PL> #1- Yes, we absolutely needed better programs in athletics for
PL> females...yet, the development of those programs WAS (and still
PL> is?) an opportunity to look at the problems in athletics (and
PL> athleticism) for males, especially economically disenfranchised
PL> males of color. That's a totally unfinished agenda.

Black males are the overwhelming losers from the current "sports
scholarships for women" campaign being waged under the cover of Title
IX. Virtually every traditionally black college is in breach of its
Title IX quota, sorry, what was the word? "balance"?, and will have to
cut scholarships held by men. Whether reducing the proportion of males
in the black student population below 30% will be sufficient to finish
Lerner's agenda remains to be seen.

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

Maybe some of the money being spent trying to entice already well-off
middle class girls to make more use of computing the resources already
available in their schools could be spent on improving the access of
disadvantaged children of both sexes. What a shocking thought!

PL> The "males have it worse" crowd are yanking at the soul and spirit
PL> of Title IX advocates. They (interestingly enough) want equal time
PL> (money, laws, etc.) on the issue. We get so busy trying to
PL> maintain our place...because powers are trying to push us off the
PL> playing field...that we end up struggling to hold on and using
PL> whatever force we can muster to push back!
PL> All this takes us away from examining effective and equitable
PL> education...for any and every student. Sexism stinks for all and
PL> if it is you or your child who is the victim, then become an
PL> advocate against oppression which affects different groups
PL> differently! Become an advocate for quality instructional programs
PL> which can and do support student achievement. Just because someone
PL> is in a co-instructional classroom does NOT mean they are
PL> understanding themselves, others and the role that gender plays in
PL> all our lives. Just as surely, because students are sex-segregated
PL> does NOT mean they will be empowered and enlightened about
PL> themselves and others as it relates to gender. We DO know that
PL> informed and effective teaching, inclusive curriculums, multiple
PL> learning styles / strategies and excellent programs (from
PL> vocational to athletics) is good for females...and males.

There are some sentiments I could agree with, but I wonder why the
discussion of our children's education has to be framed in terms of
"oppression" and why "gender" has to play such an important role in
their education. I'd prefer it if my children's educators focussed on
such goals as ensuring their cultural and scientific literacy
(reading, writing and arithmetic, as it was once called) and left the
gender politics and left-wing rhetoric out.

Tim Benham

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