Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Complaint Gap

Tierney with some good points about a crisis that isn't:
I’m not hoping to see men and boys lobbying for their own gender-equity boondoggles, because a lot of them don’t need special help either. The students in most trouble are poor African-Americans and Latinos — especially the boys, but also the girls. They’ll never have an easy time making their complaints heard. But it would be a start if we all stopped pretending that middle-class girls were the ones being shortchanged.
July 15, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

The Complaint Gap

The 1992 report was titled “How Schools Shortchange Girls,” and it set off a national outcry. In response to women’s pleas, Congress passed “gender equity” legislation declaring girls an “underserved” group and providing money to deal with the crisis.

Last Sunday, The Times published an article by Tamar Lewin exhaustively chronicling how men are lagging behind women in college. The article provoked an outcry too — but not from men. For every letter from a man, The Times got 10 letters from women, most of them still worried about females being shortchanged.

It could be argued — I can already anticipate the deluge of letters from one sex — that men are blasé because they have so many other advantages, and that women are worrying because they still face so many kinds of discrimination. Maybe. But to me it looks more like another type of gender divide: the Complaint Gap.

That 1992 report looks ridiculous in retrospect, now that those supposedly shortchanged women outnumber men at college by a nearly 3-to-2 ratio, with a notably sharp disparity among lower-income students. But even at the time of the report, women had already been a majority on campus for more than a decade.

The report was issued with a warning that “gender bias in our schools” is “compromising our country,” but at the time girls were doing better than boys by most measures. On standardized tests, they were a little behind in math but farther ahead in reading. They took more advanced-placement exams and were less likely to be held back a year or to drop out of school.

The idea of widespread bias against girls was especially ludicrous considering that most teachers in grade school and high school were women, and that the girls got higher grades than boys. It was like publishing a wake-up call titled, “How the Vatican Shortchanges Italian Clergy.”

 Subscribe in a reader