Why Gender and Schools? Why Now?
Updated: Dec 12, 2018
Given the current climate, it might seem obvious why we need to start a conversation that has long gone dormant. By the 1960s and 70s, not only was gender inequity considered a critical topic for schools and educational researchers, but there was actually funds, yes, federal money available for research in this critical area. And, as quickly as the topic become front and center in our educational consciousness, by the 1980s, it was as quickly tabled. We saw a full entrenchment and angry reaction to feminism (See Susan Faludi) and with it the need for gender equality in our schools.
We need our schools to be places which promote gender safety, equity and fairness so that our children can grow up to be their best selves.
We now find ourselves with the results of that retreat, apathy, and antagonism in our boardrooms, blue collar jobs, Hollywood, industries, and the not-for-profit world. This is not just about equal pay for women or fair hiring practices. This is about boys who, in the absence of communities and schools addressing gender practices and equity, end up the perpetrators or the willing accomplices to everything from harassment to sexual assault to rape. With almost 90% of the violent crime in the United States perpetrated by men against other men, women and children, the #metoo movement is one layer of nothing less than a national safety crisis with moral and ethical implications for our entire society. Most importantly, these issues did not start in the workplace and they will not be solved with reforms to HR practices.
The hard work must happen in partnership between our homes and our communities and our schools. We need our schools to be places which promote gender safety, equity and fairness so that our children can grow up to be their best selves.
Unfortunately, the issue of gender discrimination and equity in our schools has ballooned into a much more complicated and complex narrative. While we have made significant inroads into areas impacting the education of women, mainly in mathematics and the sciences, men are suffering school. Either they are capable of doing school or they do not have a place at the table. By gender labeling subject matter in such areas as literacy as “only for girls and not really for boys,” we have a significant number of boys who are leaving our school systems marginally to functionally illiterate. This is unacceptable for our young men in our 21st century economies and particularly challenging in order to have them fully participate in our democratic systems. This is another type of national crisis which is emerging. There are no biological impediments which should make this the case and examining and fixing gender practices in our schools is critical for both our boys and girls.
So, this blog will address these issues from inside of schools, from outside, from the parent-community-school connection, from looking at data (lots of it), from what we know about best teacher practices, from the teacher’s point of view, from what parents can do and from stories, personal stories of being inside of the classroom, from what seems obvious to me about students and what I had to learn, with sometimes great discomfort, about my own prejudices and practices.
This work can no longer be marginalized or placed on some back burner. The time is now.