Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Truth About Boys and Girls

This week NBC nightly news is running a series of reports called "The Truth About Boys and Girls," which looks gender issues in education and work.

January 14: The first episode looked at "how memory functions differently for males and females." Watch the report. There is also a web-only video with more information on the work of MIT's John Gabrieli on gender and the brain.

January 15: Yesterday's episode looked at the advantages of single-sex schools for boys. The idea is that many boys can't sit still and learn, so they fail in co-ed learning environments that have that requirement. I can't help but think this works to reinforce gender stereotypes, and that active girls or quiet boys might be put at an even greater disadvantage by such segregation.

January 16: Today's episode looks at college admissions. Since there are more female college applicants, colleges actually have to admit a greater percentage of male candidates to keep an equal campus gender balance. Yep, it's affirmative action for underrepresented males, particularly at liberal arts colleges. There was no mention of the gender imbalance in different majors.

January 17: Tomorrow's episode will look at the pay gap between men and women, using the recent American Association of University Women Educational Foundation report on salaries as a starting point. The video will be posted on when it is available. I wonder if the episode will answer the big question that the series appears to be leading up to: if elementary schools are set up to the advantage of girls, and more young women than young men attend college, why doesn't that translate into equal or better pay for women? Will they say the "s" word?

The reports are necessarily very superficial, since they are less than three minutes long, and I don't know how representative they are of the current thought on gender differences. It seems to me that boiling down such complex topics into short sound bites doesn't fairly represent the issues.

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