In “Failing at Fairness” one of the most important topics of sexism is addressed, and that of course is sexism in the schools. From the beginning of public education there is evidence of hidden sexism in the classroom, yet not until recently have researchers began to take a closer look at the dilemma at hand. Sexism in the classroom is not a problem that has just occurred overnight in schools. I believe that it has a history, staring long before I was born. I love to listen to the stories that my Grandparents share with me, as do many children my age.
They always tell me how great those “good old days” were. Yet the stories make me step back and look at my grandparents, and see that those “good old days” are very different from today. Back then, the male role was heads of the household and they were responsible for any of the “physical work” to be done around the house. On the other hand, women had much less say in what was going on in the house, community, and even the nation. For the most part, women stayed home to take care of the kids and do all the housework that needed to be done.
This has been the way of life for along time right up until the Second World War. Then slowly women began to work their way into the work force, leaving those elementary ideas behind. Through the years women have gained more and more rights focus on equality, but are they really equal? To some extent yes, and by law yes, but there are still those hidden views and ideas that are continually being pushed on society. I have always witnessed sexism in the classroom, even though I have attended catholic school all my life.
I believe that it is more harmful if it is not that obvious. For instance, if sexism is taking place in a kindergarten class, and no one is there to correct it from the beginning, girls will feel like they are inferior to the boys and therefore hold back in participation. I was reminded of my encounter with sexism when hearing Sadker speak of their first observation in the second grade class. Two girls were instructed to move out of the way so that the boys could play with the blocks. In my school we had an advanced math program that began in the third grade.
The second grade teacher would pick those students that they thought were the brightest in math and moved them forward. I was one of them. The strange part was that I was the only girl, out of about ten guys. I never really gave it much thought until I read this article. I thought that the other girls just were not as smart as I was. I was reminded of a comment that was made to me that I did not find offensive then. The advanced math teacher always called me her “rose among the thorns. ” The teacher was implying that I was the only good student in the class.
Then, in eighth grade class I remember it surfacing again. On occasion, the principal, or even other teachers would come to our class and ask for volunteers to help with something and the teacher would always and ask the guys. The girls did try to volunteer, but they were simply overlooked. There was one exception, if the librarian need help, then the girls were automatically chosen to assist her. This happened throughout my days in grade school. I noticed it again at my high school where my history teacher, being a female, would always call on the boys for answers.
It did not matter how many girls had volunteered. Also, she tended to socialize with the guys more then any of the girls. Lastly, I have found sexism even in college. I have one professor who, whenever she needs help, getting a movie together, or setting up the overhead projector, she will call on her “VA man. ” I am not trying to say that these were bad teachers because each one that I have talked about I liked and have done well in their class, yet I tend to feel that they could not help but to be socialized into this way of thinking.
Lots of teachers, good ones and bad ones fall into this habit that they do not even realized they do. It may just start out with the old famous saying: “boys will be boys. ” But they do not realize that by saying this boys start to believe that this is acceptable behavior for them. And girls may start to believe it too. Another popular excuse is that boys need more attention because they either misbehave or they do not retain the information presented in class as quickly or as well as the girls do.
But think about it how would the teacher really know if this is true or not? The point is that they won’t. If girls do not speak up and continue to do well in class then the teacher will continue to ignore the problem. They then go home and study more then the boys might have to. Many girls do not speak up because sexism is such a hidden problem, even for them sexist actions cause girls to view themselves differently and it has a downward spiral effect.
They tend not to be as advanced as boys, which in turn means lower SAT scores, which causes them to have limited choices for colleges. Also, girls tend to have more difficulty in other areas of growing up, especially socially. And finally this is then carried into the work force when women get there. The tend to be paid less then men with the same jobs, or even in certain career choices popular among women, especially nurses and teachers, are paid much less then other professions. I believe that the only way to make some changes is to inform teachers of what it going on.
Not by simply telling them but letting them see it for themselves or even relive it as many did it the article. Then need to be reminded of what is happening in their classrooms and in classrooms around the world. Also I think that it needs to be addressed and once again demonstrated for the new teachers that are about to enter the work force. And lastly I think that kids need to be encouraged to do whatever they like in life. For example that girls can work in construction and that it is okay for guys to teach, be nurses, or even hairdressers.
They also need to be introduced to the same resources, like girls can play with trucks and building blocks and guys can play with dolls and kitchen sets. This article “Failing at Fairness” has brought to my attention issues that I will soon be facing. I plan to teach high school math and I have already been placed in a class to practice and get a feel for it. The article has given me a more educated view of the classroom, which will help me to be fairer and not fall into the same traps as many teachers before me unfortunately have.
Courtney from Study Moose
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