I thought I'd heard it all...

(50 Posts)

At school today, DS1 was given a letter addressed to DH & me, using our academic titles and our (shared) surname, e.g. Prof & Prof OneGee.

More than one of DS1's classmates noticed the way the envelope was addressed amd several times he was asked if has two dads!

The fact that they think we are a gay couple doesn't bother me, but is that really the first scenario that pops into their head, rather than the possibility that a woman might have an academic title?

The university we both attended has been awarding degrees to women since the 1880s. I didn't realise it was breaking news.

StuffezLaYoni Thu 25-Apr-13 20:54:51

Lazarus, that teacher needs a kick in the backside. I am a single teacher, own money, own house, own cat. It's great! Please tell you daughter that! grin

MrsFrederickWentworth Thu 25-Apr-13 21:01:06

That's outrageous.

Fairly normal for both boys and girls to want to get married, less usual for boys to want children, tho Ds has since he was 3 .

But outrageous not to recognise and make it clear that both partners, same or different genders, can do equal jobs or equally valued jobs.

sittinginthesun Thu 25-Apr-13 21:10:25

I'm convinced its getting worse. I don't actually remember wearing pink, or playing with specific girls' toys when I was young. I had a farm set, rode my bike, wore jeans and t shirts. Fully expected to have a career, and be an equal to any boy. I genuinely didn't see any sex discrimination or differentiation until I started my first job.

I just don't recognise the lifestyle of the girls at primary school now. Even the books in the library (where I help out), are often either "boys'" or "girls'" books.

Madness.

lazarusb Fri 26-Apr-13 11:44:25

Thanks Stuffez, I will. I've made it clear that to all 3 of my dcs that if they meet & fall for someone of either gender, marriage, even co-habitation isn't a must.

My family law tutor says I am VERY liberal! grin

LightAFire Fri 26-Apr-13 18:59:47

Trisha I mean they tried raising some children totally gender neutral and it (allegedly) didn't work very well, with males and females tending towards certain patterns. That said, I'd like to know more of the details!
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100089407/the-most-pc-family-in-the-world-try-raising-a-gender-neutral-child-its-been-done-before-and-failed/

And the let toys be toys campaign looks great, thank you for that!

Sitting I agree, think it is worse now.

And Stuffez that did make me laugh...good advice!

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 26-Apr-13 20:26:18

I'm not sure quite what that blog was trying to say. How is it that you are "PC" when you just don't want to go with the stupid stereotyping that goes on? "If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs." A very sensible statement.

LightAFire Fri 26-Apr-13 20:43:58

It's basically arguing that men and women have some fundamental differences due to biology, not just society. And that to believe it's all down to gender stereotyping is what he refers to as "PC" - he claims only a "select minority" agree with it, but fails to cite any sources or evidence. I was just giving it as an example of the experiments into whether total gender neutrality was possible as someone asked.

LightAFire Fri 26-Apr-13 20:45:19

BTW I should have added, I do agree with you entirely that stereotyping is stupid!

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 26-Apr-13 20:48:21

The blogger is not very convincing, though, is he? To think that children being raised "by the community" is "gender-neutral" seems a bit of a leap. What did he think that community was made up of? hmm I would like to know more about the kibbutz experiment though.

LightAFire Fri 26-Apr-13 21:16:17

What did he think that community was made up of?

Ha ha! Excellent point.

And agreed - he doesn't give nearly enough information or sources there either. Very generalised/sensationalised - although, why am I even surprised!

And yes I'd like to know more about the experiment too - I heard it cited somewhere else as proof of male/female biology driving some behaviour patterns but haven't been able to track down any concrete stuff, just vague allusions (as here).

LightAFire Fri 26-Apr-13 21:23:04

Have now found one (getting better at Googling!)

Here is a brief summary of the argument for the experiment proving gender roles non stereotyped: www.heretical.com/wilson/rkibbutz.html

And here is an essay arguing the experiment doesn't actually prove that at all - I have only skimmed it though as very long! www.tau.ac.il/~agass/judith-papers/gendereq.pdf

Still curious also re nature vs nurture argument - am off to ask a couple of scientist friends re evidence!

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 26-Apr-13 21:36:05

Will read them tomorrow. Thanks.

I'm not a believer in this "born different" ideology. But belief apart, what is to be gain from believing it? What is to be gain in thinking that boys and girls are born different when you are going to be dealing with individuals? It is the height (depth?) of disrespect to treat anyone as a type rather than as an individual, especially so if that somebody is a child who cannot argue his/her case. It is just wrong. angry

LightAFire Fri 26-Apr-13 21:56:12

Although I fully agree everyone (especially children) should be treated as an individual as far as possible, I have a question - how would you see this translating to somewhere like a school environment? Or are you referring to younger ones?

I'm just curious because I have spoken to several mums re problems with SEND being understood by teachers, and we all agreed partly they (the teachers) need more training. Obviously, just because you have attended a course in dyslexia, does not mean you understand every single child with dyslexia, since there are big variations. BUT it just struck me that there are some general overall likely traits which it does help to understand as a starting point.

In schools they also have problems with, for example, boys writing and girls doing maths. These are well recognised - and even though you could argue they have been created by gender stereotyping in the first place, they still exist and need to be dealt with.

These are just a couple of examples which occurred to me when it seems you actually need to start with a "type" for basic understanding, and then adapt for the individual. Might this perhaps be argued as a potential gain for the "born different" belief?? (Although I should add I'd still prefer for very young children to be offered a choice of toys etc, and did exactly that with my own DD, plus it should in theory be easier since it isn't the "mass production" environment of school!) Or do you feel it's irrelevant as they are too young?

lazarusb Sat 27-Apr-13 11:59:33

I find the whole gender difference argument interesting. My Dad has been a woman for the last 8/9 years. He says that he 'felt like' a woman for most of his life. But he can't tell me exactly what feeling like a woman means. She also fits into into the traditional female stereotype more than either or dd do, from a clothes/appearance angle. I appreciate that this is probably an entirely different subject area but, for someone who railed against traditional male stereotypes for 40plus years, she now happily conforms to female ones!

lazarusb Sat 27-Apr-13 11:59:59

dd or I

LightAFire Sat 27-Apr-13 12:34:11

lazarus that is interesting!

A friend of mine is a science journalist (and a phd in physics) and she just sent me this to look through: www.sciencemag.org/content/269/5220/41

She was telling me that this guy (President of Harvard!) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Summers#Differences_between_the_sexes sparked huge controversy when he started going on about gender differences relating to ability. I am going to have to start reading through as I am very curious myself!

lazarusb Sat 27-Apr-13 19:12:32

Thanks for those links. Interesting reading.

UptoapointLordCopper Sat 27-Apr-13 21:05:26

LightAFire - still haven't had time to read the articles, but on the idea of starting with a "type" with school children:

So the idea might be that by the time they start school, boys and girls are already socialised to conform to stereotypes such as "boys can't sit still" and "girls are better at writing", and so you might as well take on these assumptions and tailor your teaching accordingly. Right? But there are some problems, as I see it. (The "you" is not you personally, of course. It's just that writing "one" sounds a bit poncy after a while. grin)

1) Within a group there will be a spectrum of behaviours. What will you do with the girl who completely cannot sit still and refuses to write? You would have to treat her as an individual and take steps accordingly. Would you treat her as a boy!? How about the girl who cannot sit still but writes beautifully when she does? How about the boys who like nothing better than to sit in a corner and draw pictures (like my DC)? Of course you will treat them as individuals/exceptions. Why not then just take them as they come without preconceived ideas?

2) People are susceptible to confirmation bias - observing only events that confirm their beliefs and ignoring those that don't. If you start with a stereotype there is a danger that this will happen. So you don't see when your pupils are not being served by this approach.

3) People react to other people's perceptions of them. If you start with a stereotype you may end up enforcing it.

4) Dividing people into groups and constantly reminding them of their memberships to these groups end up making them think of the other group as aliens and different from them. Is that really how we want our children to grow up? To treat the other half of the population as something strange, even hostile?

Off to watch telly now!

LightAFire Sat 27-Apr-13 23:19:09

Uptoapoint some really good points there thank you. I do see what you mean re the dangers people will react only to what they think and reinforce stereotypes and I think you could well be right. My own DD incidentally is also pretty "atypical" - she does like Barbies, but also is fascinated by Science and Maths and dislikes writing stories intensely.

I think what worries me is that there are currently patterns of problems with both genders. Too many girls believe that they are no good at things like maths, and can be risk averse in learning terms. (I don't mean every girl of course, but a significant number very definitely). Similarly, a lot of boys DO struggle to sit still and dislike writing stories. Data has proven this is the end product we currently have - now the cause could well be exactly the reasons you list! But the problem is there - and in a mass production environment, you cannot tutor each child individually. Schools work by taking groups and trying to aim for the masses (unfortunately - there are a GREAT many flaws in the education system, but don't get me started or I will be wittering on all night!!) And this is where my worry is - how we can fix the issue that currently exists without being divisive in solving it!

Personally, when I have taught mixed classes, I have tried to use topics and texts which I think will appeal to as broad a spectrum as possible - and yes you're 100% right that you will get children who are different. In fact I once said to a colleague, I think in your head you should have an IEP for EACH child according to their needs, not just SEND. Wouldn't it be great if we really could ban "for girls/for boys" stuff and just have loads of quality resources to appeal to as many as possible...that way they could all grow up making up their own minds!

UptoapointLordCopper Sun 28-Apr-13 10:35:43

Obviously I don't have a solution, or else I'd be off somewhere now making lots of money selling it. grin But clearly lots of boys can't sit still in a classroom. And some girls can't sit still in a classroom. Why can we not pay special attention to children who can't sit still rather than boys who can't sit still or girls who can't sit still? My MIL works in early years education and very often talks about how boys don't read, in the hearing of my sons. Are we really hoping for a self-fulfilling prophecy? How can any of this be constructive in any way? Of course I'm not saying that teachers would be saying that in front of the class, but children are more perceptive than we think and they react to what we subconsciously believe rather than our conscious actions. (Or so the studies quoted in Delusions of Gender say.) I think the sooner we stop referring to them as boys and girls and just as children the better. After all, if you keep your knickers on at that age no one knows if you are male or female. Why is it such a big deal?

I also do understand that in a group situation it is possible that you can't provide for each individual. That's why I get in such a rage about the old early years motto of "Every Child Matters" and would like people to stop pretending that they care about individuals...

End of rant. grin

lazarusb Sun 28-Apr-13 11:00:38

I totally agree re:education. In many ways it does reinforce gender stereotypes. I was a school governor at Primary School and we were blessed with a female Head who had a passion for Maths. Not only did she instil a love of Maths for girls, she made it clear to the boys that girls could be good at Maths too, in the same way that boys can be good at English, Art etc.

I was on the panel on one shocking interview though - we interviewed a middle aged man who was very interested in computers. But only boys on computers. Apparently, while the boys were using them the girls could be reading quietly in the corner. He was told as part of his feedback that was significant in why he wouldn't be getting the job!

LightAFire Sun 28-Apr-13 19:21:10

Obviously I don't have a solution, or else I'd be off somewhere now making lots of money selling it. Ha ha good point!!

I agree entirely we should NOT be saying this to children and putting these ideas in their heads as whatever causes the issues, it certainly is true we can reinforce stereotypes. And Every Child Matters - yes that was not successful to say the least. It should be that way but all too often it isn't.

I must admit though I am not yet convinced there really is no difference at all between the genders other than physical - but then I haven't done my reading yet blush I'll probably get flamed for admitting that but there seems to be a lot of science saying there are some differences, and to my mind the better you understand a learner the better a chance you have of educating successfully so I am very interested in the question. Coincidentally I am doing an MA in Education and the module I am just looking at is to do with gender patterns of communication and the question arose of whether they are due to inherent biological traits or socialised ones. No definitive answer yet (evidence for both sides) so I am keeping an open mind!

And lazarus shock Unbelievable!! Girls should read in the corner?! In which century!!! That head sounds great though - we need more people like that in education. That way, even if there are any gender differences, by being open-minded and offering equal encouragement, we stand a better chance of creating a more equal society in which people are allowed to be individuals.

piprabbit Sun 28-Apr-13 19:30:36

What age is your DS? I'd be tempted to offer to go into school (esp a primary school) and offer to speak about what being a Prof means and how you earned the title.

UptoapointLordCopper Sun 28-Apr-13 20:05:19

LightAFire Delusions of gender explains why you get all these well-publicised "theories" about inherent gender differences. Some of it would make your jaw drop. Like saying "girls do this" when the sample is all female, or something like that. Another example is the empathy nonsense. Turned out they didn't measure empathy. They measured whether you thought you were empathetic. I was shocked at that. Very poor research.

I also heard a radio programme a long time ago about how these different styles of learning are not as distinctive as made out to be, and a good learner is a good learner in any style, or something like that. But that is a great many years ago so may be understanding have changed.

LightAFire Sun 28-Apr-13 20:46:19

I've just looked up that book and yes it sounds very interesting - the main drive seems to be that beliefs about differences were based on faulty science. Even more intrigued now!

And yes learning styles have been criticised hugely: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles

I guess the key all round is to see learning as a multi-faceted two way process. But sadly, doesn't seem to happen very often!

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