Binyamin Weinreich Comp II
In her essay “Gender in the Classroom”, Deborah Tannen begins by establishing just
which popular conceptions she has come to illuminate. Tannen writes with the authority of aneminent sociolinguist, and so her observations on the subject carry the weight of presumedobjectivity. It is evident from reading the essay that it is written by someone with an academicbackground. The piece contains no pontifications, or emphatic exhortations to action. It cleanlyand efficiently describes the phenomenon that in mixed-gender classroom settings, boys tend tospeak up more often than girls. Tannen compelling attributes this to an almost universallyobserved difference in how men and women communicate, with men using antagonistic,challenging language that thrives in an environment of adversity, whereas women use moretrusting, supportive language, that shrinks when pressed. Tannen then makes the step that trulydistinguishes her from just another published blowhard: she tests her observations. This instantlygives her more credibility than a writer who only had unproven theories to rely on. She describeshow she altered her teaching practices by breaking her class up into a series of small discussiongroups, and how this allowed certain students, generally female, to come out of their shells and
speak up more. The net result of Tannen’s piece is to cause the reader to analyze his or her
assumptions about classroom conversational dynamics, and to offer an edifying new perspectivethat offers a solution to prevalent problem.
Leon Podles, on the other hand, goes straight for the gut in his essay “Being a Man”.
(And how like a man, too!) He instantly appeals to a romantic notion of manliness that he canreasonably assume to be universal in Western culture, given its history. Podles also writes with
the assumption that true “manliness” must be carefully cultivated and cannot flower in a mixed
sex environment, an assumption that remains unchecked throughout his piece. In Podles’ essay,
men are incorrigibly violent, competitive creatures who thrive on positions of authority, andsociety is posed with a choice between training them to harness this tendency for self-expenditure for the good of the community, or allowing them to run amok and leave chaos intheir wake. His writing app
eals to the reader’s confusion in a changing world, and his instinctive
fear for the future, as well as his longing for a past where everything was simpler before socialrot set in.