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Gender and

Education
Gender and Education
Education as a social institution fulfills a number of key
functions among which are:

Transmission of knowledge

Preparation of young people for adulthood

Preparation of adults for new roles.

It does so through formal curriculum and informal


curriculum
Gender and Education
Formal Curriculum - A set of educational topics
officially and explicitly taught to students.

Hidden Curriculum The informal subtle social norms


that students learn from education.

Students acquire their education in gendered


classrooms, where official curriculum, e.g. textbooks,
assignments, projects and the hidden curriculum, e.g.
informal interactions with teachers and students,
produce gender inequalities.
Gender and Education
Women and the Herstory of Education.

As many feminist scholars have stated, since 18 th


century in the U.S. pursuit of education and
acquisition of knowledge was considered a
masculine pursuit and reserved for wealthy boys
and men, therefore, some male educators
utilized biological determinist arguments to
exclude women.
Gender and Education
Edward Clark, a Harvard professor who
published several articles and books in the
1870s warning of the dangers of educating
women and educated women.

He cited examples of pale, weak, neuralgic,


hysterical, demininated educated women.

Thus, he advised young women to study one-


third of young men and not to study at all during
menstruation.
Gender and Education
One opponent of co-education at the University
of California at Berkeley in the 1890s argued
that teaching women and men in the same
classrooms could be disastrous; and when the
University of Michigan first debated
coeducation in 1858, its president opposed it
because men will lose as women advance, we
shall have a community of defeminated women
and demasculated men.
Gender and Education
Women are no longer formally barred from pursuing
education and a number of reforms and educational
policies, e.g. Title IX of Educational Amendments of
1972, has significantly impacted womens education
constructively. However, gender bias in education
persists and women and men are taught in
gendered classrooms gendered curricula.

How are students taught

The contents of educational materials


Gender and Education
Self-fulfilling prophecy Expectations of
teachers, counselors, etc.

Tracking or Streaming - Grouping students


based on their perceived intellectual abilities
contributes to self-fulfilling prophecy.

Stereotype Threat (Steele and Anderson) The


influence of gender, class, race, ethnicity
Gender and Education
Studies have demonstrated that girls and women
are often either completely ignored or are
depicted in stereotypical positions in formal
curricula. Some feminist scholars assert that
events like the Black History month in February or
Womens History Month in March, intended to
rectify the exclusion and omission and highlight
the accomplishments and contributions of people
long overlooked in educational curricula, in fact,
marginalize and segregate.
Gender and Education
In one study, when faculty were asked whether
they incorporate womens experiences and
perspectives into their courses, majority said
only when they are relevant (Renzetti and
Curran).

Beyond the formal curriculum, extracurricular


activities also reproduce gender inequalities, e.g.
boys and mens sports typically receive greater
attention and the highest school budgets.
Gender and Education
Women in Higher Education

Women, as stated previously, are no longer formally


excluded from participation in higher education. At
present, a majority of college students are women,
however, the number of women declines, as you move
up the educational hierarchy.

As the next table demonstrates, the number of women


at each educational level has increased, however, as
faculty, women are concentrated in the lower ranks.
Gender and Education

Furthermore, as the institutional prestige


goes up, the smaller the likelihood that
women will be found in the highest
faculty ranks. Of extreme importance is
to note how gender intersects with race
and ethnicity in the ranks of faculty in
higher education.
Gender and Education
Elementary education has become feminized
as womens specific appropriateness with
younger students;

The number of women teachers decreases as


students move up through educational ranks;

Today, women at all ranks receive lower


salaries than do men at the same rank, in the
same field, in the same department.
Gender and Education
As feminist sociologists assert, the status of
women and people of color in educational
institutions has important ramifications for
how academic knowledge is constructed
(Anderson 2009).

Epistemology is defined as the ways of


knowing that form systems of social
thought.
Gender and Education
Feminist Epistemology postulates that
knowledge is socially constructed and how
gender relations shape the production of
thought. Feminist Epistemology focused on
two key concerns, the systems of thinking
that have been derived form andocentric
ways of knowing and new ways of
constructing knowledge to be more inclusive
of and centered in womens experiences
(Anderson, Van Den Daele).
Gender and Education
Feminist Standpoint Theory suggests that the
specific social location of the knower shapes what
is known and that not all perspectives are equally
valid or complete.

In her study analyzing the discussion of


reproduction in contemporary biology textbooks,
Emily Martin, an anthropologist, has found that
sperms are still described as active, aggressive
agents, while eggs are portrayed as passive.
Gender and Education
Citing text authors, Martin writes that texts
liken the eggs role to that of the Sleeping
Beauty: a dormant bride awaiting her mates
magic kiss, which instills the spirit that brings
her back to life. Sperm, by contrast, have a
mission, which is to move through the female
genital tract in quest of the ovum. The sperm
carry out a perilous journey into the warm
darkness where some fell exhausted.
Survivors assault the egg, the successful
candidates surrounding the prize.
Gender and Education

The fact of the matter is that sperm do not


merely penetrate a passive egg; rather,
the sperm and egg stick together because
of the adhesive molecule on the surface
of each. Therefore, despite the
knowledge to the contrary, metaphorical
descriptions of the biological reproductive
process make the event seem like a
contemporary soap opera or moral fable.
Gender and Education

According to Martin, the description


provided by scientists have prevented
them from seeing how eggs and sperm
interact, thus, cultural values influence
the discovery of scientific facts. This bias
can also impact choice of topic, research
methods, definitions of concepts, and of
course, interpretation of data and
applications of findings.
Gender and Education
Feminist Standpoint Theory argues that
womens specific location in patriarchal
societies is actually a resource in construction
of new knowledge (Harding and Collins).

We should also note that much of the gender


difference in college attendance and
completion, is what sociologist Cynthia Epstein
calls a deceptive distinction.
Gender and Education

Overall the number of males enrolled in


college rose by 33% from 1970 to 2,000.
However, female enrollments rose much
faster-143%. Many top colleges and
universities have higher male
enrollments, e.g. Princeton, 53%, Yale
51%, MIT 52%.
Gender and Education

Furthermore, there are gender disparities


in nursing, social work, or education,
traditionally far lower paid occupations
than those professions where men still
predominate, such as engineering and
computer sciences.
Gender and Education
The shortage of male college students is
actually, as Sociologist Michael Kimmel
points out, appears to be about gender but
is actually about class and race. The
gender gap between college-age white
males and white females is rather small.
However, only 36% of low income black
college students are male and only 39% of
low-income Hispanic students are male.
Gender and Education

There are various studies that have


investigated the effect of gender
composition of a college has on men and
women. Linda Sax, a UCLA professor of
higher education has examined data
from 17,000 students at 204 four-year
colleges.
Gender and Education

Her preliminary findings show that on


campuses that were predominantly
female, both men and women got higher
grades. Predominantly female
campuses also let a significant increase
in mens commitment to promotion of
racial understanding and led males to
more liberal views on abortion,
homosexuality, and other social issues.
Gender and Education

As Kimmel asserts, gender inequalities in


education produces the gender
differences we assume, with deleterious
consequences for both genders; it
impairs both boys and girls, mens and
womens efforts to find their voices,
discipline their minds, and prepare them
for their futures.