Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 3.10

  • How man lost his penile spines – “Scientists believe men once had small spines on their genitalia such as those found in chimpanzees, cats and mice.” From Davew.
  • Barron teachers hope to separate students into gender-based classrooms – From chasmosaur, with whom I share mixed feelings about this.
  • Morning after pill may be safe for non-emergency use – As you would expect, condom plus the morning after pill works better at preventing pregnancy then condom use alone.
  • Diary of a part-time monk – Now here’s a way to celebrate Lent that I can get behind: Abstain from all foods except for doppelbock beer, as monks used to do. From Ellen.

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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33 Comments

  1. Re: Gender -based classrooms.

    I have a problem with this too. I admit that some of the reasoning is sound. Subjectively there does seem to be a different dynamic in a group consisting entirely of girls/women and a mixed group. Subjectively I don’t notice a large difference between a mixed group and a single-sex group of boys/men. I declined to join my wife’s writing group because I’d be the only guy there (and a guy with an out-sized personality) and didn’t want to change their low-key gatherings.

    However, making an arbitrary distinction based only on gender in schools is wrong. What if you are a girl who learns better with the boys or vice versa? Should this be permitted? Maybe there are different teaching approaches that work better with different people. This is what we should focus on rather than examining chromosomes.

  2. Re: Doppelbock.

    Jayne: Mm-hmm. They call it “Mudder’s milk.” All the protein, vitamins, and carbs of your grandma’s best turkey dinner, plus 15% alcohol.
    Wash: It’s horrific.
    Simon: Well, it worked for the Egyptians.
    Jayne: What’s that?
    Simon: The ancient Egyptians, back on Earth-That-Was. Not so different from the ancestral form of beer they fed the slaves to build their pyramids. It’s liquid bread. Kept them from starving and knocked them out at night so they wouldn’t be inclined to insurrection.

  3. @QuestionAuthority: @davew: I’ve seen some anecdotal evidence (when I was teaching) to believe this has some foundation… not necessarily the “boys are verbs, girls are nouns” stuff, but that single-gender groups do operate differently and, to an extent, more efficiently.

    For me, though, the real killer was always class size. Give me a class of 30 students, and I’m going to teach to the lowest common denominator, while trying to throw bones to the higher-level kids. Give me a class of 10 students, and I can teach all of them, individually.

  4. Ok, I’m gonna hijack the quickies, because I want some help. First, Texas state House Bill 2454:

    http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/82R/billtext/html/HB02454I.htm

    Got that? Here’s the author’s contact information:

    http://www.house.state.tx.us/members/member-page/email/?district=96&session=82

    This has got me so pissed off that I’m arguing with an idiot in another person’s FB status. I need some help coming up with a reasonable e-mail to Rep. Zedler that doesn’t sound like me screaming “Why are you being a fucktard, fucktard” thirty-seven times.

  5. The teaching thing in the lower grades is pure BS. Both of my girl G’Kids and boy G’kids makes a lie of the whole article. It is a gross over generalization. Even if they separate, you wind up with a mixture of different girls or boys.
    I can see it in the higher grades as those uncontrollable hormonal boys panting after the scantily dressed girls are always an interruption.
    As a part time teacher I also agree that one real problem is class size, but the main one is that parents do not stress the importance of proper learning onto their kids. Give me a class of 45 motivated kids and I can teach them all!

  6. I’ve always thought gender to be a poor criteria for determining how best to teach individual students. It’s one of those characteristics that’s very easy to monitor, and thus a lot of research has focused on sex differences (instead of more relevant personality traits) when it comes to learning style.

  7. Yesterday I heard a local newscaster (male) who briefly mentioned the penile spines while discussing several differences between humans and chimpanzees. Thought I would drive off the road when his female co-host said something like: I’m certainly happy that men don’t have spines on their penises. ;-)

  8. Re: gendered classrooms

    I want them to do this, and then come back back with supporting evidence for their methodology other than anecdotes that girls = quiet/nouns , boys = loud/verbs+.

    alternate hypothesis: children – especially energetic ones don’t do well when cooped up at desks to long. Bring in more phys-ed – and stop cutting phys-ed. The result, I suspect, will be healthier kids with better attention spans across both genders.

  9. People seem to be incapable of accepting that boys and girls are treated differently from birth. Boys that like to play with dolls and to push them around in toy strollers get, at the least, some amused comments about it. Girls are expected to be quieter and to be more helpful with household chores. Even when the parents are trying to counteract these cultural pressures.
    Of course, if cultural pressures have created boys and girls that learn differently according to gender category, it may be a good idea to teach them accordingly. But I worry that these attempts are just re-affirming the gender stereotypes that are probably damaging to many of the boys and girls in question.
    My toddler daughter loves her noisy firetruck, and her wooden rabbit that she can pull around on wheels. At her daycare she has to fight with another little boy to play with the baby doll and stroller.
    BUT. If, when she’s a teenager, there’s a possibility of her attending a girl’s only school, and her grades and interest improve – well, maybe I’ll do it.

  10. @MarkHall

    So, wait a minute. Did I read that right?
    If this bill gets the votes needed it goes into effect immediately, if it doesn’t get 2/3 it goes into effect Sept. 1, 2011?
    That’s heads I win, tails you lose. How is that possibly legal?

    This and the shit that is currently going on in Wisconsin shows the depth of the contempt some legislators have toward the public.

    I can understand how this level of smug stupidity can turn one into a sputtering ball of rage. I’m almost there myself and I’m usually pretty calm.

  11. Re: penile spines – does this mean that evolutionary biology is proving that we are evolving beyond rape?
    (I’m asking from near total ignorance – but surely the spines would have hurt the women, which would make consensual sex unlikely? And the disappearance of the spines would mean men – those irrational brutes who are helpless to resist their brutal sexual urges* – were evolving towards consensual sex?).

    *Ironic – I’m making fun of people who try to argue that men can’t control their sexual urges, though of course I know that most men are rational and social beings, just as most women are.

  12. When I was in grade 9, my school decided to separate the PE classes into female and male classes. I guess it was to help girls feel less awkward about their bodies by not having to exercise in front of boys, but it didn’t make any difference to me. And it must not have had much effect, because they went back to mixed-gender classes the next year.

    My issue with single-gender classes, other than what every one else has already said, is that it doesn’t actually address the problems long-term. For example, if girls are less comfortable speaking up in class when boys are present (as mentioned in the link), then separating them might help them in school. But, once they get out of school, there are not going to be many circumstances in work, higher education, or life in general where they are just with other women. Better to teach them how to speak up with boys present and to teach the boys to help change the situations that are making the girls uncomfortable.

  13. I am a product of single sex education, from 7th grade up, and I honestly do not think that I would be as confident or as accomplished as I am without it.

    In my co ed k-6th school I was constantly at war with or distracted by the boys in our classroom. They were either trying to get me in trouble, or doing stuff that was distracting during class.

    I think removing the sexual element from classrooms, especially during and after puberty can be extremely beneficial. There are fewer distractions and more time to focus on learning.

    During our non school time my classmates and I participated in a myriad of co-ed activities with nearby boy schools. (One of the most well attended was the annual Boys vs Us Field Hockey game, sadly, they did not play in skirts.) So we did not suffer for lack of interaction with men, we simply didn’t have to worry about them during school hours.

    My largest concern about the separation of genders would be that some areas of education are dismissed for one gender or another, because women don’t need to know math, or something along those lines. Private schools focused on college admissions focus on achieving a wide breadth of knowledge so that students can do well on tests and preform well in college.

    My concern is that public schools or schools that are less focused on college admissions would be more likely to pigeonhole students in to gendered curriculum.

  14. 1: Ignoring the BS “just so” stories that tend to get brought up, there is at least some evidence that single-gender classrooms improve actual student performance for both genders. If those studies can be confirmed, then that takes precedence over ideology. As noted by shinobi42’s post, of course, extreme vigilance would be required to prevent gender-based curriculums becoming the norm, especially in high schools where there’s usually some degree of elective course selection–which means that misguided counselors could steer kids into classes based on their gender.

    2: Another potential hijack, here, which I apologize for since this is my first post here, ever, but… this drek needs to be illuminated and called out at as many places as possible. Trigger warning for rape victims–it’s about the gang rape of an 11-year-old in East Texas:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/us/09assault.html?_r=3&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1299780046-FwZyo/5xJpsdfctm3yGxtA

    The events described, are, of course, horrific. But what I’m looking to get folks mad about is the reporting. A single quote should do:

    The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?

    Drawn. Into. This might qualify for the middle-schoolers, the same age as the victim–young children do have lower levels of moral culpability. It’s possible that some of them were pressured into participating by the older attackers. On the other hand, the 17-through-27-year-olds who participated? Not so much.

    There’s also a bit describing the girl’s clothing and make-up. Because that’s somehow relevant.

  15. ummmm… speaking as someone who went to an all-girls Junior High School the picture of all-girl classrooms as “quiet, organised, studious” is just totally and completely false!

    ….

    The fact that this was part of the research (as well as the other dubious parts of it) I was always way more interested when I actually got to do something…. I am going to say that my bullshit meter went off resoundingly at this research…. The only piece of information I could see being not completely bullshit is the idea that in an all-girls setting more female students might be willing to speak up more often. Less chance of the “girls suck at…” stigmatisation or other such thing. But given the rest of the statements…. I’m even wary about accepting that.

    This just sounds like societal stereotypes being taken as being proof of “different” learning styles…

    If your research suggests that single-gender classrooms = better learning, fine, good, great. But I very much doubt that this “noun vs verb”, “sitting quietly with books at corner of desk” description is even remotely close to any sort of reason for the improvement… because during my all-girls school years… let me tell you that is not an image that fits any of of my classrooms…

    *goes off to see if she can find any further research on supposed differences in learning styles.*

  16. @zagloba

    We are having a discussion in another thread about lurkers and new people feeling intimidated to comment here and I just realized that, while it wasn’t my intention, I may have made you feel dismissed.

    When I said that quote was ignorant I was talking about how Egyptians didn’t use slaves to build the pyramids and, while they may have drank a similar drink, it was certainly not to knock them out and put down insurrection. And I was talking about the quote, not you.

    It was a very relevant and clever quote and I’m sorry if Imy comment came off as flippant.

    BTW-Though this may seem to be sarcastic, I am completely sincere.

  17. Checking in late today – gotta get back into the Skepchick habit.

    On the gendered classroom thing – okay the noun/verb thing I thought was inane, and possibly just a way to get publicity. Anyone who thinks teenage girls are neat and tidy has never looked in a teenaged girl’s closet or backpack.

    But part of me thought it spoke more to the culture out here in Western Wisconsin. Because it’s a bit retro out here. There is an undercurrent that if it’s not actually misogynistic, it is one that marginalizes women.

    There has been more than one man I’ve worked with out here who has tried to belittle me (woe betide those guys), and once I was flat-out asked why I was in a room of developers. Because, you know, girls don’t know computers. (If they ask how I got into them, I tell them I used to be a Vert. Paleontologist, and when you study evolutionary biology, you need to be able to program heavy-duty algorithms. LOVE the blank-stare that response gets.) Don’t get me started on the local women’s magazine that is all…fucking…pink, on top of being laden with woo crap.

    And at networking events? You’d think it was a junior-high dance. All the girls on one side, all the boys on the other. And many of the women are amazed that I’m “brave enough” to talk to the men. I, on the other hand, usually quell anger and sadness when that comes up for the umpteenth time.

    So part of me is pissed off at classroom separation: women aren’t going to learn to be assertive being separated from the boys.

    But part of me is saying, “okay, maybe they need to learn to love STEM and realize that they’re good at it” so they can tell the boys to sit down and shut the hell up when the time comes.

  18. Oh – just realized. It’s the girls *here* who I think need to tell the boys to sit down and shut up. Because the boys would be more than happy to do that themselves. Otherwise – yes, respectful discourse is all the rage for me.

    But when you’ve had one of these wankers pat you on the hand and say “Oh, don’t you worry your head about this stuff – you’re overthinking it” when you point out the flaws in their position? (Which turn out to be the flaws I predicted? And you could see him mentally congratulating himself for not saying “your pretty little head”?)

    Yeah, that I haven’t been arrested for assault and battery yet is a testament to my mother’s teachings on temper control. It’s only a matter of time.

  19. @mrmisconception: @Mark Hall: My take based on my limited political experience and possibly incorrect assumptions here is that the bill requires a simple majority (50% +1) to pass. If it passes with a 2/3 majority vote, it takes effect immediately; if it passes with less than a 2/3 majority, it takes effect Sept. 1. If it gets less than a simple majority, the bill fails to pass and does not take effect.

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