Comparison essay - Gender Essay Example
Since the beginning of time man has been plagued by life’s essential questions: “Why are we here? - Comparison essay introduction?? What is the meaning of life?,” and of course the ever present question in the battle between the sexes, “when all is said and done, who is essentially smarter: men or women?” Through past and recent study, scientists and theorists have come to agree that though women may excel early in life, and though the different genders have innate aptitudes for different kinds of thinking, men and women are basically intellectually equal to one another.
Once upon a time everybody knew that males were smarter than females. This was a given fact of life. Girls were not sent to school because it was assumed that they were incapable of grasping abstract concepts. In some eras, girls and women who demonstrated unusual capabilities were feared as witches and put to death. In 584AD it was even debated whether women were human: 63 clergymen debated the question at great length before it was put to a vote. The results were as follows: 32 voted yes, and 31 voted no. Women were declared human by one vote (Bardwick, 60)!
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Women were believed to never achieve any level of eminence as evident in the fact that there were few noted women in the sciences or the arts. Prominent women, like Leta Hollingworth, protested that women’s lack of eminence was directly linked to their only being able to work at home, where eminence was difficult to achieve, and being undereducated (Ellis 17). Some Male Anatomists used to say women were less intelligent becuase their brains weighed less, totally dismissing the influence of body weight on brain weight.
It had been long noted by intelligence studies that men had a wider distribution along the bell curve of intelligence. This means that even though there are more men in the category of genius, there are also more “stupid” men. Darwin recognized that men were more differentiated and believed that this “variation from the average” was the primary means of evolution. Men were therefore, according to his reasoning, more advanced (Ellis 17-18).
Over time, attitudes changed. After women were accepted as equals, public opinion shifted to almost the exact opposite as girls were allowed the same educational opportunities. In one small town the headline was published “Girls Brainier Than Boys” because more elementary girls had passed the examination to enter high school than boys. Because of this, boys were allowed to score slightly lower than their female counterparts on the exam and still be accepted. Meanwhile, the girls were put on a quota system much like the Jews accepted to Harvard University (Moir and Jessel 45).
The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) assumed that the difference might be linked to “differential course taking,” so it examined the mathematical aptitude of 10, 000 men and women at a young age before any different course taking could take place. The study supposedly found large sex differences in mathematical aptitude between the sexes even when their academic experiences were almost analogous.
For 32 years, boys have outperformed girls on the verbal portion of the college-entrance exam known as the SAT, and boys’ dominance on the math portion has been pronounced for at least 36 years. Yet, while the SAT claims to be a predictor of college grades — and is used as such by most colleges and universities nationwide — girls have consistently outperformed boys in college classes for years.
About 12,900 young women did not get into top colleges in the late 1990s due to the test’s gender gap, according to one U.C. Berkeley study. The problem occurred mainly at large, highly competitive public schools facing large numbers of applicants — and thus more likely to use SAT scores as an initial sorter, the study found. While this year’s overall test results are improved, the gender gap widened slightly this year over last year. Girls’ average verbal score this year is 503, compared with boys’ 512. That 9-point difference is up from a 4-point spread last year.
The 34-point spread between girls’ and boys’ math scores this year matched last year’s, with both groups’ scores rising 3 points to 503 for the girls and 537 for the boys.
The test’s purveyors don’t deny the existence of the gap. In college, “girls come in better than you would expect and boys slightly worse than you would expect” given their SAT scores, said Amy Schmidt, executive director of higher-education research at The College Board, the nonprofit association that owns and administers the test. But the question remains: Why has the gap persisted for so long? The answers to that question are hotly contested.
“We don’t see this as a technical flaw of the test,” Schmidt said. Instead, she said, a growing pool of female test-takers, one that’s more diverse and includes more low-income students than the boys group, is pulling down girls’ scores.
Others contend the gap has occurred for too long for the growing number of female test-takers now to be relevant. The test itself is largely the crux of the problem, because it gives higher points for the type of test-taking abilities that boys tend to demonstrate.
For instance, the test is “speeded,” which means those who are more comfortable guessing will often do better by completing more problems.
In 2005, the SAT will contain a new writing portion and by all accounts this should help raise girls’ scores, experts said. The College Board was required, as the result of a lawsuit in the mid-1990s, to include a written portion on the Preliminary SAT, a test given to high-school juniors and used to assess eligibility for National Merit Scholarships.
The PSAT’s new writing portion “closed the gender gap on the PSAT by about 40 percent, which results in several million dollars a year of additional scholarships going to females,” Schaeffer said.
While the writing portion will lessen the gender gap, it likely won’t eliminate it. “That’s an improvement, a big improvement, but it’s probably not the whole thing,” said David Leonard, a political-science professor at U.C. Berkeley and author of the study assessing the impacts of the SAT gender gap. He says no single change would cure the test of its gender-gap bias.
To some, the SAT gender gap is a moot point. Girls are attending college and earning degrees at increasingly higher rates than boys.
Women earned about 56 percent of bachelor’s degrees and almost 58 percent of master’s degrees in 2000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Still, others say the gap in SAT scores represents a separate issue. There is a crisis with boys in education. But, while women are clearly getting into schools, their SAT scores may be affecting which ones.
Of the different intelligence theories, one of the newest is that men and women’s brains are actually different in structure. Though this hypothesis is not yet confirmed, it claims that in men the two cerebral hemispheres are different than in women in that they are more specialized and less well interconnected. Actually accepting a difference in structure between the brains of both genders may explain why boys tend to kick balls at recess while women engage in the verbal reasoning that, as needs to be pointed out, will be more important later in life as the economy changes to a language-based sector. Actual tests to study the differences in the brain have been performed by exposing rats in the womb to testosterone. The study results show that this exposure imprints a male pattern of behavior and may explain why girls with genetic anomalies that have been exposed to testosterone do better on tests that boys usually excel on .
Though some of the earlier mathematical tests made it seem that women were inferior to men, the newer results clashed. The early SAT test scores did seem to prove beyond a doubt which gender was smarter, but the test scores only seemed to prove this. It was not until several years later that studies were run comparing the performance of both girls and boys in school. The findings? In almost every study, it was determined that though there may be differences between the intellects of men and women, women definitely used their intelligence to a fuller extent. In fact, The Department of Education recently ran a survey whose results were that 37% of boys made passing grades while 46.4% of girls scored equally well. And in the supposedly male-dominated area of math, 44.9% of boys and 43% of girls made passing marks! The results also showed that the least capable girls consistently did better than the least able boys (Reinisch 45).
But why, when test scores indicated differently, would women be doing so much better than their male counterparts in school? Studies of this phenomenon have found that men tend to be underachievers in school and experience learning problems such as reading difficulties while women tend to be overachievers, valuing academic excellence and general accomplishment. Whereas only the smartest of men appear to make exceptional grades, girls of almost every level of intellectual capability consistently make high grades.
In almost every comparative test performed to study the gender differences there was an apparent phenomenon of female underachievement. This slump in academics becomes generally noticeable when women hit puberty. Several theories for this include the idea that at this age women become distracted from academics by clothes, makeup, and the opposite sex. Other studies results show that the situation might be linked to social expectations. Boys generally blurt out answers in a classroom setting and their answers are accepted; however, if females aggressively blurt out answers, they get a negative response. The implied message seems to be “boys should be academically assertive and grab teacher attention; girls should act like ladies and keep quiet” (Ellis 36).
But one cannot simply say that women or men are better in one specific area than the other due to the large number of factors involved. It has been found, for example, that the content of test questions are sometimes every bit as important as the type of question. A math test is often full of “male content” like baseball players’ averages. When the same questions are asked in terns of recipes, girls do better. These same trends are found in tests of spacial ability. If the question is asked how a sleeve fits into a shirt, girls do better. If gears or machinery are used in the question, boys do better (Reinisch 141). Another contributing factor my be the serious difference that has been found between the type of attention that girls receive and the type that boys receive in the classroom. Some studies show that many teachers encourage boys “four to five times more than girls who go on to advanced math.” Even though girls may score better in school, they get less attention. Feminist ideologues say all minds are created equal and that women would be just as good at math if they weren’t discouraged or if they were encouraged as much as men in school (Reinisch 121).
Some other interesting factors affecting performance include timed tests. If a timed test is given, boys excel; if a test is nontimed, girls do equally well. Researchers believe that this may be because women have gotten the message that they are not supposed to be good at math. Timing a math test may make girls even more apprehensive than they already are. Social expectations for men to do better in math may be responsible for their apparent interest and will to achieve in that area, robbing the advantage from the females. Also, if a woman teacher gives a math test, girls do better than if they have a male teacher. One last important factor to achievement is education. Despite genes, Japanese girls outscore American boys. This may be because Japanese children are educated where education is taken seriously and children are pushed to excel (Reinisch 145). Because of their needs for different kinds of attention, one proposal to maximize the academic potential of both girls and boys in the US is to teach them separately. If taught separately, girls won’t have to compete for teacher’s attention and boys will be able to concentrate more on their schoolwork and less on girls.
The study of the intelligence has come a long way, but we are still far from fully understanding the intellectual differences between the genders. Perhaps the reason why answers in this field have been so elusive is that what we seek to find simply cannot be proved. Though we may take different perspectives or think or learn differently, for the time being, it has generally been accepted that underneath it all, there are few intellectual differences between the sexes.
BARDWICK, J.M., The Psychology of Women, Harper Row, New York (1971)
ELLIS, H., Man and Woman, 8th edition rev., William Heinemann (Medical Books) London (1934)
MOIR, A. and JESSEL, D., Brain Sex: the Real Difference between Men and Women, Carol Publishing Group (1991)
REINISCH, J. M. et. al. (eds.), Masculinity and Femininity, The Kinsey Institute Series, Oxford University Press (1987)