Daniel Koretz on Gender and Education

Daniel Koretz:

The gender gap is a bit of a puzzle.  First of all, it’s very badly misunderstood.  I went to a conference some years ago in which a prominent civil rights lawyer said that gender differences in test scores are the canary in a coal mine.  They’re the warning that’s something is really amiss.  The next speaker who is not inclined to directly contradict the first speaker but did just by presenting this said, well, in fact, in many subjects, most tests show women ahead.  And that’s still true.  There are differences.  Math tests, in general, if they show a difference favor males.  Not all of them do, but if they do, it tends to favor males.  Tests involve writing almost always favor women.  Multiple choice tests tend to favor males.  But most of these differences are fairly small.  The real problem of gender inequity, in my view, is a question of expectations.  We have a society that does not, in fact, support.  Well, in my opinion, does not offer enough support to women and to young girls who have certain interests. It’s not considered, in many cases, the right thing to do to become scientist, for example, or to become an engineer, even more extreme.  And so, what you find is, the data show that as kids get older, fewer and fewer girls say, well, I really want to be a civil engineer.  It’s just not something that is supported.  And it continues.  It continues even in academia.  You’ll find in some colleges and in some departments, attitudes that make it extremely difficult for women to pursue careers in science.  I won’t point to schools or names but I’ve heard, for instance, some cases were male colleagues have said to women, “You have to choose a career here or children.”  So I think the really fundamental problem of gender inequity is simply one of encouraging all kids to pursue the interest that they have and then providing them supports.  I don’t think it’s basically a cognitive, a problem of cognitive and academic development.

The gender gap can be traced to the inflated expectations we have for boys Daniel Koretz believes.

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