Friday, December 29, 2006

More on girls, science and math..

The more I wonder about this, the more interesting it gets...

Recently there was a study (vague, I know -- I'm too lazy to dig it up right now) that showed that girls don't really have stronger language skills and slightly higher IQs, it is just that they develop earlier than boys and thus, when tested, test higher because their developmental age is higher.

Of course, in many ways language skills are equated with emotions and in opposition to reason, so the idea that girls are better at language than boys was allowed to stand until this study.

Now I'm becoming even more convinced that we ought to do scientific work on the differences between male and female brains. Think about the options...

1) They find that boys/men and girls/women process mathematical information in exactly the same way.

2) They find that girls/women are less able to learn mathematical information when it is taught to them in the same way as it is taught to boys/men.

3) They find that girls/women have a higher aptitude, but lower results or at least fewer women choose to enter math and science fields.

The thing is that #2 does not mean that women can't do math and science... it means that we aren't effectively teaching girls the concepts of math and science.... and even with poor teaching a decent number of women have managed to make significant contributions to math and science... in spite of their biology. hmmm....

Of course, some feminists would argue that the underlying assumptions and systems of any kind of test rely on sexist thinking... so, as a result, an accurate test would be impossible.


Pilgrim/Heretic said...

This is all really interesting, and I like your take on it. For what it's worth, when I was a kid I totally missed out on the stereotype that boys were better than math. By some odd coincidence, there were four or five girls in my grade who were particularly good at math, so we got sort of pulled aside to be an advanced group, and this lasted for at least a couple of years. Because of that, and because I'd never heard any different, I always assumed that girls were naturally better at math! It wasn't until college that I heard most people assumed the opposite, and I thought it was nuts.

Anonymous said...

you are obsessed with women, i can tell


Breena Ronan said...

Sorry, I'm posting in response to each of your posts, but this is an important subject to me.

1. I'm pretty sure that there is research going on on gender differences in brain development.

2. How do you propose to do research that would truly divorce brain development from cultural context? I guess cross cultural research might help compensate for cultural influences, but that type of research is very expensive and time consuming, so it's rare. Otherwise the only way to control for cultural influences would be to raise girls as boys and visa versa, which just wouldn't pass IRB review.