November 03, 2006

Bad Boy Science

In the current American Prospect, a nice piece by Jaana Goodrich called "Where the Boys Are" (subscription required, unfortunately) takes on the conservatives' enthusiasm for same-sex schooling and the psychological "evidence" for the vast cognitive differences between the sexes that are held to justify separate education, as presented by the likes of Michael Gurian and Leonard Sax:

Too bad that the scientific evidence underlying these recommendations is unclear at best and nonexistent at worst. Mark Liberman, on the Web site Language Log, takes apart some of the bad science Sax uses in his popular book Why Gender Matters. He also points out that any average sex differences in learning styles are small and swamped by the individual variations within each sex.

Goodrich goes on to dismantle the idea of a "boy crisis," which she lays to sloppy research and discomfort with the idea of girls doing better than boys. She concludes:

None of this probably bothers the Republican Party's socially conservative base. Social conservatives already view gender roles as innately determined and single-sex schools fit admirably into their sexual abstinence agenda. Neither are conservative anti-feminists likely to be upset over these developments: Anything that pokes a finger in the eye of second-wave feminists with their claims of equal treatment for girls and boys is fun for this group.

Posted by Geoff Nunberg at November 3, 2006 12:44 AM