At the risk of academically crippling all of our elementary school readers, I’ll admit that math is not one of my strengths. I don’t have any problems with daily computations, algebra and geometry are useful, but after trig? Oy. And since I frequently reverse numbers if I am reading or writing them in a sequence (758.63 might become 785.63, for example), I have to take extra care or my checkbook might catch on fire.
That said, I think blaming female teachers for schoolgirls’ anxiety surrounding math doesn’t add up (hey-o!). But a study out of the University of Chicago (which I must mention is a rather conservative institution) thinks otherwise. You can read a quick article at the Trib on it, but there are no links to or citations for the study.
It’s not that I think students aren’t influenced by their teachers, or that gender messages aren’t insidiously effective at shaping behavior. But are teachers really to blame here? Girls don’t live in hermetically sealed classrooms where Miss Hoover rules all. Who’s to say that messages from their parents, television, or even their male peers aren’t just as responsible?
I’ve read elsewhere that when students are reminded of specific assumptions about their gender (like “girls aren’t good as math”) before being tested on relevant material, their performance is significantly poorer, and it’s not impossible that teachers are, consciously or not, transmitting such messages. But the logical leap this study is making is too far. Correlation, maybe. Causation? Nope.
But it blames women for holding back girls, so of course it will endlessly repeated as “proof” that women are nasty underminers and that feminism has once again failed. Twenty-millionth verse, same as the first.