Boys and girls and stereotypes

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Vol: 2008, Issue: 195

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Scott, C
Gender differences; Gender stereotypes; Femininity; Masculinity; Genetics; Brain hemisphere functions; Nature nurture controversy; Females; Cognitive style; Males; Literacy; Literacy education; Individual differences; Mathematical aptitude; Primary secondary education; Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA); University of Toronto; Evidence-based education
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We are very fond of regarding any difference between boys and girls as the result of some inbuilt, unchangeable essence of masculinity or femininity, rather than as the result of genes and environment. This thinking leads to the currently popular interest in 'boys' education', which is supposedly tailored to address the 'hardwired' differences between boys and girls. These days, the essential differences are usually discussed in the pseudo-scientific language of difference in brains, brain wiring and learning styles supposedly caused by genes. While the boys' education literature stresses boys' 'disadvantage' in literacy learning, the disadvantages girls suffer when learning mathematics has, of late, disappeared off the educational radar. When we are using categories like boys and girls to think about education, asking, for example, whether boys and girls should be educated differently, we need to question our categories, asking 'Which boys? Which girls?' if we are to locate reliable evidence rather than just relying on stereotypical assumptions. [Author abstract, ed]