By Dr. James Moore, III
In recent popular publications, such as Newsweek and New Republic, the gender equity discourse has changed focused. In these magazines, the authors suggest that girls are no longer educationally disadvantaged, due to their academic successes throughout the educational pipeline. These publications further suggest that boys are now the disadvantaged group, due to their declining academic performance. After reading these publications, one may leave thinking that decades of efforts to improve school outcomes for girls have come at the expense of boys.
Recently, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) unveiled a landmark report entitled, Where the Girls Are: The Facts about Gender Equity in Education Sparking a National Debate. It uses national data (i.e., NAEP scores, SAT scores, ACT scores, and high school grade point averages) to highlight girls’ educational outcomes in the last 35 years. In this report, its authors (Christianne Corbette, Catherine Hill and Andresse St. Rose) focus on the relationships between girls’ and boys’ academic progress. The authors use national data to examine educational trends for these two groups in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary settings.
After reading Where the Girls Are, it is clear that AAUW produced this report to shatter the notion that boys are disadvantaged educationally, because of girls. The report reveals that girls in general have made significant educational gains, as well as boys. There was not any significant differences between the two groups’ education progress, when you examined within group data. However, the report did reveal clear differences based on race/ethnicity and family income. For example, African American and Hispanic students – both girls and boys – scored significantly lower than their White and Asian American counterparts.
Based on these findings, both race and class have once again emerged as salient variables. Like many other studies, I was disappointed that the report did not develop this part of the document. To me, the authors missed an opportunity to expand the discourse beyond issues of girls. How might we expand this discourse to capture the authentic voices of people of color (boys and girls) and low-income populations? How can organizations, such as AAUW, help facilitate this dialogue among educators, researchers, and policy makers? If the report focused only on women and the different ethnic groups in America, what story would the same data tell? And, how would the narrators (or authors) tell the story?
In my opinion, racism and classism are alive and well in American society. I see them play out a lot in the lives of so many. This is clear, based on my research (see my website: http://www/education.osu.edu/jmoore). I look forward to engaging you in civil dialogue on the aforementioned questions.
Dr. James Moore, III is director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male at The Ohio State University.