October 24th, 2011 at 6:51 am
This week we’ll be featuring The Truth About Girls and Boys: Challenging Toxic Stereotypes About Our Children. Here’s the opening to the book:
A new biological determinism is sweeping through American society. Old myths about gender differences are being packaged in shiny new bottles and sold to parents and teachers desperate to do the best they can for the children in their care. And the major media—including PBS, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Parents magazine, and many others—are uncritically embracing these new-old stereotypes .
From the media, you’d think that there is a scientific consensus that boys and girls are profoundly different from birth, and that these differences have huge consequences for aptitude and performance in such areas as math and verbal abilities, for how the sexes communicate, for the careers for which they should aim, and for the kinds of classrooms they should attend.
As a parent or teacher, you can be forgiven for assuming that all of these beliefs are based on fact; the idea of great differences between boys and girls is the new scientific truth, “proved” by many experts and many studies. This toxic message—which is everywhere today—has real-life consequences. Important new research shows that kids pick up very early—often as early as two years of age—on gender stereotypes, and if parents and teachers don’t intervene, kids may get stuck in damaging straitjackets.
The true story is exactly the opposite of the popular narrative. The overwhelming consensus, validated by dozens of researchers using well-designed samples, is that girls and boys are far more alike than different in their cognitive abilities and the differences that do exist are trivial. That’s not to say there are no differences between the sexes—indeed there are—but when it comes to the way boys and girls learn and the subjects they are good at, sweeping statements about innate gender differences don’t hold up. Human beings have multiple intelligences that defy simple gender pigeonholes.