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July 3, 2007

Back to the Future

Farrell Keough

The call to return to the "theories" of the 1960's and 70's is being heard loud and clear. Blame and victimization are making a comeback.

In the current Supreme Court decision on racial assignments to public schools, Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." This standard should apply across the board, but that would impinge upon the utility of blaming others and directing theories to fit a pre-determined outcome.

In other words, if we are all held to the same standard and are accountable for what we produce, there will be those who do well and those who do not - not "everybody wins."

Here in Frederick, Angela Phillips is calling for an all girl charter school to overcome the "suffer[ing] in a coed atmosphere, but she thinks that it's the boys themselves, not the atmosphere or teaching methods, that are the problem. Her theory is that girls' self-esteem and assertiveness are being damaged or stifled in coed math and science courses."

Keep in mind that this push is based upon yet another "theory" of education and how to change society. Fortunately, we do not have a history of theories being tested in our government school system and the ill-effects of those programs. But I digress.

Last time I checked, boys are not running the schools; teachers and administrators are in charge of our public schools system. Hence, putting the blame on boys is disingenuous at best. It is like blaming the store clerk for the lack of product diversity in a grocery store. If you get poor service, then most definitely the clerk carries that responsibility.

But in our schools, the behavior of students is a factor of the parenting, the teacher's ability to maintain control of the classroom, and the administrator's support of the actions taken in the classroom. Many will remember the recent event of the bus driver being dismissed for not picking up a child who previously threatened both the driver and students.

Ms. Phillips has gotten encouragement from a variety of sources including some on both the Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners. Attempts to contact these individuals for comment went unanswered. Published comments made have included the desire to bring more choices into the charter school program and an unsubstantiated comment that this program may be less costly. While both statements may have merit, the specifics of this program are questionable at best.

First, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensures equal treatment to all. This is one of the few statements contained within our Constitution that speaks directly to the states rather than the federal government.

While our federal government public school system does have tremendous oversight from those in Washington, inevitably, our local county government is the final arbiter. Hence, our ability to form charter schools and try various new and innovative methods of teaching.

This gives the taxpayer the possible option of choice in schools, albeit the acceptance of a publicly-funded school under this authority is restricted. In this instance, not only is a school being sought via tax dollars based upon gender separation, but more importantly, this separation is necessary because young boys are causing the difficulty for young girls.

Another rationale for the need of this gender-separated charter school is the idea that females are dramatically behind males in the areas of math and science.

"The American Association of University Women (AAUW) put itself on the political map through its highly publicized 1992 report: How Schools Shortchange Girls. The media trumpeted the message around the world: In the schools, as in so many other areas of life, females are victims. Girls are silenced in the classroom, suffer a decline in self-esteem at adolescence, and fall far behind boys in such crucial subjects as science and mathematics."

The current statistics no longer portray this disparity. In fact, females now hold a 4% advantage over males in college degrees. The fact that males and females are different cannot be changed regardless of how well defined a theory may sound.

There is still a slight difference in these areas between males and females, just as there is a difference in areas like English proficiency and social sciences. Business degrees, once the bastion of males, are quickly loosing its stronghold.

For instance, the common held proposition that women make 70-some cents to every dollar a man makes is based upon statistics that include non-monetary-paid mothers, part time workers, and women who have specifically chosen careers which pay less but offer more time with their families.

When these skewing data are removed and an apples-to-apples comparison is made, women will - many times - bring home more than their male counterpart. But, yet again, I digress.

The real disparity in education is contained in urban areas for males of Hispanic or African descent. Statistics continue to bear this out and - by continuing this red herring of blaming males - diminishes the truth and importance of that serious disparity. Men and women are different and that is a wonderful thing and will always remain true. To blame one segment of the population for personal foibles is both troubling and has a powerful potential to damage a person's sense of acceptance and celebration of diversity.

Finally, the idea of "shyness," or the fear of being wrong, in a setting of both boys and girls is yet another rationale for the need of such a school. While this can be a debilitating condition, it is not something requiring a special school funded by taxpayers' money.

Special programs could be instituted and potentially funded for those requiring different needs. There are currently programs to help those having difficulty with various areas of academia; therefore an outline for such a program should be available.

Those who have made many mistakes only to rise to their potential is manifold: Eleanor Roosevelt, Martina Navratilova, Mother Teresa, and many others. To base a school on the freedom to make a mistake should be the priority of all schools, not a special charter school.

Parents Propose All-Girls Charter School for County, Sarah Breitenbach Frederick News Post June 24, 2007

Doing the Math Frederick News Post Originally published June 28, 2007

The Myth of 'The Boy Crisis' Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Chait Barnett Washington Post Sunday, April 9, 2006

Don't Mourn Brown v. Board of Education, Juan Williams [Op-Ed Contributor] New York Times Published: June 29, 2007

The Myth That Schools Shortchange Girls: Social Science in the Service of Deception

Prepared for: The Women's Freedom Network

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