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TASK FORCE ON GENDER EQUITY IN EDUCATION
Thursday, September 16, 2004
2 PM - 5 PM
Colby College, Robins Room
ATTENDING: Shelley Reed; Kathryn Danylik (Vista Volunteer); Charlie Harrington; Diana Doiron; Henry Kennedy; Phyllis Brazee; Katie Bauer; Beth Fisher; Joan McDonald; Bobbie Niehaus; Harry Osgood; Lyn Brown; Mary Madden; Sharon Wilson-Barker; Joyce McPhetres; Jeanne Whynot-Vickers; Heather Linnell; Rob Pfeiffer; Susan Corrente (facilitator)
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS: The Task Force welcomed Professor Kimmel; on behalf of the Department, Susan extended regrets from First Lady Karen Baldacci and Patrick Phillips. Those present introduced themselves to Professor Kimmel.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF AUGUST 16, 2004 MEETING: The group approved, by consensus, the minutes of the August 16, 2004 meeting.
SCHEDULE OF UPCOMING MEETINGS, PRESENTATIONS AS OF SEPTEMBER 16, 2004: Susan reported that the last schedule distributed was the schedule as of July 28, 2004 and it extends through December, 2004. There was one revision requested earlier today - Rebecca Sockbeson requested that her presentation be moved from October to a later date. Also, we will identify the remaining meeting dates/locations, starting with January 2005, in the next schedule. The schedule will be sent by email to all members.
PARKING PERMITS FOR OCTOBER 14, 2004 MEETING AT UMO: Mary provided parking permits and maps for the October 14, 2004 meeting of the Task Force, which will be at the Buchanan Building at UMO. They will be mailed, by the Department, to those members who aren't at today's meeting.
CLINIC AT MAINE SCHOOL MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION'S FALL CONFERENCE: Susan reported that one of the clinics that the Department will conduct this year at the MSMA's Fall Conference (for school board members and superintendents) is a one-hour update on two Task Forces: this one, and the Citizenship Education Task Force. The Department has requested a time slot on Thursday morning, October 21, 2004 and will confirm the time with the Task Force once MSMA confirms it for us. Meanwhile, the Department would like to have one or two Task Force members there during that hour, to add to the presentation/discussion. If any Task Force members are interested and willing to join the Department for that hour, please email Susan.
UPDATE ON THE WORK OF THE RESEARCH TEAM: Several resources were distributed: (1) a brochure on the Sexual Harassment in Schools Project, provided by Nan Stein, Director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women (copies of this will be sent to members not at today's meeting, when the parking permits are mailed); (2) an additional brochure on books available from the Wellesley College Center; (3) the Center's Fall/Winter 2003 Research and Action Report; and (4) a brochure announcing a conference "Media Literacy and Girlfighting" to take place at Colby College on October 19, 2004, provided by Lyn Brown who will be the keynote speaker (contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register).
Susan reported that the Research Team met on August 27, 2004 and recommended the following: (1) that the Department secure the services of a research writer for the Report of the Task Force (the Department is currently discussing the possibility of an arrangement with Mary, through a cooperative agreement with the University, for this work); (2) a presentation to the Research Team by Aileen Fortune from the University of Maine's Cooperative Extension in York County for her work on "The Gender Project" (Aileen will be joining the Research Team at their next meeting, September 21, 2004 at 3 PM at the Department in Room # 541); (3) a presentation to the Research Team by Cheryl DiCara or someone from the State's Suicide Prevention program on their work in the Midcoast area (Sue O'Halloran from the program will be joining the Research Team at their October 12, 2004 meeting from 1-4 PM at the Department in Room #541; (4) that the Department contact the Search Institute to inquire as to whether their assets inventory can be used to identify gender equity issues in education (Susan has been in email correspondence with them - they have provided resource links on youth as researchers which have been forwarded to the Research Team, they have asked their analysts to analyze their data on the assets inventory to see if any gender issues have emerged, and they can provide Peter Benson or someone from the Institute as a speaker, if that is desirable).
The Research Team identified Youth Voice Common Questions/Topics that will be important to structure the process for canvassing youth and has associated them with several of the research questions already identified by the Team. Mary will take the list of topics and will scan the research reports to match the topics with the available research she scans. The Team also identified some methodological considerations and Mary will scan the research reports to match the considerations with the available research she scans, as well.
Harry reported that the Research Team also reviewed the abstracts of the resources that he has associated with each research question and that a method for including that information in the Report is being developed.
UPDATE ON THE WORK OF THE EVENT PLANNING TEAM: Susan reported that the "Bridging the Gap" conference took place last weekend, September 10 and 11, 2004 in Camden, with William Pollack and Judith Jordan as speakers. Susan noted that the well-known authors/researchers praised the work of Lyn Brown in their presentation, and that we are very fortunate to have Lyn on the Task Force. They also agreed to be "critical readers" for the Report of the Task Force. The Department purchases two of Pollack's and two of Jordan's books for the Task Force's lending library; all books available for lending will be available at the October meeting. Susan invited Professor Kimmel to recommend any of his works for the lending library, as well. The other aspect of the Event Planning Team's work - incorporating youth voices - is being carried forward by the Research Team. No further meetings have been scheduled at this time for the Event Planning Team.
PRESENTATION: MICHAEL KIMMEL, AUTHOR AND PROFESSOR AT SUNY, STONY BROOK; GENERAL DISCUSSION: Mary introduced Professor Kimmel; and Mary and Lyn facilitated the discussion that followed.
Professor Kimmel asked us to revisit the framing of the issues we have identified as gender issues, in boys' achievement, aspirations and behavior, and ask whether other issues, like race and class and limited funding of education ("masculinized public funding" for sports and prisons but not schools), are at play. Most of the differences noted, be believes, turn out to be something else; thus, the male/female issues can be "deceptive distinctions". He stressed that the reforms that have improved girls' lives have improved boys' lives, as well, and that it is not a "zero sum" game. He noted that more people are going to college than ever before; the rate of males is lower but enrollment for both males and females is up, with only Stanford University at 50/50 male/female - all other prominent colleges/universities have more males enrolled than females.
He also noted that the position that boys are genetically driven by testosterone is "bad biologism"; rather, studies have shown that levels of testosterone are socially adaptive and that just as levels affect behavior, behavior can affect levels and thus testosterone facilitates aggression that is already legitimated, but doesn't cause it;
He noted that there is a great deal of talk about males but not "masculinity" which is where we should be focusing. He noted the issues that were listed in the Bangor Daily News as issues that the Task Force may explore in studying the differing aspirations and performance of male and female students : (1) there are few male elementary school teachers as models for boys - Kimmel notes there is no empirical evidence that the sex of the teacher has an effect on male student performance; rather, good teachers have a positive effect and poor teachers an adverse effect; (2) boys share in sports with boys - Kimmel notes this is half true, but what's more important is that boys have always been more interested in "sports talk" than girls, even as girls have come to participate more in sports; and (3) that it's not "cool" for boys to do well in school - Kimmel noted that it is this issue that gets to the issue of "masculinity" and interactions among boys. The conversation we have to concentrate on is the conversation between boys, and the politics of it. Women made gender visible as an organizing principle of social life and we need to do the same re: "masculinity".
The disparity between males and females in school achievement can be attributed to the fact that girls underestimate their ability (so there are fewer in AP courses and they get higher grades) and boys overestimate their ability (so there are more in AP courses and they get lower grades). Ideologies of masculinity also hold boys back - e.g., it's not masculine to study French. Kimmel then noted that violence is the only behavior trait where there is a significant intractable gender different - 95% of all violence is by young boys. He noted that of the 28 school shootings since 1992, all were by boys, 27 were by white boys with assault rifles in rural or suburban schools that were racially homogeneous, in communities with a high rate of church-going. Often, these were boys who had been bullied.
Kimmel described the "gender policing' that goes on among boys - they are always checking to be sure they, or other boys, aren't being "sissies". The ideology of masculinity was being explored at the turn of the 20th century, and the response then was a push for the father in the home to be a good role model for boys, a push for more male teachers, and the founding of the Boy Scouts - to counteract the feminizing influences in society.
Professor Kimmel then led the group through an exercise in which members were asked to think of themselves as 14 year old boys in answering the question: "What does it mean to 'be a man’?”; a list of responses was compiled. Kimmel noted that 2 responses that weren't on the list that he sees when he conducts this exercise with groups of young men are: (1) "responsible" - a response that only ever comes from boys of color; and (2) "honor" - a response that only ever comes from white southern boys. He noted too that the messages are homosocial in nature - that is, they are transmitted among males. Kimmel further explored with the members what one would be called if not perceived a masculine, and how it would feel to be called any of these names - concluding that it isn't safe to leave the "box" of masculinity. He also noted that it isn't particularly safe inside the box, either, as the boy is constantly checking to be sure his responses are sufficiently masculine. Ultimately, Kimmel offered, boys are terrified of being misperceived as gay, and this creates a "negative rule book" to keep himself in the box; mumble, come on to girls, don't do well in school - to ensure that no one thinks of you as a sissy or gay because, sociologically, for a boy to act more like a girl is a downward movement (whereas for a girl to act like a boy - to be assertive or competitive, play sports, do well in school - is an upward movement.) There are also psychoanalytic reasons that can be given for why boys are terrified of being thought of as sissies.
Kimmel concluded by praising the work of the Task Force, by sharing his optimism that gains have been made, and to recommend that the most important work the Task Force could do is to made gender visible, and to ask "is it gender or something else?" as we explore gender equity in education.
NEXT MEETING: October 14, 2004, 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM, the Buchanan Building, UMO.