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TASK FORCE ON GENDER EQUITY IN EDUCATION
Research Team Meeting
September 21, 2004
1 PM - 4 PM
Cross State Office Building, Room # 541
Attending: Lyn Brown, Mary Madden, Sharon Wilson-Barker, Lisa Plimpton, Patrick Phillips, Susan Corrente (facilitator)
Guest: Aileen Fortune, USM Cooperative Extension
UPDATE ON ADDITIONS TO LENDING LIBRARY: Susan reported that we had added 6 additional works to our lending library: Real Boys (William Pollack); Real Boys Voices (William Pollack); Women's Growth in Connections (Judith Jordan) and Women's Growth in Diversity (Judith Jordan); and 2 resources from The Search Institute of analysis of data they've collected through the assets inventory. Any that were not already on loan were loaned out to Research Team members today and other items from the library were returned and reloaned.
UPDATE ON CONTACTS WITH ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: Susan noted that all the recommended contacts had been made and as a result we will have Aileen Fortune from the USM Cooperative Extension joining us later today to tell us about "The Gender Project"; we will have Sue O'Halloran from the Suicide Prevention Project joining us at our October 12, 2004 Research Team meeting to share information about the work of the Project with the CDC in the midcoast area; and resources (links, 2 books) have been provided by The Search Institute to assist us in identifying any gender issues associated with the data collected through the assets inventory. Susan reported that Peter Benson is available to speak, but that the researcher with whom Susan has been in communication mentioned the work of Lyn Brown (gender) and Mark Tappan (masculinity; assets) as very valuable to the work with gender and the assets inventory so the Research Team decided to ask them, or Mark if they decided he could cover the scope of the issue, to present to the whole Task Force on this topic. [Followup: Susan will pass this request on to Lyn, Mark (this was toward the end of the meeting and Lyn had excused herself a little earlier to pick up her daughter), and will let The Search Institute know that we won't be asking to schedule Peter Benson at this time.]
UPDATE ON RESEARCH REPORT WRITER: Patrick reported that an agreement in principle had been reached with the Department and Walt Harris, Center for Research and Evaluation, for part of Mary Madden's time as the Research Report Writer; the Department is very happy that it has worked out this way, given Mary's participation on the Research Team and her background in this subject. Susan has the proposed schedule for drafts, etc. that Walt and Patrick discussed, based largely on the Research Team's earlier planning around the report and will be drawing up the agreement within the next week and circulating to Walt, Mary and Patrick. As Mary begins to shape her draft of the report, she will start with the school experience - given that the audience is educators - unless she discovers a better entry into the material.
DISCUSSION ON TOPICS/METHODOLOGIES FOR INCORPORATING YOUTH VOICES: Mary had provided the Research Team members with proposed strategies for incorporating youth voices into our work/report, and a hard copy of that was distributed again today. Mary reviewed the her recommendations re: both the methodology for increasing the credibility of the data we collect from youth and the identification of youth voice questions from among our Research Questions (Question 4 - learning styles/classroom strategies; Question 5 - early developmental experiences; Question 6 - school climate; Question 7 - adult influences in learning and development and differences between male/female influences; Question 8 - social constructs of gender, class, race, ethnicity, etc. - with an emphasis on social class here in Maine, rather than race; and Question 9 - social institutions; and Other - "What do you think are the most important challenges facing girls/boys today?") Mary also included prompts under each question. The discussion of the questions focused less on the selection of those related to youth voices and the prompts provided and more on their relation to what we had learned from Michael Kimmel's presentation to the Task Force on September 16, 2004 and the question of the need to revisit our research questions in light of his suggestion that we may not be asking the right questions - that where we are pursuing gender as the explanation for disparities in data, we should be pursuing the effect of the social construct of "masculinity" on performance, aspirations, etc. of boys today. There was a discussion about whether we should revisit the questions to reframe them from this perspective put forward by Michael Kimmel; there was some general feeling that it may be helpful to keep the questions as they are, but to show - through broad research and broad analysis of the issues - that they lead to answers that we may not have expected. This approach is instructive, as it helps to show readers that what appears to emerge from the data as a gender issue is often more complicated and not strictly a gender issue. also, it is unlikely that everyone is in agreement with Kimmel's explanation and we'll need to leave room on these issues for other perspectives to emerge, as they may, through the research.
The discussion of the methodology focused on how best to form the focus groups recommended by Mary - suggestions included selecting students with the help of guidance counselors, selecting them by track in high schools, using cohorts of students already formed by programs whose representatives sit on the Task Force (e.g., Lisa - the work being done in the high schools under the school reform grants; Pendar - students at The Real School). It was also noted that the necessary protocols re: parental permission to participate would need to be observed; and it was recommended that trained interviewers/facilitators conduct the groups, with observers in the groups as well. Mary suggested that she also might discuss this project with the University for its fit with an upcoming visit to the University by sociologist Allan Johnson, who will deliver a talk on privilege and difference to the Maine School Leadership conference on September 30; by way of follow-up to the talk, Allan will ask each of the 30 - 40 school leaders who attend the conference to return October 27, 2004 with a team of 7-8 students who can have the conversation but also return to their schools and continue the work there. It was recommended that we consider our options and formulate a proposal at our next Research Team meeting on October 12, 2004 for consideration by the full Task Force on October 14, 2004. [Follow-up - Susan will try to get a quick description of our ideas on this out by end of day or early tomorrow to help frame the discussion Mary will have with colleagues back and the University and Mary will let us know more after her conversation. Update - Mary was able to have the conversation immediately the next day and incorporated our ideas into her summarizing email back to Susan that day, which Susan forwarded to the rest of the Research Team members with a request for feedback as REPLIES TO ALL, to assist us in our formulation of a proposal.]
PRESENTATION BY AILEEN FORTUNE ON "THE GENDER PROJECT"; DISCUSSION The group welcomed Aileen and she distributed handouts: on the Project in general, on "Turn Beauty Inside Out", and a profile on a coach and the definition of manhood that he espouses that was published in Parade Magazine. Aileen has been on the faculty of the Cooperative Extension Service for 22 years, teaching parenting/child development; since 1995 when the Gender Project began, she has been studying child development through the lens of gender, asking the questions - how is it different raising sons/daughters? how would your world be different if you were of the opposite gender? She noted that cultural norms of masculinity/femininity both support young people and hold them back; all young people need the same set of skills, and they are broadly categorized as falling into 3 categories: identity/autonomy; achievement/aspirations; and developing/maintaining healthy relationships. The Project conducts workshops for parents/teachers to develop "strong girls and relational boys". In 2001, the "Turn Beauty Inside Out" initiative began as a way of recognizing the power of media/culture on femininity and to send the positive messages that are not in the media/culture. Aileen noted that, because gender is socially constructed, bullying, teasing, eating disorders must be seen in that larger social context and the culture must be made a safe place in which children/youth can grow. Aileen and Mary both recommended "We Have to Talk" by Samuel Shem as a resource. Patrick invited Aileen to join the Task Force and the Research Team and Aileen accepted and will participate as her schedule permits - she is already committed on the day of the next Research Team meeting (October 12, 2004) and will add other scheduled meeting of the Task Force to her schedule and attend if available. Patrick asked what she could share from her years of work in this area that would help guide our work; Aileen recommended that we be careful not to pit boys against girls, and to study the broad culture but intervene at a personal level. Patrick also asked if she had noted any regional/class differences across the State; Aileen noted that privilege is a part of the conversation and often class is the cause of disparities.
[Follow-up - Susan will have copies of the 3 handouts made for the full Task Force meeting on October 14, 2004 and Aileen will describe her work for the Task Force at that meeting, if she is able to be there. Susan will also order a copy of the Shem book for the lending library.
NEXT MEETING: The Research Team will meet again on October 12, 2004 from 1 PM - 4 PM in Room #541 of the Cross State Office Building to formulate the proposal for incorporating youth voices referenced above that will be presented to the full Task Force at the October 14, 2004 meeting. The Team also asked that we set our next meeting date (to follow the October 12, 2004) by email, soon. [Susan will send suggested dates with the minutes of this meeting.]