Op-ed

Is modern education designed for women?

“School is designed for women,” said a good friend of mine. The confidence of his statement was baffling. Before I could refute his argument, I couldn’t help but get lost in my own thoughts about the issue and scour the internet for statistics supporting the argument one way or another until my eyes grew tired. Is education designed for women?

Traditionally, the word ‘gender’ has been interchangeably used with the word ‘sex,’ limiting gender to identifying as a man or a woman based on biology. Gender is a social construct, an idea that has been created and accepted by the people in a society. That’s not to say these ideas can’t change. Societies are continuously going through change like accepting transgender individuals as their preferred gender, gender fluidity, and identifying outside of the binary.

Biologically, the brains of women and men function differently. Among women, more activity was found in the regions associated with decision-making and mood regulation, while among men, more activity was found in regions associated with visual processing and coordination. It is said that the classroom atmosphere favors the brain processing of women.

To add another layer of complication to the gender and biology discussion, the Society of Endocrinology found that transgender individuals have brain activity in the same areas as non-transgender individuals of their preferred sex.

The biology and gender conversation continues with the notion that the nature of learning for men works best in a non-traditional classroom, which might explain why more men go on to learn trades like carpentry or welding rather than go on to higher education.

To claim that school is designed for women would be to claim that their best interests are always in mind, which I must disagree with. Dress codes in public schools are enforced primarily on young, cisgender women, claiming their shorts are too short or their pants are too tight.

Staff and faculty of these schools shaming young women for their dress are doing so in the interest of students identifying as men, as it is said to cause a distraction from their education and fuel sexual thoughts, assuming these students are heterosexual in the first place.

As early as age six, young women become aware of gender biases and associate intelligence with men, according to a study done in Science Journal. As early as age six, the potential for women to succeed is being muted because of the stereotype threat, defined as a situation in which a group feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group and therefore often do.

The theory is proven true in the results of an Indiana University study in which women were told that a particular math test had gender differences. In the study, women performed significantly worse than men. In the control group where women were told the same test had no gender difference, they scored around the same average as men.

The subject being assessed on the test—math—is a key part of the field where women have very limited representation in: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Men, on average, outperform women on the SATs. Women, on average, tend to have higher GPAs than men as per the National Assessment of Educational Progress. However, defining success in school with test scores has felt outdated for decades.

“It seems silly not to define success by the chance of landing a job and the amount it pays, which is almost guaranteed to favor men.”

“It seems silly not to define success by the chance of landing a job and the amount it pays, which is almost guaranteed to favor men.”

From elementary school, children are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” High school students are constantly reminded that they are preparing for their future in the workplace or in higher education.

The goal of education is to provide students with skills for what comes after, which ultimately ends up being the workforce. It seems silly not to define success by the chance of landing a job and the amount it pays, which is almost guaranteed to favor men.

Hired analyzed 100,000 job offers for 15,000 candidates at 3,000 companies and found that 69% of the time, men receive higher salary offers than women for the same job title at the same company.

It’s very easy to get lost in the matters surrounding the question and lose sight of the question we started with. In all cases of the question being posed, the answer is subjective. People can’t always be boiled down to the average.

Kirsten Magas is a third-year student English major who minors in biology. ✉ KM867219@wcupa.edu.

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