(This letter was submitted to U.S.
News and World Report
in response to John Leo's February 22, 1999 article "Gender Wars Redux.")
February 15, 1999
While Mr. Leo may be correct in pointing out a few factual inaccuracies in the American Association of University Women's 1992 report "How Schools Shortchange Girls" in his February 22, 1999 commentary "Gender wars redux," his obsession with the AAUW's perceived "radical feminism" blinds him from the fact that many sources still indicate that the gender gap persists especially in sciences.
The Department of Education's National Center for Educational Research included in its publication The Condition of Education 1997 a report on Women in Mathematics and Science. Its findings show that while there has been improvement, performance gaps persist, particularly after 8th grade, and earnings gaps persist for women graduates with degrees in mathematics and natural sciences. Men score higher on SAT Achievement Tests and Advanced Placement (AP) exams in math and sciences. While women are as likely as men to be enrolled in advanced math and science courses in high school, women are still less likely to take physics. This fact is especially troubling given that physics is currently the most advanced science course offered in many curricula and that experts are now suggesting that it would be more beneficial to teach students physics first, before chemistry and biology, in a modern science curriculum. The Third International Mathematics and Sciences Survey (TIMSS), which Mr. Leo cites so extensively in his March 19, 1998 article "Hey, We're No. 19!", further demonstrates that this performance gap in sciences is international.
Even granting that the claim that boys are called on 8 times more often than girls is false and that women's college attendance and attainment of degrees has matched or surpassed the level of males, the data still show that women's performance is still below that of males in math and science. Misidentification of the causes of a problem does not eradicate the problem any more than incorrectly identifying the cause of a disease cures the patient. The symptoms and results remain as dangerous as ever.
Milton Alan Turner