I have been encouraged to join in by Vicki.
Let me start by saying that any instructor would be lucky to have a student as good as Vicki. Her biggest problem is that her instructor is a meanie; he expects her never to stop learning.
There's a lot out on the table here, which is pretty typical in ways that I'll get into in a bit. Bear with me. And remember that I'm just one opinion of many. However as a scientist, I have a bit of training on understanding association, causality, multidimensional systems, and the like. So I might be able to move this subject along a bit more.
Let's start here.
Sue G wrote:
IF there are differences in the way that males and females learn, its very hard to separate out the innate or genetic elements from the conditioned, environmental stuff. Almost always boys and girls are just treated differently right from the start.
This was a popular theory in the latter 1960s, and the 1970s. With the invention of birth control, women no longer were slaves to biology. They could control when and if they had children. That freed them to enter the working environment in unprecedented numbers. And with men and women doing some of the same jobs, the issue of equal pay for equal work reared its ugly head. There was also the issue of advancement. Was there a "glass ceiling" keeping women from entering the higher levels of management where (ahem
) all the big money was?
It was in the end about independence and money.
In the nature/nurture argument, evidence pointing to differences between men and women being due mostly to nurture strengthened the argument that it was discrimination rather than ability which kept women from certain levels of management and certain kinds of jobs. Other schools of thought (behaviorism, socialism, etc.) weighed in on the matter.
So several decades of research were done to "prove" that the differences were mostly due to nurture. Boys and girls were brought up in gender neutral environments, and their behaviors and learning were studiued. And the results?
No matter how much the experimenters tried to get boys and girls to do the same things, girls (on average) gravitated to nurturing games (dolls, playing house) and boys crashed trucks and built fake guns from pencils and rubber bands. In other words, men and women are different.
But here's the thing. Just because men and women have brains that work differently, is that a VALUE judgment? Does this make men "superior" to women? That's the red herring that needs to be thrown out with the rest of the organic fertilizer matter. Different is different. Different doesn't mean better or worse. If we ascribe to the school of Covey, differences are our collective strengths. Exploiting differences allows us to work synergisticaly to solve problems as a team.
THE classic set of experiments which illustrate the issue is following directions. Boy can couples argue on this subject. And why? Because they approach this problem solving situation differently.
In one set of experiments, they walk men and women through a maze. Then they put them back at the beginning again - blindfolded. On average, the men will get to the end faster than women.
In another set of experiments, men and women are asked to sit quietly in a room for 5 minutes. Then they bring them to another room, give them pad and pencil, and ask them to write down everything they saw in the room. On average, women will remember more items than men.
With direction-finding, men rely on orientation and women rely on features. Ask a guy how to get to some place and he'll say "Take route 7 about 2 miles east, and then take a right." Ask a woman how to get to some place and she'll say "Drive down that road until you get to the Exxon station, and make a right." Give a man a map to go to a southward direction, and he'll look at it with north-side up. A woman is more likely to turn the map upside down to see things the way she's seeing them when in the car.
I passed engineering graphics with flying colors. It was pathetically easy to me. Meanwhile, there were several women in that class who didn't get it, and probably never would. They weren't able to see a top, side, and front view of an object, and then draw it from a corner perspective. Their brains just couldn't work that way. Meanwhile, biochemistry just about killed me. Page after page of mind-numbing reactions, with little instruction on mechanisms of the reactions. Mechanistic organic chemistry? Piece of cake. A-plus both semesters. I was a shining star in a class of a hundred chem majors, and chemistry wasn't even my major. Memorize until you puke biochem? My good friend (and girlfriend) smoked me in that class. I barely survived. (FWIW, she's now a professor of medicine at University of Chicago. Smart woman, and a fish that got away. Sigh...
So we know men's brains and women's brains work differently. So what. Does it matter? More in another post.