Re.: The Serpent's Egg

Chris Brady cdbrady at
Sun Aug 17 15:17:49 MDT 2003

Sexist threats of emasculization, racist buggaboos of buggery, and
looming castration fears, haunt The Observer's article on poor white
boys in school.  US educators are actually considering a re-segregation
of the sexes into separate schools, with arguments that both sexes would
benefit.  They pull out studies that indicate girls do better without
boys' attentions, or yearning for them (for a host of reasons), and boys
do best on their own.  What an unsavory stew!  Boys and girls do learn
differently, at different rates, and differently in different areas.
But differences within sexes based on other social, personal, physical,
economic, etc., factors have bearing, too.

The "racial"/ethnic factor cannot be ignored.  Numerous articles of late
decry the diminishing appearance of male African-American students in
the universities--and their increase in lock-up.  Immigrant children to
the United States also fall into sexual categories of achievement and
failure, as do native and Hispanic children. But, as my studies have
indicated, no other factor is generally
as powerful as the economic one, that is: CLASS. (As an expert in the
field, Peter McLaren could corroborate this contention).

Particularly in the United States, CLASS as a factor is actively
obscured. (Sorry, that is the passive case.  The system cannot allow
active opposition.)  In fact, in review of the list of sources that
follows, I might conclude that race, sex and gender issues may even have
the favorable utility--to the system--of obscuring further the dynamism
of class.  (Please, to the hypersensitive: I do not belittle race, sex
or gender issues, but I do recognize that some hypocrital schills of
capitalism, dripping with crocodillian tears, wrap themselves in the
banner of race and/or sex and gender in the manner of super-patriotic
scoundrels).  One may wonder if The Observer's drastic fears for poor
white boys bedevil the privileged playing fields of Eton?  (Or Croton?
Or Yale?  Or Upper Canada College, or UTS?)

I just do not see that progress is possible under the current
circumstances of the prerogatives and priorities of capitalism.  This is
actually a huge field for debate and study, but I'll finish with a
comment that the necessities of labor standardization (note the
article's pump on "discipline"!) and the culture of market fetishism
with its absurd contradictions has as much to do with disparities in
performance in school as race, sex or gender, beside the fact that a
dialectical approach would feign to compartmentalize (i.e.,
"rationalize" in liberal terms) and isolate any of these dynamic factors
from a broad and comprehensive understanding of learning.

As a boy, once, let me confide that I--I am witnessing here!--I thought
it was all bullshit.  How could we walk the halls to class like "normal"
students when our brothers and sisters abroad shrieked and danced
Death's macabre drenched with blazing naplam?  I knew then as I know now
the blatant hypocrisy and idiotic conformity of "school."  What do you
think a poor boy in East London might feel?  Or East Saint Louis?  Or
East L.A.?  But these remain unprimed agents of change, lads and

There was a time when social reconstruction as the Marxist extrapolation
of progressive education was the goal of educationists in the US, and
they had an impact on schools and students, but their time is long gone,
destroyed by anti-Red reaction and ploughed under the rows of Standards
Uber Alles in the schools. The dim "Education President"'s goal-- No
Child Left Behind-- will suffer the little children to come unto school,
be gathered up and tossed into the hopper.

Additional references from the popular press.
(Note progress of dates in respective articles):

 Spotlight on Single-Sex Schooling
 Bush Administration's Policy Calls Attention to Conflicting Views of
All-Girl and All-Boy Programs
 by Valerie Strauss,
 Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, May 14, 2002; Page A09
Abstract: Single-Sex Schooling Re-Examined
The Bush administration's support for single-sex public education is
reopening a sometimes contentious issue, a report says.
Scientific and sociological opinion is said to be divided as to the
advantages and disadvantages of all-boy and all-girl schools.

 Teachers search for new ways to educate boys
 Academic conference: Girls consistently do better in reading and
 by Anne Marie Owens, National Post (Canada), May 29, 2002
Abstract: Boys need New Style Teaching
Educators Search For New Teaching Style To Educate Boys
An academic conference highlighted teaching styles to help male students
keep up, a report says. Tailored techniques include  hanging art work on
classroom walls, arranging desks in different ways, delivering lessons
at a faster pace and applying humor when giving instructions.

 Degrees of Separation
 Gender Gap Among College Graduates Has Educators Wondering Where the
Men Are
 by Michael A. Fletcher
 The Washington Post, Tuesday, June 25, 2002; Page A01

 'Macho' or 'Sweetness'?
  A new Harvard study shows that immigrant boys and girls fare very
differently in the outside world
 NEWSWEEK, July 1, 2002

 Cartoon Lips, Virtual Fashion and Physics
 The interactive Web site Whyville lures girls into the world of science

 Report Cites Problems For Latinos in College
 By Michael A. Fletcher
 Washington Post, Friday, September 6, 2002; Page A12
 U.S.-born Latino high school graduates enroll in college at nearly the
same rate as whites but are much less likely to earn college degrees...

 Schools' gender-gap concern now is boys
 by Linda Shaw,  Seattle Times staff reporter
 Monday, September 30, 2002 - 12:12 a.m. Pacific
Abstract: Gender gap
Girls top boys in Washington state math test   New data show more girls
than boys passed the math portion of the WASL exam, which was
administered for the first time in all  grade levels. The results have
sparked new concern about a drop off in boys' academic performance.

  Colleges seek black men.
  Regents study targets obstacles that deter enrollment in Georgia
  by Rebecca McCarthy, Atlanta Constitution, Friday, December 6, 2002

 White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
 I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness,
not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group
 by Peggy McIntosh
Peggy McIntosh is associate director of the Wellesley College Center for
Research on Women. This essay is excerpted from Working Paper 189.
"White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See
Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies" (1988).

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