Are boys and girls treated differently by the teacher in classroom situations? This is a question that has frustrated many psychologists and educators. In many cases, I think gender does play a significant role in the education process. Teachers may unconsciously give more attention to the boys in a classroom. Peggy Orenstein proved this in her essay, “Learning Silence: Scenes from the Class Struggle,” in which she did field research in junior high schools interviewing and observing the interaction of teachers to their students. I think the reason teachers unknowingly give more attention to a particular gender is because of the way that the teachers were brought up to think. The roles of each gender have already been laid out and embedded in the minds of the teachers from their own teachers and parents while growing up. I think that teachers have many preconceived notions of the gender relations of their students. The teachers unknowing pass the ideas that they learned as a child onto their students, who also do not realize that it is being done to them.
Peggy Orenstein very effectively tackles the question “are boys and girls treated differently in school?” (Italicized paragraphs 7). She concluded from her field studies in junior high schools that the teacher sometimes treats boys and girls differently in the classroom. She also admits that boys and girls do have many differences, which cause them to behave differently. Orenstein observed that in many situations the teacher ignored the girls when they raised their hands while the boys would blurt-out answers without the teacher scolding them for it. The boys, she observed, usually dominated the classroom discussions while the girls would be very hesitant to raise their own hands for fear of having the wrong answer. Many of the girls Orenstein interviewed said that boys do not care if they are wrong whereas the girls are embarrassed if they have the wrong answer. They are afraid that the boys will think that they are dumb. I have never had such a teacher who treats girls so much differently than boys like the ones describe by Orenstein. In fact I can remember quite a few cases where the teacher ignored me when I was raising my hand. I did however have one teacher my senior year of high school who did treat girls differently than boys. She would say “girls are better than boys, girls are smarter than boys.” We of course knew she was only kidding because she laughed whenever she said it, but I think that her statements did effect us in a subliminal way. I can remember many of the boys that year failing out while almost all of the girls passed. I myself hung on by the skin of my teeth. I think she only passed me because she felt sorry for me. I would not of graduated without that class.
In many of my own classes, it was the girls not the boys who would speak out more in the classroom. I think that girls are more open and willing to express their feelings and opinions on a subject than boys are. While girls tell each other their fears, pains and deepest desires, boys will hesitate to say that their bee-sting hurts. A boy’s entire social survival depends on the reaction of their peers. I am not saying that girls do not worry at all about how their friends think of them. Boys and girl alike are extremely dependent on the reaction of their peers. But boys are a lot more dependent on it then girls.
Although Orenstein’s is completely correct, it does however have a flaw. In Wendy Kaminer’s essays, “The Trouble with Single-Sex Schools,” She says that Orensein’s sampling of schools was not in the least random. Orenstein did her research in schools where gender biases were known and reported to occur (Kaminer 26). In Kaminer’s essay, she attacks many people’s solution to gender biases in schools, single-sex schools. Not everyone can afford private schools for their children, which most single-sex schools are. Public schools of course cannot be made into single-sex schools because that would be a violation of the constitution. Many children do benefit from the single-sex school environment. Many girls in all-girl schools say that they can concentrated on their studies more because they do not have to worry about what they look like for the boys. However children in single-sex schools do not have as many of the opportunities and experiences of interacting with children of the opposite sex as the children in coed schools do. Single-sex schools have been proven to raise the self-esteem of many children. But I think the schools only raise the children’s self-esteem when they are around others of the same sex. The world is approximately 50% male and 50% female. Children need to learn how to interact with others of the opposite sex as well as their own sex. I have a friend, who attended an all-girls school. She is very smart and confident when she is around other girls but when she begins to interact with boys, her face turns as red as a cherry. She loses all powers of speech and her self-esteem flies right out the window. When it comes time to journey out on there own, the coed students will be better equipped than the single-sex school students will. There is no world of single-sex people out there.