In her book about gender, Eliot describes a study of 11-month-olds asked to crawl down a carpeted slope. “The moms pushed a button to change the slope’s angle based on what they thought their children could handle. And then the babies were tested to see how steep a slope they could navigate.”
Girls and boys proved equally adept at crawling and risk-taking: On their own, they tried and conquered the same slopes. But the mothers of the girls — unlike the mothers of the boys — underestimated their daughters’ aptitude by a significant margin.
“Sex differences in the brain are sexy,” Eliot writes. And so we tend to notice them everywhere. “But there’s enormous danger,” she says, in our exaggeration. It leads us to see gender, beginning at an early age, only in terms of what we expect to see, and to assume that sex differences are innate and immutable. . . .
Our assumptions “crystallize into children’s self-perceptions and self-fulfilling prophecies.” Girls’ slightly lesser interest in puzzles and building toys is reinforced instead of challenged, and it turns into a gap in spatial skills and map reading. Parents and teachers see a boy lagging in reading and verbal skills and shrug it off with, “But of course, he’s a boy.”
Eliot calls for looking for ways to “help boys express their feelings, learn to read and write better, and feel at home in the school classroom,” instead of writing them off. By the same token, we can look for ways to “help girls stay confident in math, learn how to read a map, and embrace technology and competition.”
Disney is offering refunds on Baby Einstein videos, which were supposed to make babies smarter but don’t.
. . . the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for children under 2.