Recruited by the thought police

I was recruited by the thought police, writes Suzy Lee Weiss, a University of Michigan student, for her hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Posters on campus urge students to “Stop. Think.” before speaking lest they commit a “micro-aggression,” she writes. The Inclusive Language Campaign asks students to sign a pledge. “We’re all being drafted as thought police, charged with regulating the speech of our peers,” she writes.

Operating under ILC’s logic, I am hostile for offering a cupcake to a diabetic without knowing of his condition, racist for suggesting we “work the kinks out” on a group project and generally insensitive for having an opinion on any subject that I have not directly experienced.

I guess I can’t write that paper on Homer this weekend: I wasn’t there to witness the violence of the Trojan War.

At mandatory assemblies, new students are taught that “wishing someone a merry Christmas is a micro-aggression,” she writes.

Yet actual aggression is tolerated.

Earlier this semester, my friend Omar Mahmood was fired from the campus paper for writing a satirical essay making fun of political correctness on campus. Apparently that wasn’t enough punishment for some of his fellow students, who threw raw hotdogs and eggs at his door and left profanity-laced notes telling him to “shut the … up” and that “Everyone hates you, you violent …,” among other acts of ugliness. So much for inclusivity.

Thus far, nothing has happened to the vandals despite their being caught on camera. The school has not issued an apology or a press release. And Omar still can’t write for the paper because he refused to apologize.

Politically correct students, professors and administrators are silencing debate on campus, Weiss argues.

She proposes the “Don’t Be an Idiot Campaign.” It would tell college students that “some people are bigots” and others may hurt their feelings inadvertently.AsianFINAL2

I checked out the ILC Facebook page, which tells students what party costumes are OK (Fonzie, Super Mario Brothers) and which are not. It turns out that some people might be offended if you dress as an Arab suicide bomber.

Other do-not-wear costumes include:  belly dancer,  burka wearer, black gangsta (with vampire!), burro-riding sombrero wearer and redneck with banjo, straw and cap.

“You wear the costume. I wear the stigma for life.” says the Asian nerd, who’s pictured with a bowl of rice, chopsticks and a pile of math books. This is a party costume?

Isn’t Fonzie a stereotype of an Italian greaser? And the Super Mario Brothers are stereotypes of Italian plumbers. Not all Italians are cool. Or plumbers. Yet they wear the stigma for life.

The campaign has inspired some parodies.


Single-sex classes are on the rise

Separate classes for boys and girls are making a comeback in public schools, according to the New York Times.

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — In one third-grade classroom, the walls are bordered by cheetah and zebra prints, bright pink caddies hold pencils and glue sticks, and a poster at the front lists rules, including “Act pretty at all times!”

Next door, cutouts of racecars and pictures of football players line the walls, and a banner behind the teacher’s desk reads “Coaches Corner.”

The students in the first class: girls. Next door: boys.

. . . Here at Charles Drew Elementary School outside Fort Lauderdale, about a quarter of the classes are segregated by sex on the theory that differences between boys and girls can affect how they learn and behave.

Teachers “recognize the importance of understanding that Angeline learns differently from Angelo,” said Angeline H. Flowers, the principal.

Social scientists disagree, notes the Times.  Critics say segregating by sex encourages stereotyping. The ACLU has sued to prevent single-sex programs. In response, the Obama administration has issued new guidelines.

Schools may set up such classes if they can provide evidence that the structure will improve academics or discipline in a way that coeducational measures cannot. Students must have a coeducational alternative, and families must volunteer to place their children in all-boys or all-girls classes.

But the guidance says that “evidence of general biological differences is not sufficient to allow teachers to select different teaching methods or strategies for boys and girls.”

“I am very concerned that schools could base educational offerings on stereotypes,” Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights, told the Times.

Research hasn’t shown significant academic benefits — or drawbacks — from single-sex education, says Janet Hyde, a University of Wisconsin psychology professor.

Segregating by sex is based on a “zombie idea,” writes Dave Powell in Ed Week. Lack of evidence can’t kill the “specious claim that boys and girls simply learn differently.”

People cite “fake brain science” to support sex-segregated classes, writes Lise Eliot in Slate.

I don’t have a problem with letting parents choose a single-sex class, if they think it will benefit their child. I believe there are no significant brain differences between boys and girls, but there are behavioral differences. And we’ve got to figure what kind of elementary teaching works best for boys, who are falling behind their female classmates. Still, I wouldn’t have chosen an “act pretty” class for my daughter.

Celebrating girls — or stereotypes?

“Empowering” girls can look a lot like enforcing gender stereotypes, writes Scott Richardson on Pacific Standard.

His daughter participates in Girls on the Run, a 5K run (or walk) for girls — no boys allowed — in third through eighth grade.
(Photo: Girls on the Run)Volunteer coaches lead their team through a pre-packaged curriculum designed to “encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development.” Girls discuss self-esteem, confidence, teamwork, healthy relationships, and “challenges girls face.”

Though boys are banned, older male relatives and friends run with girls as “sponsors.”

Men, women and girls are encouraged to “girl it up” with “skirts, tutus, big bows, bold patterned knee-high socks, tiaras, etc.), apply make-up or face paint, and spray color their hair,” writes Richardson.

There’s nothing for girls who might want to “butch it up.”

Richardson also questions “bombarding girls with ‘positive’ messages about themselves meant to counteract negative ones.” The program implies “that girls aren’t considered equal to boys.”

“What messages are girls really getting when special programs are aimed at trying to make them feel good about themselves as girls?” he asks.

No watermelon for Black History Month

Plans to celebrate Black History Month with a lunch of fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon have been canceled at a Christian girls school in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Principal Nancy Libby sent an apology letter to parents and held an assembly to discuss the issue.

“Chicken, watermelon, collard greens — these are stereotypes of black Southern culture that come from the same place where the N-word comes from,” said University of San Francisco Professor James Taylor. 

After the menu drew complaints, Libby consulted with Black Student Union members on campus. They nixed the watermelon,  but it looks like fried chicken and cornbread are off the menu too.

Powderpuff football is sexist, dangerous


Powderpuff football is sexist, divisive and dangerous, according to the principal of a suburban Boston high school. Newton South Principal Joel Stembridge canceled the school’s annual girls’ flag football game, which pits juniors against seniors.

On The Corner, Andrew Johnson links to a screenshot of principal’s e-mail on Acculturated.

The principal lists the five reasons why the tradition was ended, such as injuries and “destabiliz[ing] our normally supportive, welcoming, intimidation-free school environment.” The gender-specific nature of the game also resulted in its cancelation.

“In terms of gender politics, the name ‘powerderpuff,’ which most students still call the game, inadvertently serves to mock the hard-fought struggles of female athletes to be taken seriously and, we think, perpetuates negative stereotypes about femininity and female athletes,” the e-mail read.

In addition, the game “does not include the whole school” or “celebrate the diversity of interests of our students, nor does it encourage appreciation for the skills and/or expertise developed here at South.”

By this logic, Newton South should cancel varsity football too.

Should single-sex classes be an option?

Should public schools offer single-sex classes?

In an American Enterprise Institute debate, AEI scholar Christina Hoff Sommers said single-sex schooling could help close the growing education gap between boys and girls. Sommers, who authored the book The War against Boys, thinks schools are becoming “hostile environments for young boys.”

Lise Eliot, author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain, argued that single sex schooling is bad for boys and girls and should not be an option.

Don’t segregate boys and girls in school, argues Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology and gender studies at Stony Brook University. Single-sex classes reinforce harmful stereotypes about boys and girls, he writes.

Sex-segregated education is “often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence,” a 2011 article in Science concluded.

The power of suggestion

The Power of Suggestion

By Brain

Easy-Bake for all

Hasbro will meet with a 13-year-old New Jersey girl who wants a gender-neutral Easy-Bake oven suitable for her little brother.

McKenna Pope complained the oven  is only available in “girlie purple and pink colors,” she wrote in a petition on

My husband asked for an Easy-Bake oven for Christmas more than 50 years ago. He didn’t care about the color. He just figured he could eat more cupcakes if he made them himself, instead of having to wait for his mother to bake.  Later he honed his cooking skills by working in a pizza place.

Gender scrambling is in, writes Hanna Rosin.

. . . Mattel unveiled the Mega Bloks Barbie line, which encourages girls to do what their brothers used to do to annoy them: take apart and rebuild the Barbie house. Lego’s surprise hit this season is a construction kit called “Friends” aimed at girls. Yes, it’s pastel colors, and the characters—Mia, Olivia, and Stephanie—are much curvier than your usual Lego figures. But their logos, printed on the boxes and online, are practical-minded construction type phrases such as: like, “Let’s get to work,” or “Let’s figure it out.”

Costco, meanwhile, is selling a “Police and Fire Playset” that looks remarkably like a dollhouse, with kitchens, bathrooms and loungy sofas and chairs, all in primary colors.

Other popular dollhouses this season stress “female independence,” writes anthropologist Lisa Wade. Instead of a “heteronormative” husband, wife, and children, kids can play with several Barbies and one Ken.

And we all know Ken is gay.

No red flags in single-sex classes

The ACLU is sending “cease and desist” letters to schools and districts that offer single-sex classes, reports Ed Week.

“We all want to fix failing schools, but co-education is not the problem, and single-sex education is not the answer,” said Galen Sherwin, a staff attorney for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, in a press release. “Over and over, we find that these programs are based on stereotypes that limit opportunities by reinforcing outdated ideas about how boys and girls behave.”

Single-sex classes are popular with parents, teachers, principals and students, writes Sandra Stotsky, who studied single-sex classes in two Arkansas public elementary schools. She found “no academic downside” to giving parents and students what they prefer.

In one school, single-sex students — especially boys — did better in reading than students in a mixed class. In another school, boys in the mixed class did better on one reading test than boys in the all-male class.

The teachers, parents and principals agreed that single-sex classes seem to provide less distraction for both sexes, better accommodation of each sex’s interests, better learning environment for shy or quiet children, more opportunity to use examples for academic concepts and class readings tailored to each sex and more opportunity for leadership skills of each sex to emerge.

On the other hand, a few teachers and parents perceived them as causing girls to become chattier and boys less polite and too competitive.

Girls were more likely than boys to request single-sex education, Stotsky notes.

More research should be done before banning the single-sex option, she argues.


Study: Bullying hurts black, Latino achievers

Bullied students’ grades slip, according to a new study (pdf) of high school students. High-achieving black and Latino students suffer the most academically, conclude Ohio State doctoral student Lisa M. Williams and Virginia Tech Sociology Professor Anthony A. Peguero.

The sociologists found that the grade point average of all students who were bullied in 10th grade dropped slightly by 12th grade. By their senior year, black students who had a 3.5 grade point average, on a scale of 0 to 4, as freshmen, lost almost one-third of a point if they had been bullied. The result was more pronounced for Latino victims of bullying: They lost half a point. That compares with a loss of less than one-tenth of a point for white students who had undergone such harassment, the researchers found.

Black and Latino students with high test scores are more likely to be harassed or teased at school, the researchers found in an earlier study published this year.  Another stereotype-busting group — low-achieving Asian-Americans –also were more vulnerable to bullying.