Daily Archive: August 6, 2007

Dumbing Down Girls

There’s a new math book for middle school girls out there. As you can see it is formatted like a ‘girl’s’ magazine, a la Cosmo or Cleo … it even comes with a horoscope inside! Now, the article I read in Wired seems to paint this book in a very positive light — FINALLY math available to all lovers of pink! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very sad that so many young girls find maths ‘hard’, but surely this is not the way to go about fixing the problem. Take the following explanation for instance: “Going back and forth between percents and decimals is very easy. All you need to do is take away the % sign, then move the decimal point two places — that’s it!”

While this may help girls pass their maths tests or do their maths homework, it gives them absolutely no explanation for WHY the mechanics works. It doesn’t tell them anything about what the percentage sign means, and that can only be a detriment to them later on in high school maths, when they might have to have an understanding in order to perform more complex maths functions.
And what does it say about our expectations of girls!! Can they only hope to understand mathematics if it comes with an article on whether you have a crush on him?? Are girls really that uninterested and ditsy? It’s slightly insulting, isn’t it?
This whole dumbing down of girls is getting out of hand. The Junie B Jones book series is another example. The New York Times recently featured an article on the series
that highlights the issue. Junie B books are written with incorrect grammar and spelling … to supposedly mirror the writing style of a first-grade girl. I never encouraged the reading of these books for my kids. I don’t understand why anyone would presuppose that a young girl should be incapable of producing correct spelling and grammar. Once again, dumbing it down.
Isn’t it time we started giving young girls the impression that we believe them to be not just pretty but capable young minds???