Society Magazine

The Truth About Gender Discrimination In School

Posted on the 28 October 2015 by Juliez
The Truth About Gender Discrimination In School

Gender discrimination persists in high school.

I have seen evidence of gender-based discrimination in school since I was in fourth grade. I saw my teachers favor boys over girls and was constantly given less attention than my male classmates. I was told this was because I was “smart,” wasn’t a trouble maker, and yes, because I was a girl. My fourth grade teacher never helped me with my homework because he was too busy handling four disruptive boys in my class. All of these things taught me that boys deserved more attention than girls in class. It even ended up significantly impacting my education: I soon fell behind in a few subjects because teachers were always to busy to help me and assumed I was grasping them because I wasn’t acting out.

I encountered gender-biased ideas and standards all throughout high school, too. This was especially evident in how students’ academic strengths seemed to be predetermined by their gender. For example, teachers seemed to more heavily support male students in science and math classes while women were favored in language arts. My high school’s science club had two girls and fifteen boys but the school did nothing to encourage more girls to join. The upper level math classes included only a small handful of girls and it was an anomaly for more than three girls to be in the AP calculus class at my high school. Even beyond the academic classroom, I found gym class to be a constant battle as an athletic girl: I feared being ridiculed by my gym teacher and fellow peers for being too fast or too strong.

As I mature and have become increasingly aware that instances like these are not normal but discriminatory, I feel sick: sick that I never realized this discrimination for what it was earlier and sick that girls continue to face the exact same challenges. What’s more, while this discrimination affects all girls, it seemed that in my school Latina girls were particularly, disproportionately affected: No Latina students were included in advanced classes at my school. Yet none of the administration seemed to notice or acknowledge this as a problem, although doing so clearly sent a damaging, discouraging message to these students.

Ultimately, we need to question what steps our country is taking to end this gender-based discrimination. Legislation like Title IX — which makes gender based discrimination in federally funded educational programs and activities illegal — is a great and necessary starting point. But until teachers and other academic staff are more conscious of their everyday interactions with students and realize how (perhaps) inadvertent actions can solidify certain messages of worth, women’s education will always be put on the back burner.

But this reality shouldn’t discourage us, either. As Megan Seely says in her book, Fight Like a Girl, “if we do nothing we only contribute to the problems about which we complain.” Students need to be self-confident and empower themselves and each other to stand up and speak out about this inequality they face on a daily basis. Women can no longer accept being filtered into academic stereotypes — like only excelling at English, or being terrible at P.E. — especially if these stereotypes are at odds with their true interests and prohibit them from pursuing their passions. We don’t deserve that. We deserve the best education we can possibly get.

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