Friday, July 25, 2008

this problem should be solveable with a simple web site

Today Google News has a spate of these stupid headlines:
Math scores for girls and boys no different, study finds:

The analysis of standardized test results for more than 7.2 million students in grades 2 through 11 contradicts a pervasive gender stereotype.

The mere fact that this stereotype exists in the US and not in China should reveal its baselessness. Chinese people assume girls and boys will do equally well in math classes.

However, Chinese people have their own sexist perspectives. I've been asked so many times by women in China, "I really like computer science, but should I switch careers because women become mentally much slower after age 35?"

I say, "Where the hell did you hear that from?"

They say, "Everyone agrees it's true. Men continue to function well mentally, but women really deteriorate at 35."

Me: "No, not everyone agrees. I do not agree. No one in America has ever said this to me."


We need to compile a list of the stereotypes in the world. Every time one of them exists only in specific countries, and there are no genetic traits that would clearly cause it, the stereotype should immediately be debunked.


John K. Lin said...

""this problem should be solveable with a simple web site"

Yeah, if it were that easy... Did you hear, Obama is a muslim?

A good read / bestseller: Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

(Disclaimer: I helped with the book proposal, as noted in the acknowledgments)

dictyostelia said...

Very cool. Something like StereoSnopes, or Baseless.Info. Tabulate stats by nation.

Philipp Lenssen said...

In Germany, the conventional wisdom is that boys are better at math and girls are better at languages. I always found this type of wisdom stupid. Additionally, there were some efforts underway to separate boys and girls in science and math classes because another conventional wisdom said that girls were only doing worse in such classes because the stereotype itself pushed them into a more passive role in class when confronted with boys.

Bob said...

As I sit through a "watered" down calculus night class. I continually wonder why my instructor (Chinese) seems to be speaking English, but I fail to comprehend what he is saying. While a young Chinese girl sits next to me nodding her head in what appears to be complete understanding.

This probably shows two things. 1 -At age 42 my mind is not the spounge it use to be. 2 - This young Chinese girl seems to have gotten a much better back ground in Math than I did many years ago. But then again, maybe I should check back with her when she turns 35 and her mind starts turning to mush. After all, as stated, Chinese women are much slower after age 35.

Melinda O said...

I read a study that examined attitudes towards leadership and gender differences across many different countries. Participants filled out a survey that asked about personality traits that women and men possessed and also about personality traits that were important for being an effective leader. Countries differed over what traits they assigned to men and women: being group-oriented vs. being individualistic and selfish, for instance. They also differed on what traits were important for good leadership: some cultures valued being a good team player, while some valued being bold and standing out. But within each country, women were thought to have the traits that made them unsuitable for being good leaders.

Melinda O said...

@philipp: Stereotype threat is real. I read another study in which Asian American girls were given math tests. They were given the passage about women, their test scores on the subsequent passage fell, and after they read the one about Asians, they rose. The researcher's interpretation was that reminding the girls about being women triggered the stereotype that women were bad at math while the other passage triggered the stereotype that Asians were smart, influencing test scores appropriately.

The problem is that separating boys and girls into "separate but equal" classes, particularly in an otherwise coed school, also induces stereotype threat. Many people, including the students and the teacher, will subconsciously change the message from "girls learn math differently" to "girls learn math worse," and that's a self-fulfilling message.

writer said...

Come on, there is clearly a genetic component for this in Asians. You are just upset about this because you are nearing your slow-down period, Niniane.

ArC said...

"with a simple web site"

I can't help but think you mean a web site with a front page so simple it has only 28 words.

Jen L said...

A site with stereotypes, superstitions, and myths. Including things like if you don't eat all your rice, your spouse will not have a clear complexion.

ArC said...

Jen L, is that a real thing? The very first time I ever heard about that was from "The Joy Luck Club".

John K. Lin said...

@Melinda O -

Funny, I was going to follow-up with that experiment as discussed in Predictably Irrational - The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.

And in fact, had blogged about it here recently.

landon said...

I'm Chinese, and I'm disappointed that you categorized this as a "Chinese sexist perspective" just to get some attention. Try changing your own perspective...You are not the lone female Chinese engineer. There are more and better people than you.

Anonymous said...

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