Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The root cause of the gender learning gap

I read Boy, 4, Chooses Long Locks and Is Suspended From Class and thought, "Huh?" Talk about false binary oppositions...
A suburban Dallas school district has suspended a 4-year-old from his prekindergarten class because he wears his hair too long and does not want his parents to cut it.

The boy, Taylor Pugh, says he likes his hair long and curly. But on Monday night, the school board in Mesquite voted unanimously to enforce its ban on Beatles haircuts, much less anything approaching coiffures of bands like Led Zeppelin. School officials say the district’s dress code serves to limit distractions in the classroom.

No exception could be made for the pint-size rebel, who sat through the hearing with his hair in a ponytail, manifestly bored.

“It’s a trade-off,” said one board member, Gary Bingham, an insurance agent, in an interview. “Do the parents value his education more than they value a 4-year-old’s decision to make his own grooming choices?”
Is the district asserting that long hair prevents learning? Are the girls in the school district subject to the same grooming rules? If not, could their long locks* be responsible for a gender learning gap?

Is the school district more interested in education or indoctrination?   Do the school board members know the difference?

Compare science textbooks from different states.  The major textbook publishers offer different versions because Texas demands that theirs pussyfoot around the "theory" of evolution while California and New York want theirs to discuss adaptation.  (Smaller states choose among the big state versions.)

You can sometimes see the full science books online at the publisher's websites.  For elementary grades, no password is usually required.

* International readers may not be aware of regional differences in hairstyles in the US.  There is a vast social chasm between big-haired women and pointy-headed elites.  And there is another gulf between merely big hair (a la New Jersey) and what we call "Texas-sized" hair.


  1. Long ago I stopped saying, "Are they NUTS?!" Because it turned out, they were. It's just social control, pure and simple and has nothing to do with learning. My son experienced this first hand when he cut his hair. He said teachers treated him differently when he had long hair(beautiful and wavy - he looked like John the Baptist) vs. short John Roberts hair. His grades went up. Same kid, same work, different hair. Coincidence?

  2. I think both sides are a little nuts! I don't understand why the school board cares so much about his hair. But it bugs me that the parents seem to be putting the blame on the child, because "he doesn't WANT to have his hair cut!"

    Um, he's FOUR. They are the parents, and they are in charge of making decisions for a FOUR YEAR OLD. When their "pint-size rebel" decides he wants to go to school wearing nothing but a tiara and Underoos, are they going to have another meeting with the school board about it?

  3. Wait till little Phoebe is four. ;-)

    They've pretty much developed their own personalities and bullshit detectors by four.

  4. The Beatles? Led Zeppelin? I had to check the article to see it when in the last 40 years it was written.

    Love your commentary though. (And love the quilt above too.)

  5. Wow. I'm glad I don't live there.

    Not that it would matter, since I have two girls, and girls are "allowed" to have long hair.

    the Smart Bohemian- I have to say, this would probably not be a battle I'd choose to fight with my oldest child unless absolutely necessary. She is extremely stubborn. I need to save my energy for the battles that matter.

    Now, someone should remember that and quote it back to me when I'm worried about her dying her hair pink at some future date.

  6. So, at what age does a child learn that sometimes we just suck it up and follow the rules?

    I would be happy to indulge a kid's preferences if it doesn't cause any problems. But I sure as hell would fight a four year old before I would fight a school board and get the media involved.

  7. At 4, I was in Kindergarten in a country governed by a military dictatorship under marshal law.

    They used corporal punishment against left handers to teach them the proper way to conform. I am right handed now. But a boy who had more difficulty changing than I had was taken out to the school yard to be whipped with a belt in front of the entire school.

    At 5, our textbooks gave a version of "history" that was total fiction. People who spoke out against it were jailed and/or killed.

    I have a different relationship to bullshit than you do.

  8. Well, that's sort of my point -- even though I don't agree with the school board, on the global scale of social injustice, a four year old's haircut registers pretty low.

  9. The part that rankles me is equating social control with education.

    That's a scary kind of education and has no place in a democracy.

    Though there are some plausible arguments why Texas is not a democracy, but an oligarchy posing as a theocracy...


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