Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Individual career choices, not government quotas, should define the next 40 years of Title IX

This month Title IX turned 40. Part of the 1972 Education Amendments, Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in federally supported educational programs and activities. Sexual harassment and college athletics typically receive the most attention; however, Title IX covers several additional key areas, including higher education access.

Today, the academic focus is shifting to the comparative rates of women and men with degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. But the question remains: do we really need government dictating our choices?

According to Title IX proponents such as the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), “In many cases women still lag behind men in earning doctoral and professional degrees, particularly in nontraditional disciplines like math and science. Women receive, for example, only 18 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees and 12 percent of doctoral engineering degrees, due in large part to the hostile environment many face in these fields.” Actual statistics and labor projections suggest that women are more likely basing degree decisions on hard-nosed economics—not fear and trembling.

Among Americans with college and advanced degrees educational attainment by gender suggests at best a balance—and at worst, a disadvantage for men. Roughly an equal proportion of women and men have some college education (17 percent each), an associate’s degree (10 percent women, 8 percent men), or a master’s degree (9 percent women, 7 percent men). The proportion of women and men with bachelors, professional, and doctoral degrees is also a statistical dead-heat with less than a single percentage-point advantage for men.

Yet Title IX advocates don’t dwell on this parity. Instead, they worry that women are not earning the “right” kinds of advanced degrees. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE), for example, admits that today women earn nearly or more than half the bachelor’s or postgraduate degrees in biology, psychology, and chemistry (p. 19). They say gender bias explains why women are earning far fewer advanced degrees in engineering and computer science (p. 18), fields projected to grow 10 percent and 22 percent, respectively, over the next decade according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Chart 6).

These high-growth fields are attracting significant attention from state and national policymakers hoping to reboot the economy and promote global competitiveness. Yet together engineering and computer science represent just 14 percent of all doctorates awarded in 2008-09. Nor are these the highest growth fields.

Women earned the majority of doctorates in 10 of 21 related doctoral fields included in the BLS’ occupational growth projections for the next decade. Men earned the majority of doctorates 11 other fields, but only because two men and no women earned doctorates in communications technologies in 2008-09—hardly a gender bias smoking gun.

More significant is the fact that the fields in which women earn the majority of doctorates are also projected to grow the most. These fields include the top-ranked profession healthcare and related clinical sciences (29 percent growth), as well as public administration and social services (24 percent growth). Other fields in which women earned the majority of doctorates have projected growth rates of 10 to 18 percent, including: visual and performing arts; biological and biomedical sciences; psychology; education; library science; communications and journalism; security and protective services; and architecture and related services (Chart 6).

On average the doctoral fields women choose are projected to grow 17 percent, compared to a 16 percent average in the fields where men earn the majority of doctorates.

However enamored Title IX proponents and policymakers may be with PhD’s, it is worth wondering whether employers outside academia actually consider them vital to their industries.

Moreover, numerous other occupations that do not require doctorates are expected to grow even more than computer science, including personal care services, projected to grow 27 percent.

Many more occupations are also projected to grow more than engineering, including building and grounds cleaning maintenance (12 percent); sales (13 percent); transportation and materials moving (13 percent); as well as installation, maintenance, and repair (15 percent) (Chart 6). But for some reason Title IX proponents aren’t encouraging women to go into those fields.

Artificially leveling the athletic and academic playing fields is bad enough. Worse is government meddling with adults’ livelihoods under the guise of “gender equality.”


British  exam boards HAVE dumbed down as they compete to offer the easiest papers

Exam standards have dropped because boards are competing to offer the easiest papers, a damning year-long inquiry has found.

An influential committee of MPs concluded that the current system allows boards to 'strip out' content from GCSEs and A-levels so they can boast to schools that their exams are 'more accessible'.

The public has been forced to endure years of denials that grade inflation exists even though they can see it 'with their own eyes', they said.

The verdict is a vindication for Education Secretary Michael Gove, who has demanded curbs on competition between exam boards to stamp out grade inflation.

At present, up to six boards set exams in each subject and schools choose which one they wish to use.

In an attempt to tackle a culture of 'competitive dumbing-down', Mr Gove is proposing to allow only one board to design an exam in each subject.

The Commons education select committee today backed the thrust of the reforms but suggested instead devising a single national syllabus for each subject and allowing boards to set question papers against it.  This would remove incentives to dumb down courses and 'race to the bottom' while still allowing the benefits of competition, it was claimed.

Committee chairman Graham Stuart said a system of single national syllabuses would prevent exam boards 'making out their syllabus is more accessible than someone else's'.  He added: 'It would get rid of the perverse incentive to strip out content from a syllabus, to strip out the richness of learning from a course in order to make the course supposedly more accessible, in truth to make it easier.'

He highlighted embarrassing undercover filming last year which showed a senior geography examiner for the Edexcel board telling a reporter, posing as a teacher, that 'you don't have to teach a lot' and there was 'a lot less' for pupils to learn than with rival exam boards.

Steph Warren admitted she did not know 'how we got it through' the official regulation system that is supposed to ensure high standards.

Mr Stuart said: 'We conclude that competition between exam boards creates significant pressure to drive down standards in exams, and that the time is right for fundamental reform.

'We have got to stop the dumbing down of the courses young people sit and stop exam boards competing on how accessible their syllabuses are.

'There has been grade inflation. There has been a denial it's going on while the public can see with their own eyes that it's happening.

'If you have people denying obvious truths they see in their own lives they will lose confidence in those who are vouching for that system.'

Last month, the Daily Mail revealed that Mr Gove was planning to scrap dumbed-down GCSEs and bring back rigorous O-levels.

Leaked documents showed he has drawn up a blueprint which would tear up the current exam system as well as abolishing the National Curriculum. ...and Gove's wielding the axe on dead-end courses

Michael Gove warned  yesterday that hundreds of thousands of teenagers were being steered  towards dubious vocational courses 'which do not  benefit them'.

The Education Secretary spoke out as he unveiled funding reforms aimed at spelling the end of pointless courses and getting many more 16-year-olds to train to be plumbers, chefs and electricians.

The overhaul of school and college funding for 16 to 19-year-olds is expected to lead to the decline of courses such as the Certificate in Introduction to Cabin Crew, nicknamed the course in becoming a 'trolley dolly'.  The City and Guilds course, which is taken by around 2,300 a year, involves 150 hours of teaching, but it  does not 'require or prove occupational competence' and fails to meet airline requirements.

Schools and colleges will also be encouraged to offer 'substantial' vocational qualifications, which are recognised by employers.

These might include a City and Guilds Diploma in Professional Cooking, which takes two years and includes plenty of practical work or a BTEC in Children's Care, Learning and Development, which also combines theory with practical training.

The Department for Education reported that the number of pupils taking courses in construction trades had halved in a year, between 2008/09 and 2009/10.

Yet a third of vacancies for tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians had been attributed to shortages of workers with these skills.

The shake-up follows a devastating review of vocational qualifications by Professor Alison Wolf, of King's College London, which condemned many as 'dead-end'.

Mr Gove said: 'Around 1.6million 16 to 19-year-olds are in education each year, but as Professor Wolf stated in her review, as many as 350,000 are on courses which do not benefit them. Reform is vital.'

The Education Secretary is not withdrawing the lesser-quality courses but he is removing cash incentives for schools and colleges to offer them.

This could lead to the institutions withdrawing the courses.
In addition, for the first time, teenagers who fail to achieve a C in GCSE English and maths will be required to continue studying the subjects until the age of 18.  The move is designed to answer concerns from employers who complain that school-leavers too often lack mastery of basic skills.


British schools could be made to teach pupils about gay marriage once it is passed into law

Officials at the Home Office and the Department for Education concede that teachers may be under a legal obligation to inform children about same-sex marriage once it has passed into law.

Under the Education Act 1996, pupils must learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life in sex education classes.

Critics said the documents, released under freedom of information laws, demonstrate that plans to introduce civil marriage ceremonies for gay couples in  addition to existing civil partnerships, could have far- reaching and unintended consequences.

In March, an unnamed official at the Government Equalities Office, part of the Home Office, emailed a member of staff at the Department for Education, asking whether  the introduction of same-sex marriage will affect schools’ legal responsibility to teach marriage.

The Education Department official appeared to admit the issue has not been considered, saying the email had ‘helpfully flagged up the needs for the department to address the issue and be clear about its implications’.

In another email the Equalities official warned of the  possibility of ‘walking into a  minefield on this’.

By late March, the Education Department had prepared a document on the impact of the law, which concedes: ‘There may be a need for the SRE [sex and relationship education] guidance to include some additional material in respect of same-sex civil marriage.’

The document says it is important the parents are consulted about their school’s sex education programme, and if a majority are unhappy, headteachers should consider changing it.

It adds: ‘If parents remain concerned, then ultimately they have the right to withdraw their children from sex education lessons.’ But Tory MP David Burrowes questioned whether schools will be able to exercise discretion on the subject.

‘The issue of same-sex marriage is not just one about equality, but what happens in our school classrooms as well,’ he said.

‘Teachers should be able to exercise their consciences according to their own views on marriage, but that could well be constrained by these proposals.

‘As much as I am sceptical about the Government being able to exempt churches from conducting same-sex marriages, I also doubt whether it will be possible to construct exemptions for teachers.

‘They would be open to legal challenges. Is the Government really going to order primary school teachers to go against the views of the churches that run them?’

Colin Hart, campaign director at the Coalition for Marriage, said: ‘Marriage appears more than 3,000 times in law, affecting every aspect of our lives. It is simply impossible to redefine it without many serious unintended consequences, not least forcing schools to teach children about gay marriage, even if this goes against the wishes of the parents, children and teachers.’

Ministers are committed to introducing legislation on same-sex marriage before the next general election in 2015, despite strong objections from church leaders.


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