Tuesday, November 07, 2017

UK: Why do so few men take gender studies courses?

Because they are useless crap?

It's a good job no one starts a postgraduate degree in gender studies to meet men: my MPhil class at Cambridge contains precisely zero of them. Apparently, this is anomalous, according to course director Dr Andy Tucker. In the three previous years there have been a quarter to a third men: a better turnout than on many gender programmes.

Yet at the LSE this year, it's not much better: out of 85 students on gender studies master's courses, eight are men. Last year it was five out of 89 students. As Dr Jonathan Dean, a feminist political theory lecturer at Leeds University, says: "Gender studies degrees and women's studies remain overwhelmingly female-dominated. When I started in this field I thought I was the only man doing it."

Why is there such a dearth of male students? Especially when there are so many male lecturers teaching gender studies. After all, it's not "women's studies" any more (apart from at Oxford, among others), a change that has taken place over the past decade as "gender" courses in the UK have sprung up, aiming at a wider audience both of women and men.

This imbalance comes as more men than ever, among my friends at least, seem involved or interested in gender debates. At Cambridge, talks with a gender angle are always packed, and nearly half with men – whether it's a female student philosopher arguing that patriarchy still oppresses women or a university keynote debate on differences between male and female brains. The problem is not that men aren't interested. But for many, a fear of "feminism" and its practitioners persists. And that's what needs to change.

One man I spoke to, an international relations PhD student, said: "I do not recognise gender studies as being a very important discipline. I do think women's rights are important. But I think in courses like these they are too critical of what they call male-dominated reality."

Another student said he would be put off a gender studies course, "interesting though it might be," because the assumptions made about him – particularly his sexuality — would be too onerous and uncomfortable to explain. "If I studied gender studies I would seem gay. I would have to justify myself all the time – there would be so many really different assumptions about me. I would have trouble finding a woman."

Another student echoed Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex in 1949, when he said: "I wouldn't take gender studies because I'm a man and we aren't different. Women are the ones who are considered different."

In reality, men (when present) are greatly valued in gender studies courses, not loathed as the living, breathing patriarchy. "It seems to me that the women students are extraordinarily protective of the minority of men in the seminar group," says Anne Phillips, head of the LSE's gender institute. In his feminist political theory class (about a third male), most of Dean's men "seem to be on board or sympathetic" to feminism. But feminism isn't the only topic in gender studies – just as important are masculinities and, of course, queer theory. Last year, a male gender studies MA student called Tom Martin tried to sue the LSE for offering an anti-man course – the claim was thrown out.

Tucker at Cambridge seems relaxed by this year's no-show from men. "We want the best people. And this year, the best people who were able to take up places happened to be women. In a few weeks we're having a whole session on masculinities. It's important that those on the course engage with a range of theories, which includes masculinities, and this can be taught successfully whether or not there are men in the group."

Perhaps. But I'm more inclined to agree with the geography student who said to me at dinner recently: "At some point men have got to get involved or the whole thing will collapse."

Have you ever studied gender? Were there any men on your course and do you wish there were more?


George Soros Funds America’s National Association of State Boards of Education

Progressive billionaire George Soros via his Open Society Foundations is listed as a “funding partner” of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

NASBE is holding its annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia November 1-4. The organization boasts a long list of progressive “partners,” which includes Soros’s foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – primary private funder of the Common Core standards, the College Board, tech titan Google, and textbook giant Pearson Education.

The conference’s keynote speakers include David Coleman – “architect” of the Common Core standards and current president and CEO of the College Board – which administers the SAT that is now aligned to the Common Core standards.

Salman “Sal” Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, is also a featured keynote speaker at the NASBE conference, as is Dr. Pedro Noguera, a sociologist and education professor at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA.

According to an Eventbrite invitation, Noguera will speak on Saturday on the topic of how to achieve excellence through equity for all children.

Soros recently transferred $18 billion to his Open Society Foundations, which serve as the primary vehicle for his left-wing political activism.

Internationally, Soros is currently involved in efforts to turn Ireland and other pro-life nations into countries that provide abortion on demand. He also promotes demonization of the Israeli government and migration from Muslim countries into Europe.

In addition to promoting abortion and progressive public education in the United States, Soros and his foundations fund the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-conservative media outlet Media Matters.

NASBE has received roughly $5.5 million in grants from the Gates Foundation – much of it to help the state boards implement the Common Core standards.

As Breitbart News reported in June 2014 – soon after the state of Oklahoma had repealed the Common Core standards – petitioners organized by NASBE sued the state, arguing that the repeal of Common Core is unconstitutional under Oklahoma state law. The plaintiffs claimed the state legislature – the representatives of the people of Oklahoma – had no right to draft new standards to replace Common Core, and that this power belongs to Oklahoma’s state board of education. The state legislature, however, passed the adoption of Common Core even before the controversial standards had ever been released.

Panelists for NASBE’s conference include Dr. Linda Darling Hammond – Stanford University professor emeritus and former director of RAND Corporation’s education program, and Gene Wilhoit – CEO of the Center for Innovation in Education at the University of Kentucky and previous executive director of NASBE. Wilhoit was also a prior executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) that, along with the National Governors Association (NGA), owns the Common Core standards.

Betty Peters, a Republican member of the Alabama State Board of Education who has actively attempted to repeal Common Core in her state, tells Breitbart News regarding Hammond:

    Most seniors will remember a political activist from the violent 60’s and 70’s – Bill Ayers. He petitioned his long-time friend President Obama to fire Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and replace him with Dr. Hammond, who had helped Obama draft his education plan.

Peters continues regarding panelist Wilhoit, providing an “excerpt from an interview of him by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE),” who became well known for his congratulatory “letter to Hillary Clinton” following the election of her husband as president of the United States in 1992:

    Here is an excerpt from an interview of him by Marc Tucker of NCEE:

    “Gene Wilhoit served as chief state school officer in Arkansas and in Kentucky before the Council of Chief State School Officers asked him to assume the leadership of their association. Two decades earlier, Wilhoit had served as an active member of the board of an organization, the New Standards Project, that I had put together to develop new, internationally benchmarked student performance standards for the American states, along with a set of assessments set to those standards. After he took the helm as Executive Director of the CCSSO, Wilhoit led the successful joint effort of the country’s chief state school officers [CCSSO] and its governors [NGA] to create the Common Core State Standards….  Marc Tucker: “Gene, you played the key role in the development of the Common Core, a remarkable achievement.”

“States pay hefty dues to NASBE, and NASBE trains new state school board members,” Peters says. “NASBE also offers help with searches for state superintendents, and its board and work groups write policies for use by its member states. Obviously, NASBE has a lot of influence on state school boards. That point has not escaped the many education groups and vendors who agree to be partners.”

Dr. Karen Effrem – president of Education Liberty Watch and executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition – observed that NASBE has stated part of the purpose of the Common Core standards and their aligned assessments is to test children’s psychological attitudes and attributes, primary components of social and emotional learning (SEL).

“Various elements of SEL [social emotional learning] can be found in nearly every state’s K-12 standards framework and in the Common Core State Standards for the English Language Arts,” NASBE states in its primer on the subject.

In April 2015, Dr. Sandra Stotsky – professor emerita of University of Arkansas and an invited member of the Common Core validation committee who ultimately refused to sign off on the controversial standards – wrote at Breitbart News that state boards and departments of education should be eliminated.

“It is becoming increasingly clearer that the main groups oppressing parents, local school boards, and local teacher unions with Common Core-based standards and tests (regardless of what they are actually called) are state boards of education and state departments of education,” Stotsky wrote, adding:

    [T]here is no research to support their effectiveness, their functions, or indeed, their very existence. They are a late 19th century addition to state government, and grew enormously in staff and importance only after the federal government began to provide funds for public education after 1965 with the passage of the first Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Stotsky explained most state board members are appointed by governors and not elected by state residents, and, therefore, “follow the party line of the appointing governor.”

“Most state boards do not provide public meetings for higher education academic experts and parents to discuss standards for the K-12 curriculum in English and mathematics,” she continued. “No state board is on record in 2010 for asking for a cost-benefit analysis of Common Core’s standards or tests. No state board is on record for asking higher education academic experts in their own state for their analysis of Common Core’s ‘college readiness’ standards.”


Tackling the gender STEM skills gap in Australia

WHY should it be tackled?  What is wrong with having different proportions of men and women in different occupations?  Men are more likely to be good at math so there will always be more of them in math-heavy jobs

According to a recent report by Australia’s Chief Scientist, women comprise just 16 per cent of the total STEM workforce. Much has been written about the lack of women in science, technology, engineering and math related roles, but why is this important? Well, it’s estimated that 75 per cent of jobs in the future will require STEM skills. If young girls aren’t taught those skills, then they’re automatically being sidelined for jobs in the future.

In the IT sector, where I’ve worked for the past 20 years, Australia has created 40,000 ICT jobs in Australia in the last two years and more broadly Australia’s Digital Pulse report says tech-intensive jobs outside the ICT industry are expected to grow at a rate of 2 per cent a year up to 2022, more than a third faster that the rate of general jobs growth. That’s another 236,700 jobs on top of an additional 81,000 ICT roles forecast for the next six years.

Of course, some great initiatives have sprung in recent years aimed at boosting female engagement in STEM education, and breaking through gender stereotypes, such as Code Like A Girl and Women in STEMM Australia, but what should companies be doing now to not only keep the few women in STEM related roles we have but encourage more to learn STEM related skills and potentially switch to STEM related roles today?

Companies need to invest in training

In 2017, It’s unrealistic to expect people to have all the skills required for one role. Instead of talking about a ‘skills crisis’, companies need to invest in training. It’s no use blaming the government for recent changes to 457 visas or looking to hire from overseas. Take a good look at the women you have in your organisation and think about how to you use them in STEM related roles. How are you cultivating your female workforce to undertake STEM roles within your organisation? What training do they need to do those roles? Would they be interested in taking on a different role to the one they have?

Then find a good partner who can deliver that training, in small, bite-sized chunks, whether via book or mobile phone and make it easily accessible anytime, anywhere.

Communicate the diversity of roles available and career opportunities

In the tech industry, we’re pretty bad at communicating the range of roles available. Just because you work in the IT sector, anyone will tell you, it doesn’t mean you have to code. There are so many important roles running IT companies, the variety really is huge and it’s not just tech companies that need tech talent. Today, in 2017, every company really is a tech company in some way, large banks, universities, private health companies — nearly every organisation uses technology to run their business and is therefore looking for people with digital skills.

Offer flexible working

Really offer flexible working and don’t just pay lip service to it. Without flexibility, it makes it extremely difficult to manage a successful career and family. Men need to be enabled and encouraged to work flexibly and take up more responsibility at home, so women can progress in the workplace.

One organisation that is helping promote this is Diverse City Careers. They conducted their own research earlier this year with 500 women working with large and small Australian businesses, government and not-for-profit organisations. The top two priorities of the women surveyed were: gender neutral parental leave policy and flexible work arrangements. Both feed into each other and deeply affect the career progression of each gender. Currently in Australia, less than 50 per cent of the non-public sector offers flexible working options.

Hire and promote more women

It sounds simple, but it just needs to happen. There is much discussion around quotas, but “you can’t be what you can’t see” and women need role models. Senior leaders need to be accountable to put more women into STEM based roles.

Women tend to not apply for roles when there are a couple of elements they haven’t got experience in, but a man will often apply for a role if there are only a couple of areas he’s confident he can deliver. Organisations need to develop programs to help promote and support women. At Skillsoft for example we’re very proud of our Women in Action™ leadership program, the industry’s first learning program specifically designed to help women across the workforce build specific competencies and immediately apply newly acquired skills.

In summary, Australia is making progress when it comes to teaching and inspiring young girls to learn STEM skills, but as an industry, we’ve got to do more. It’s down to us, as employers in STEM, to not only stop women leaving science, technology, engineering and maths related roles, but to hire more. Much much more. And to invest in training these women, to give them the skills they need to do the jobs of the future, to fuel Australia’s economy.


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