Patriachial Jujutsu

When the Online School for Girls flickers to life this fall on computer screens across the country, students will take part in an unusual experiment that joins two trends: girls-only schooling and online teaching.

A consortium that includes the 108-year-old Holton-Arms School in Bethesda is driving the project, in the belief that girls can benefit from an Internet curriculum tailored just to them.

“There’s been a lot of research done on how girls learn differently with technology than boys,” said Brad Rathgeber, Holton-Arms’s director of technology. “Part of this is a little bit of theory that we’re trying to put in practice to see if it really does play out.”
Md. School Joins Test of Online Courses Tailored to Girls

Md. School Joins Test of Online Courses Tailored to Girls, Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, Monday, July 6, 2009

Jujutsu, my father once told me, was all about using your opponent’s own weight against him. Or her, in this case. That’s what’s so interesting about these single gender courses. Patriarchal culture pushes everyone into polarized genders, girls on one side, boys on the other. Of course, biological life is much more nuanced than this simple binary implies.

Still, we all grow up inside these oppositions and the oppositions grow up in us, too, helping to shape everything from work to family. The usual counter-impulse (or at least the usual modern liberal impulse) is to try to create little gender utopias, especially in the classroom. If we can only learn to treat everyone equally, then we will achieve equality.

Culture turns out to be just as nuanced as nature, and we seem to have hit some sort of wall. In very specific ways, and despite a lot of effort to fix the problem, girls don’t do as well as boys in certain subjects. (Boys have their own distinct difficulties.) Single sex classrooms have had some success, particularly in science. It’ll be interesting to see if this works online too.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Post Navigation