On another Yahoo list I'm on there has been discussion of a book by Dr.
Leonard Sax, (short title - "Why Gender Matters:".
The book analyzes brain differences and organization (and there are other
books that address this on Amazon as well), and other differences including
Boys have more rods (M-cells) and girls have more cones (P-cells), and
babies show differences in what they prefer to look at because of this
"hardwiring". Because of the way P-cells are wired, girls tend to prefer
certain colors (red, orange, green, beige) and tend to draw nouns (objects
and people) arranged symmetrically, facing the viewer. Because of the way
M-cells are wired, boys prefer different colors (black, gray, silver, blue)
and tend to draw verbs (things in motion) from a third-person perspective.
An example from the book described this scenario in an art room:
"The teacher is walking around the room looking at and commenting on the
children's work. She tells Susie that she's pleased with her work because
she has used many pretty colors and drawn lots of happy faces. Next to her
Matt has drawn a speeding rocketship, all black. She suggests that he might
want to include more colors and put some people in his rocketship. Matt and
Susie are both learning something: that bright colors and faces are better
than black rocketships. Girls are better at art than boys. Susie sees no
need to change. Matt sees no need to keep drawing. Now imagine that the
teacher has read about hardwired eye difference between girls and boys. This
time she praises Susie's bright picture as before, and then she looks at
Matt's and says "Look at that speedy rocket! What strong, black lines you've
made. Just looking at it makes me feel my hair blow back." Then they both
think they're great artists. Then their minds are open to possibilities.
Susie might think something like "Matt's are great artist, too, but he makes
speedy things and uses strong black lines. Can I make my picture better by
making something zoom around my people? If I outlined the house in black,
would it stand out better?" And Matt might think "Susie's a great artist,
too, but she makes colorful things with lots of people. What if I put
someone in my rocketship? What if I made red and orange flames shoot out the
back? What if I made it flying straight into a bright yellow sun?"
I can see using information on gender difference in this way, but if we get
beyond saying that boys and girls may acquire the same knowledge differently
or that environment can influence growth and development and start saying
that, for example, because of brain differences boys are better than girls
at math and science... well, Harvard President Lawrence Summers did just
that and there are worms way out of the can in his world!
Deborah (whose daughter is a Engineering major)