Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius? This is the intriguing, disturbing, maddening, head-scratching, and, more than a little infuriating, question that parents clack into Google search, according to Seth Stephens-Davidowitz of the NY Times, in their intriguing, disturbing, maddening, head-scratching, yet understandable quest to determine, more often than not, whether their sons, not their daughters, are intellectually gifted.

Is there anything wrong with parents wanting to know whether their child is “gifted,” and, therefore, whether they might need some sort of focused educational program? Absolutely nothing.

What concerns do parents disproportionately have for their daughters? Primarily, anything related to appearance.

Is there anything wrong with parents being less concerned with their daughters intellectual brain power and more concerned with their waistlines and how thin they are? Absolutely everything.

Stephens-Davidowitz’s article should be read by every parent, and, indeed, every child old enough to ask themselves whether they might already have fallen victim to some preconceived cultural notion about the bigness or smallness of their brain power, and therefore whether or not they are freely at choice about who they become – not because boys are smarter than girls, or girls smarter than boys, but because the messages boys and girls get from their parents and their educators early on in life have the power to control how they see themselves and what they think they are capable of achieving for the rest of their lives.

Like certain viruses, once this thinking enters the brain stream, it is almost impossible to eradicate it.

How would American girls’ lives be different if parents were half as concerned with their bodies and twice as intrigued by their minds?

Indeed. Stephens-Davidowitz asks the ultimate philosophical question that, in an ideal world, could be tested by ensuring a level playing field. What an interesting study this would make. Two distinct groups of parents, watched like hawks by researchers, one group that is instructed not to make any assumptions whatsoever about any intellectual differences between their sons and daughters, and the other group in fact instructed to underscore, highlight and implement long established gender discrimination differences: boys are better at maths and sciences, boys are stronger, girls are more emotional, prettier is better if you’re a girl, boys shouldn’t cry, etc. etc. etc.

This would not mean assuming that every boy and/or girl naturally has the same capabilities and talents. But, going into a Winter Olympics about which there has been vast coverage because it is the first year in which the women have been allowed to compete in the sport of Ski Jumping, even though for years some of the best international women ski jumpers have been out performing the men, it’s significant and note-worthy that the International Ski Federation has only 1 woman on its 18 member leadership council, so the needs and interests of female athletes aren’t exactly being lobbied to the Olympic Committee.

Lindsey Van is one such woman – Before she was so good that she could beat top men, Van was an 11-year-old phenom who said, “My goal is to make the Olympic team in 2002, for girls.” What is a parent supposed to say to that? Sorry, ski jumping in the Olympics is a dream only for boys?  (Link to NY Times article at bottom)

Jessica Jerome is another, whose father, Peter, her biggest champion, formed an organization that petitioned the Olympic Committee (for ten years) to allow girls to compete in ski jumping. Took a long time to win, but then gender-entrenched biases are slippery little suckers to wrestle to the ground.

This is about not placing any preconceived assumption on any child’s ability. It is about letting the child determine what their future path will be. Sounds easy, right? Not if, as a parent, you are determined that your child (your son?) be a doctor, lawyer or Indian Chief. Not if, as a parent, you think that you daughter will “marry better” if she has an 18-inch waistline, 36D chest, 0% body fat, and tresses of gold.

What, by the way, if that is true, is the prognosis for women without those attributes (whether natural or surgical)? That they are not lovable? No sex? No marriage? No children? No life? No happiness?

Thank about it…and ask yourself if, with regard to everything you have become in your life, you were fully at choice about getting there.

Ask yourself whether you chose your career or profession because of family pressure or expectation, rather than a sense of self-discovering and uncovering.

Ask yourself whether you have chosen your personal “physical” style because it suits you…rather than because of pressure from your mother, your father, your boyfriend…your girlfriend.

My only complaint with Stephens-Davidowitz article is that he backed away from opining why parents are more concerned with their sons brain power than with their daughters intellectual gifts. 

In my view the reason for this is that highly intelligent girls are ostracized and feared. They see too much and, culturally, we don’t like that. Mothers and fathers somehow innately sense that if they have a smart daughter, particularly one who isn’t comely, then it will isolate her rather than draw people to her. And certainly they sense that she will have a difficult time with men, unless, of course, she meets someone who wants an intellectual equal as a partner.

What do you think?

Tell Me, Google. Are boys better than girls?

#Google   #GenderDiscrimination   #LindseyVan   #Education     #JessicaJerome   #SethStephensDavidowitz   #2014Olympics