Miramonte A.P. Classes Exhibit Uneven Gender Ratios

M. White

Meredith White

Over a century after Susan B. Anthony submitted her fateful ballot, and over half a century after Rosie the Riveter flexed her iconic bicep, there still remains the faintest vestige of an undeniable difference between men and women.

Gender differences manifest themselves at Miramonte in the lopsided sex ratios of many AP courses. Given the equal opportunity and gender integration at the fingertips of the 21st century, the cause of the discrepancy is a matter of nature as opposed to nurture.

Proving biological differences between the male and female brains is a hefty task upon which researchers have yet to make definitive conclusions.

“Human brains are so complex that to make a distinction between math and language skills is pretty difficult,” said Psychology teacher Paul Fitzgerald. “When thinking of math or language you actually use all parts of the brain.”

In his 1975 book,  Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, biologist Edward O. Wilson shows that males are born with a higher aptitude for spatial reasoning, stemming from a slightly enlarged left portion of the brain that controls time and three-dimensional logic. Females, on the other hand, come equipped with regions of the frontal and temporal lobe associated with speech and language that are 23% larger than those of the male brain.

In a gross generalization, Wilson stereotyped the male personality as aggressive, independent, and dominant. Wilson’s cliché female is empathetic, verbal, and insecure.

Intrinsic differences in the male and female minds, and not the external influences that gear students in one direction or another, result in uneven sex distribution in classes.

AP English historically attracts significantly higher female enrollment than male enrollment.

“I like English more than math because math doesn’t get you girls,” said senior Philip Chang.

Not a bad idea. Of Clay Collins’ 57 AP English students, 35 are female. The 2009-2010 school year painted a similar picture, as 35 of the 44 AP English students were female.

“Girls like to talk. They like the idea of speaking, listening, and exchanging,” said French teacher Pat Bowen. The four males currently enrolled in the AP French class of 16 stand testament to that.

On the other side of the spectrum, Dan Shortenhaus’s 18 person AP Physics class hosts a total of four girls.

“I took AP Physics because I’m really into science and math,” said AP Physics student senior Margo Boyd. “I don’t at all think that because I’m a girl I can’t have a career in that field.”

In a random lunchtime survey, 62% of males said they preferred math as a subject over English, while only 13% of girls agreed.

“I will not be a mathematician,” said senior Rachel Cook. “I don’t find math engaging, interesting, or relevant to my life.”

Students are interested in subjects they excel in, and conversely, they excel in subjects they are interested in. More often than not, men and women fit snuggly into their stereotypical molds and corroborate the claims of Edward O. Wilson.

As 21st century students, we are paved unhindered, non-gender specific scholarly paths by equal opportunity laws. Nothing stands in the way of an aspiring female engineer; the 7,273 females in the U.S. with degrees in Engineering prove that. However, the number of Engineering-degree holding males is over triple the female tally, furthering the idea that pursuit follows interest, and interest follows the way males and females are naturally wired.

The College Board reported that in 2009, 8,072 males scored an 800 on the math portion of the SAT. The 3,887 females that scored perfectly in math pale in comparison. Women outscored men in the critical reading and writing areas by smaller, but still significant, margins.

Numerous scholarship foundations, such as the Society of Women Engineers, dish out $470,000 a year in grants to graduate school bound female engineers. But what about the equally, or perhaps, more qualified male who cannot afford graduate school but is offered less scholarship opportunities than his female counterpart strictly because he is entering a male dominant field? This is sexism, through a very different lens.

“I want the person who built the bridge I’m driving across or the person who’s performing surgery on my brain to be the most qualified person. I don’t care if they’re male or female,” said Collins.

What becomes apparent through all the “boys are stronger, girls are smarter, boys use logic, girls have pretty handwriting” discussion is that a true equality between the two sexes is elusive. There comes a point in the great homogenizing endeavor, when you just have to accept that things (much like apples and oranges) are different and no amount of bending, shaping, or Title 9-ing will ever make them the same.