Girls are smarter than boys, aren’t they? It depends on who’s asking and who’s being asked. My experience is that the first person to ask is considered “right.”
Let me explain:
Back in my childhood, I believed that girls were smarter. Why? Well, because they raised their hands faster when Sister Mary Muy Catolica of Immaculate Conception School would ask, for example, “Who knows the first commandment?”
Up went 16 hands, corresponding to the number of females in our fifth grade class; the boys, on the other hand, didn’t always raise a hand. We were too busy contemplating the deeper meanings of things like catechism and commandments.
Rote learning and recitation weren’t for us boys, who had bigger fish to fry, especially during Lenten weekends. Why should we boys worry about rote learning when it takes no more time to consider the epistemological ramifications of the first commandment?
My sister Bingy and I, only a year apart, often shared the same classroom, there usually being two grades to a room. Even as a kid around 10 or 11, I believed knowledge consisted of more than just repeating what we’d just heard the teacher pontificate.
Bingy and I must have had this conversation many times: Who’s smarter? As a child I realized that timeliness mattered in seeking knowledge from a higher authority.
Once — and my sister will probably swear it didn’t happen — Bingy wanted to prove that girls were smarter. So she’d ask our uncle Juan, a stoic reclusive bachelor gentleman who lived with us, “Tio, girls are smarter than boys, aren’t they?”
Let’s parse this declarative interrogative. Notice that only the last two words frame the question; the beginning is more like an order. After “aren’t they?” I imagine Tio felt the need to agree. But then came the real proof: Ask Dad. Same answer.
Then the real resolver of questions eternal — Mom — got into the lofty discussion. “Well, if Dad and your uncle both say girls are smarter, then it must be true.”
“See, Mannie? (my nickname)? Even Mom agreed. What do you have to say about that?”
Well, not much. Of course, there was empirical proof of girls’ acumen, based on the celerity with which they raised their hands to answer the teacher’s questions and score brownie points. The stimulus-response catechism was how we learned in the early grades. Later, when we became kallidge edjicated, we used more sublime terms like “regurgitate” to describe how we learned.
Sometimes I wonder about the consent-by-intimidation method of proving a point. Having been the victim of many exams (yes, we had hundreds of objective, standardized tests even before that No Child’s Behind is Left nonsense arrived), well remember that virtually all of our examinations required the expression of knowledge previously packed into our cranial storage systems. Remember: No dictionaries, no notes, no sky-writing, and prepare for eternal burning if you even think of looking at someone else’s answers.
Although it’s hard to measure potential, latent knowledge, tests appear to favor those with an ability to memorize. But that’s a topic better covered by experts like Allan Bloom, in his book, “The Closing of the American Mind.”
Some interesting trends emerged in my courting days. I learned that of eight children born to my wife’s grandparents, the four oldest, all boys, quickly entered the workforce after high school. The youngest four, all girls, went to college and became teachers.
How much change has occurred since my school days? The Highlands yearbook shows 140 graduates in 1966, 90 men and 50 women. And the most recent Highlands graduating class showed that 68 percent are women.
Thirteen students enrolled for a desktop publishing class I taught in the late ‘80s — all women.
USA Today reports that in 2011, for the first time, women earned more than half the college degrees in the U.S. And most sources show that 57 percent of college students are women.
Sidney Gale, a medical doctor and author, reports that:
• Boys are 30 percent more likely to drop out or flunk out of public school;
• Boys are underperforming girls at every level, from elementary to grad school.
• Boys are less likely than girls to get bachelor’s (44 percent vs. 56 percent) and graduate degrees, (45 percent vs. 55 percent).
Gale even knocks how boys entertain themselves, saying boys lack social skills, and “excessive hours of solitary video-game play and internet use likely account for atrophied social skills.”
And a further insult says, “We need to get boys out of their solitary bedrooms and into the sun. It’s also a good idea to get them reading something other than tweets, texts and the like. They have intellect, and we should encourage them to use it.”
Now what if my sister was right? She might have merely been assuming the smartness of girls and also making a simple prediction: In the future, girls will be smarter.
• • •
Remember when a dollar would actually buy something? In the ‘70s, when our three sons were growing up, we’d reward them: “If you clean up your rooms, we’ll give you a whole dollar.”
“Glee” is the only word to describe their elation, their having catapulted from receiving mere coins for their efforts. A whole dollar!
That’s the amount of extra pay employees of the West Las Vegas Schools will be receiving next school year. Now a whole lot of whole dollars might amount to something, but with today’s inflated currency, all we can say is what we also urged our boys: “Don’t spend all of that whole dollar in one place.”
Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.