Children need a wide variety of learning experiences
to develop both female and male gender-related skills
Darwinists believe over millions of years men have developed as hunters and so are more directional; whereas women were gatherers and see more detail in the berry bush. Feminists believe that these stereotypes are the source of gender inequity. Treated the same males and females would develop the same traits.
However, according to Dr. JoAnn Deak, some traits are gender equal, but others are different from the womb because of the effect that the hormones of estrogen and testosterone have on brain development.
Estrogen is developed mainly in the uterus and is the dominant female hormone that makes females different from males. Testosterone is developed mainly in the testes and gives male characteristics.
Some characteristics are gender equal, according to the education consultant and author. Others may be more dominant in females or males. For example, fear and anxiety are greater among females. Joy and happiness – positive emotions – are gender fair.
The uterus and estrogen makes girls different from boys; just like testosterone gives males strength, speed and muscle.
Unlike many human characteristics, which when studied fit into a natural bell curve, gender distinct traits are bi-modal curves with female characteristics applying to 80 percent of women and male characteristics applying to 80 percent of men. Between the two curves are about 20 percent of people who have crossover traits. There is no exact recipe for the amount of estrogen or testosterone in a person. It is better to view people along a range or continuum.
Men and woman can do the same things, but they take different roads to get there. Thus, it is important during the early years to expose females to learning experiences that will help them develop male dominant skills and vice versa.
Some notable examples of gender differences are:
Female balance is contextual; male balance is more internal.
Visual memory, auditory sequencing and auditory discrimination make females better spellers than males. This is not related to intelligence.
Males are lateral thinkers, occurring on the left side of brain. The female brain is more integrated, using both sides. Females will use 10-12 different locations on both sides of brain to do a math question. Boys use three to five centers on the left side of brain.
If a counselor gets males doing something, they will talk more. Girls on the hand do not need to do things while talking.
Females see shades of color better than males. Women are better with detail; men with the overall view.
Ask a woman directions and she will tell you to look for landmarks – turn right at the stone church, left at a huge tree. A man will tell you to go south for a mile and then east (or left) for three and a half blocks. Women use association and think in terms of short distances. Men think in terms of longer distances.
Males play with action toys, have spatial skills and gross motor development. Females have fine motor and auditory skills focusing on sequential detail.
Females are more sensitive to touch. If a male were to move his hands up the sides of his cheeks, he would put four times more pressure on the cheeks to get the same feeling that females get. “That’s why boys will hurt girls when learning to kiss,” quipped Deak.
The midbrain amygdala is the center for human emotion. It is more developed among females, so that emotions operate with more intensity among women. Give a girl a D and she will lose self esteem; give a boy a D and he will blame the teacher.
The amygdala also may cause differences among husbands and wives. However, males can become more sensitive to their feelings, by learning caring and connectedness as children. Boys need to do more baby tending before the age of 10.
Girls have learning anxiety more than boys. The cortex is for thinking; the amygdala for emotions. If a child is having a tantrum, it doesn’t help to reason with them. (They are operating from the amygdala.). It is better to hold them and sooth them until they are able to talk and reason (from the cortex).
High use of the amygdala prevents girls from taking many risks. Boys will still ask a girl to the prom even if they have low self-esteem. Girls need experiences early that will build their self-confidence.
Deak describes the differences to children by saying that males see the forest (overview), while females see the trees (detail). Some do both equally well.
Some people believe it is going against the grain to moderate gender disposition by early intervention. Deak disagrees.
Varied learning experiences in early childhood can assure that children develop both female and male skills. In pre-school boys left to play will spend five hours a week with blocks; girls will spend 5-10 minutes. Young boys need to be put in the language corner and young girls in the block corner so they can develop dendrites for each other’s areas. If we change the environment girls can learn male dominant skills and vice versa.
The first few years are crucial. From conception to three years it is important to avoid mistakes or repeated wrongs that lead to trauma among a child. Children need to have proper nutrition and develop a sense of connectedness or belonging. What happens in these formative years will stay with them for their lifetimes.
From zero to 10 are years of skill development, so it is important to recognize the learning styles of children and use various learning approaches.
Do not make everyone outline. Instead use other techniques like webbing, as well. Trees need to use the left brain more and the forests need to use more of the right brain.
Females learn math differently than males. Females are successful in math if learning is integrated with examples that are used all the time and connected to real life situations, like playing the stock market on a daily basis.
The rate and readiness for learning is different among males and females. Male development is slower than female. Females develop auditory skills from 5 to 7 years old; auditory learning among males occurs from seven to 12 years. It is better for males to start learning to read in second grade.
The forests and trees need to be put together in groups. They complement each other and learn from each other.
Girls are a second longer in answering because males have better motor reflex and speed of response. It is important that no one be allowed to yell out an answer in class, otherwise not everyone is given an equal chance.
Girls need to be competent in at least one thing. Being competent in one thing increases self-esteem. Taking a risk and doing something well can be a life changing experience for girls. The more competencies a child has the stronger will be her self-confidence. Deak told how as a child she was better than boys in catching frogs. This helped in development of her self-esteem as a child.
Use it or lose it applies among old people as well as the youth. Recent discoveries show how older people can still grown new neurons. Use it and the dendrites become bushier.
Alzheimer’s disease is five times more prevalent among women because of the lose of estrogen. This can be reduced by hormone replacement. Proper diet is also important. For example, water helps in neuron transmission. Caffeine leeches out water and sodium in pop takes calcium from bones.
Is there a prejudice against female predispositions? When we look at terminology and see it is all right to call girls guys, but not all right to call guys girls, then there is something wrong.
If you ask females from 9 to 18 to write as if they are boys, they write about an ideal world. On the other hand boys asked to write as if they are girls write devastating material. “They would rather be dead than be a girl.”
Ask a group to brainstorm people characteristics. The positive characteristics are generally male stereotypes while the negative characteristics are female stereotypes.
Understanding female and male predispositions can help to change gender stereotypes and allows early intervention so that girls and boys are strong in all skills.
Dr. JoAnn Deak is the author of How Girls Thrive: An Essential Guide for Educators and Parents. She is the founder of the DEAK Group, which teaches educators and parents about the learning strategies for early intervention in children. Check out their homepage at http://www.deakgroup.com.
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