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Women should not fear speaking up in class, getting attention

March 6, 1997

The issue:

Gender bias in the classroom.

Her view:

Women should not be afraid to speak up in the classroom for equal


Lisa Zapata

Lariat staff writer

I recently wrote an article concerning teacher bias in the classroom, lasting from elementary through graduate school.

Dr. Laura Border, director of the graduate teachers program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said that minority males receive the next level of attention after white males, then white females and minority females receive the least. Research has shown that white males receive the best and most efficient attention in the classroom.

This breakdown extends from kindergarten through graduate school. Boys are called on more often and disciplined more often, while girls are ignored and often patronized.

Regardless of what research says, most of us rely on personal experience, and I had never really paid much attention to the subtle ways that teachers treat students differently.

However, thinking back, I remember that I was often told that my writing was neat and my cursive was pretty, while little boys were told how to improve the content in their papers and pointed out grammatical errors. It wasn't until middle school that I was taught how to use correct grammatical skills.

I was often overlooked when raising my hand to answer a question, and I often was passed over for certain projects.

However, remembering all of this didn't make me angry. Instead, I began to laugh, because I also remember my 7th grade year, when I finally realized that I had a voice and I was just as smart as Brad, the boy who sat next to me, who often copied my work. At this point in my education, I refused to be looked over and teachers took notice.

New programs are arising that educate teachers on ways to teach in a less biased classroom. Although I am excited about the fact that little girls and women may now have teachers that will be conducive to their learning needs, this should not detract from the fundamental need of all women to demand attention.

Teachers should not have the sole responsibility of forming a woman's self worth. Self-respect starts in the home and then within the individual. I say self-respect to emphasize that women are disrespecting themselves each time they act as passive learners. Women need to start demanding attention for themselves.

I know what some people must be thinking, how can a 5-year-old in kindergarten demand attention?

I would have to say that in that case, a 5-year-old girl cannot demand too much from her teachers unless she is vocal, but in high school and college, and with what women know today, we can speak up.

Little boys may have received all the attention in 2nd grade, but now that we don't have to be afraid that they will pull our ponytails if we correct them, I would suggest we do just that.

If you hear a wrong answer called out in class, answer with the right one. If the professor asks a question, be the first to raise your hand, even if you're not absolutely positive what the answer is. All the teacher can do is say that you're wrong. Rejection is not the end of the world. Some women may feel that they are crossing the line between assertion and rudeness, but that doesn't have to happen. Women have to realize that voicing their opinion is not rude, it's effective.

If women start asserting themselves more often, then teachers will have an easier time realizing their own biases and can work to change them. We don't have to become statistics.

As little girls, we may have to rely on the teacher to acknowledge our existence, but as adults, we know that we assert your position in the world.

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