BOOKS: by Dr Kerrie Allen (reviewer)News Weekly
THE MISEDUCATION OF WOMEN, by James Tooley
, August 27, 2005
Diagnosing the Bridget Jones syndromeTHE MISEDUCATION OF WOMEN
by James Tooley
Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. Paperback RRP: A$39.95This is a book that will no doubt cause many feminists to have angina and fits of apoplexy - especially as it's written by a man.
Many others who read it will find a refreshing counterpoint to feminist arguments that, in order for women to achieve equality as men, gender-neutrality must be pursued.
This brilliant book, that is long overdue, examines how radical "equality" feminism has influenced education policies since the 1970s to adopt their agenda of gender reform, particularly to eliminate stereotyping.
The author, James Tooley, is professor of education policy at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. His arguments are powerful as they are written from in-depth critiques of feminist literature, from his analysis of research, and from his vast experience in education.Cult figure
Tooley begins his exposé by reflecting upon one of the newest cult figures for contemporary women, Bridget Jones - the thirty-something single woman created by author Helen Fielding.
Bridget, although intelligent and pursuing a good career, is desperately unhappy and unfulfilled. Her one deep desire is for a committed husband (rather than insecure relationships) and babies.
Noting the prevalence of women exhibiting this sort of disquiet, Tooley has named this condition the Bridget Jones Syndrome.
He says that this is suffered by many women, reared on equality-feminist education, who were taught that their fulfilment could only be found outside of family and interdependence.
Tooley writes: "In America, in Britain, in Australia, the education system is geared to the claim that women as much as men must gain their fulfilment and satisfaction in the workplace."
The founders of modern radical feminism - Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, and Germaine Greer - have maintained that women and men should be treated identically.
Friedan believed that it was the traditional family that kept women from "growing to their full capacities".
These feminists believed that education was the key to helping girls and women attain this independence through greater access to choices. Subsequently, according to Tooley, the ideal of "gender neutrality" became enshrined in legislation.Family despised
"Gender neutrality," he writes, "emphasises over and over again that the only way to success and fulfilment for women is through achievement in the worlds of business, science, sport and politics. The family does not get a look in here."
Tooley provides an in-depth critique of how radical feminists have sought to use education policy to convince women they should be free from "domestic drudgery" and the "slavery" of child-rearing.
They have done this by ensuring that girls are steered away from studying supposedly "soft" subjects, such as humanities, and instead made to study maths, science and technology.
Drawing upon sound empirical research, Tooley argues that gender neutrality in education has led to a diminishing of difference between girls and boys, and a privileging of more "masculine" subjects and ways of thinking, at the expense of cultivating and valuing feminine ways of knowing and thinking.
Now thirty-something years after Betty Friedan wrote the The Feminine Mystique
and Simone de Beauvoir The Second Sex
, these feminists have come face-to-face with the Bridget Jones Syndrome, and been forced to acknowledge that something is badly wrong.
The evidence is in - it is men who have it all! For women, career and autonomy are not all they are cracked up to be.
Contemporary education fails to acknowledge the preferences, uniqueness and differences of women's ways of knowing, thinking and being fulfilled; and especially denigrates child-bearing as a bane.
Tooley argues that the differences between boys and girls, men and women - their preferences and choices - are not so much due to socially-constructed stereotypes, as feminists have insisted, but rather are biologically-based differences. He spends two chapters examining theories of evolutionary psychologists.
He suggests how the miseducation of women may be remedied.
"We would create a better, more just society," he writes, "if we could promote these feminine ways of knowing and approaches in schools and society at large, and if we could recognise 'connectedness', as much as 'independence', feminine ways as much as masculine ways."
He argues: "Unless we reclaim our education from the meddling government, we will be immersed in injustice, the injustice of the Bridget Jones Syndrome."
This book is an interesting, thought-provoking, often humorous book, which is totally pro-woman.
It exposes the errors of feminist thought, which has pervaded society for the past 40 years and subsequently led to disquiet in women and destruction of the family.
This book is to be recommended to anyone with an interest in education, feminism, society and family.