I was recently alerted to a tweet by a mother who was looking over her third grade son’s homework:
While it is true that boys overall have fallen behind girls in terms of literacy concepts, it should be obvious that this kind of rhetoric is not helping. One would hope that a teacher – of all people – would know this.
Imagine if a girl’s math homework was graded in this way – “Excellent calculations, for a girl!”
Also, note that the teacher prizes “beautiful” writing in particular, and that girls disproportionately write in a flowery script. But beautiful writing and legible writing are not always the same. Have you ever seen writing that was very flowery, but the over-embellishment of the flowery style actually made it more difficult to read?
What is more important in early childhood writing, and writing in general – legibility, or beauty? Legibility would prioritize function, beauty would prioritize form.
So I have a series of inquiries for us.
- How many boys are graded lower than girls because their writing was legible, but not “beautiful” like their female peers, due to the fact that feminine writing is regarded by female teachers as the gold standard since they themselves prize form over function?
- How many girls have been marked down by female teachers for writing that was indeed beautiful, but also so decorative that it was hard to read?
- Are female teachers just as likely to “crack down” on barely-legible “feminine” handwriting as they are “ugly” but nonetheless legible “masculine” writing? Or do they favor one or the other?
- What if they were writing for a male teacher? Would they be graded more based on the legibility of their writing than the beauty of it?
I’d like to see a study investigating those inquiries.
In all writing, however, the first and most important rule is to know your audience. And girls are indeed writing for their audience – which 95% of the time is a female teacher.
Also, I can’t help but notice that the teacher herself forgets to capitalize the beginning words of each sentence – “beautifully” and “for.”
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