Gender and its place in the classroom

Photo by Eric James Sarmiento, via flickr

Raul Herrera/Staff Writer

I want you to think back on all of the professors you’ve had. How many of them were male? How many of them were female? What about your teachers in high school, middle school, primary school? Think on your mentors, parents/parental figures. Keep these thoughts in mind.

In a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times, “One Classroom: Two Genders,” Jennifer Boylan expressed her views on whether or not gender plays a part in classes, specifically college classes.

At first glance, some say “Of course not, you sexist!” But at another glance, we see the complete opposite. The gender of our professors tends to play a part in how they teach the class.

I say the phrase “tends to” for a reason. Keep that in mind as you read on.

Men and women are different. I’m not referring to the obvious (no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get pregnant). Our psychologies tend to be different. While there is a contentious debate amongst psychologists on how deep that dissimilarity is (the American Psychological Association for example, disagrees with my assertion, while others, like Dr. Tamara McClintock Greenberg from Psychology Today, agree), there are certain traits we can notice in our everyday lives.

Of course, some of these are social and cultural norms but even still, there tends to be an underlying difference, no matter how minute. Since psychological traits of professors tend to affect how they react to the external stimuli that are riddled throughout the class setting, the part that gender plays is notable.

There’s that phrase again: “tends to.” I say that because of my sincere belief that human beings have been created as individuals. Not all women act the same. Not all men act the same. We may belong to several collective boxes, such as gender, but there are still traits or even quirks that make us unique. This, too, plays a part in the equation that is the professor’s psychology.

Now, some would see these differences as a negative quality. Their fear borders on the line that “if men and women are different in the ways they teach, does this mean that they must be treated as though one is inferior to the other?” I would disagree. Distinctions do not necessarily make one professor better than the other (unless, of course, they think it’s right to slap their students in the face if they dare question his genius, which indicates that they are horrible at their job). Rather, they create dynamic environments that prepare students for the future.

You, as a student, will run into all sorts of people in your life. You, as a student, will be put in challenging and diverse situations both inside and outside of FIU. Ergo, you must prepare for these events through professors.

It is my suggestion that, rather than decrying the indication of differences between male and female professors as sexist, or using these psychological contrasts to attack either sex, we embrace the variance. This should be paired with an embrace of the individuality of the particular instructor, his/her own uniqueness, to create a dynamic education system for our university.

It takes a mother and father, or at least a semblance of the two, to raise a child. It takes a woman professor and a man professor to teach many classes, and many students. It takes individuals to instill insight and knowledge. Rather than pointing these differences as disadvantages, we should see them as good things. 



1. “One Classroom, Two Genders,” via New York Times

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