Reporting: Summary

Exercise 21

In a paragraph of around 100 words, summarise the results of the investigations into schoolbooks described in the text.

Schoolbooks and the female stereotype

Illustrations and stories in United States primary school textbooks tend to convince young girls that they should be ‘passive’ and ‘dependent’ creatures who need aspire only to lives of service to their future husbands and children, a conference of educators was told here yesterday.
Speaking at the first national conference on schools and sex role stereotypes, a University of California professor said a study of the 100 most widely used elementary text-books demonstrated that girls are constantly depicted as dependent on and subservient to boys.
Louise White, of the U.S. Office of Education, told the conference that the female stereotype presented to elementary school children was so overwhelming that by the time most girls reached fourth grade they believed they had only four occupations open to them - nurse, secretary, teacher, or mother.
The director of the elementary school textbook study, Lenore Weitzman, of the University of California, said that texts in spelling, reading, mathematics, science, and social studies were examined.
Most stories and illustrations tended to centre on boys rather than girls, and those boys tended to demonstrate qualities of strength, intelligence, love of adventure, independence, and courage.
Girls, however, were depicted in passive roles. Usually they were inside a house, and often they were helping with housework or playing with dolls.
When boys and girls appeared together in a text, she said, the girls were either watching the boys do something or they were helping the boys.
Adult men appearing in elementary school texts were depicted in various jobs - astronaut, truck driver, policeman, cowboy, scientist, banker - in addition to the role of father.
But the overwhelming picture of women that emerged from the elementary texts was that of mother and housewife. Even at that, said Professor Weitzman, the picture was one of a woman performing simple but time-consuming chores. It failed completely to reflect the complexities facing a modern housewife.
A study was done by an affiliate of the Central New Jersey National Organisation for women on 34 books published by 14 major publishing companies and involving 2,760 stories for elementary school children.
According to the findings the composite housewife or mother was a ‘limited, colourless, mindless creature...’ Not only does she wash, cook, clean, nurse, and find mittens: these chores constitute her only happiness.
‘In illustration, she frequently appears in the servant’s posture, body slightly bent forward, hands clasped, eyes riveted on the master of the house or the children.’
In contrast, the typical father found in the study was ‘the “good guy” in the family. He’s where the fun is. He builds things with his children and takes them hunting, fishing and up in planes. He solves the problems.’
The effect of this on young girls, Professor Weitzman said, is to make them think their role is to serve others. They think they should be attractive so that they can please others and although they generally have better academic records than boys by the time they reach adolescence, they value academic and scholastic excellence less than boys do.

(Report in The Guardian)

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