An article in the New York Times just reported that girls in Western cultures surpass boys on science tests.
Well, they do everywhere except in the United States.
Let's start with the first part. Girls are now better than boys in science. That took a while.
For centuries, science has been the bailiwick of males. Men developed the theories (think Darwin and Wallace), did the lab work (think Galileo and Copernicus), and went into the field (think Darwin again).
The one place were women were thought to be better at science than men was in the realm of animal behavior. In my lifetime I have heard male scientists say that women are better at watching animals and recording their behavior because women can better empathize with the animals.
In other words, men complimented women for their supposed superior skill and insulted them at the same time.
This is the legacy of our girls, and they are now rejecting that history, thank goodness.
And now the second part—"except in the United States."
Why are American girls not as good as boys when it comes to science tests?
The answer is simple—because girls are discouraged by everyone not to become science geeks. And that pressure comes during the teen years, just when girls are thinking about who they are and who they want to become.
And all that gets internalized. I remember telling my lab partner in physiology class in High School that I simply could not cut up that fetal pig. Eeewww. But when I saw what a mess he was making of it, I literally push him aside and took up the scalpel.
It takes the love of a particular subject, true fascination and curiosity about how the world works, and acknowledgement that one naturally has a scientific mind, to rebel against all that pressure.
And many girls take that on with grace.
I know this because they are the girls who take pictures of the stars, and find internships in labs, and teach even younger girls about how to track the growth rate of fish in the grammar school class room. They are the girls who love plankton.
These American girls are the science geeks of today and the scientists of tomorrow.
And they will push those science test scores past American boys any day now.