Being a father to a smart, funny and beautiful daughter has opened my eyes to many issues, good and bad, about how girls and women are treated by institutions and society in general. Before Lena came along I thought girls and women had achieved a respectable level of equality with the males of our species. I don't want this post to be a laundry list of issues but rather I want to focus on one matter that affects some 9 to 11 year-old girls here in Ottawa.
I've written in previous posts that, for a variety of reasons, we had Lena's cognitive abilities formally tested some time ago and that her scores revealed a degree of giftedness. This led to her being invited to participate in the Ottawa Catholic School Board's "Program for Gifted Learners", or PGL for short. This is a one day a week pull-out program where kids from across the school board who have scored beyond a certain threshold on a recognized cognitive test are brought together at one of two satellite schools for "enriched" learning. Each satellite has one class every day of the week or ten classes of what I assume are of similar size to Lena's - twenty to thirty kids per class. So, maybe a total of 200-300 kids. I admit this is a bit anecdotal, that maybe some of the other classes are mainly girls. Somehow I doubt it, but it is possible.
In Lena's class of about 20, she is one of five girls. She tells me that the Wednesday class at the other satellite has no girls at all. I'm not sure what the reasons are. We had Lena tested at our own expense and on the basis of the results contact her school and that set things in motion. I don't know if a mechanism is in place to identify possibly gifted students, have them tested and get them the resources they need in the schools, or if parents are always responsible for those initial steps. If parents have to take that initial action to identify their children, why aren't they getting their daughters tested? If the schools have a duty to identify giftedness why aren't more girls being identified? Are the tests somehow biased against girls? Are parents and teachers just socialized into not recognizing that girls can be smart, too?
This bothers me enough that I will be contacting the school board. I suspect the effort will be a bit Quixotic, but I feel I have to try. I'll keep you all posted.