Student - November 17, 2011

For and Against

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Proposition: It is logical that the feminization of universities has reached Wageningen. Women are smarter, even in the sciences.

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JILLIS: The feminization of higher education has to do with the fact that non-Western immigrant women are catching up. They are starting to go on to higher education, whereas their male counterparts are still failing. This is a fact, not an opinion, by the way. As for the supposed higher intelligence of women, I don't believe a word of it. I think that there is more intelligence involved in the technical subjects such as mechanical engineering and technical ICT, etc. The universities where these subjects are taught are certainly not real women's strongholds. Sometimes it occurs to me that social science programmes (and mine is one of them, I readily admit) were thought up to give women a chance to get a degree. A subject like sociology is a good example. At the bottom of this is an emancipatory, levelling policy: lower the standard so that there are more graduates and then pretend that we've all got cleverer.
MARLIES RESPONDS: Pure science degrees are indeed tougher, but to say that social science programmes were thought up mainly for women is going too far - have you any evidence for this? The percentage of women in the pure sciences is higher in other European countries, incidentally, so it seems that the Netherlands is doing something wrong in that area.
MARLIES: In any case, more and women are going on to higher education in the Netherlands, so Wageningen is just following the national trend. Women are not so much cleverer as more disciplined than men when it comes to their studies. I notice that when I look around me too. At secondary schools girls already outperform boys. That could have to do with the fact that school is more and more of a women's world. And then the ‘second phase' [a fairly new system in Dutch senior high schools] does not work in favour of boys. It relies on quite a lot of independent study and that is exactly what girls are better at. Higher grades at secondary school lead of course to more girls with degrees, so to break that trend you have to start there.JILLIS RESPONDS: Indeed, the lower echelons of the education system are too girl-oriented. It starts at primary school, where a large majority of teachers are women. Women teachers cannot handle boys as well, which has a demotivating effect on them. Then the ‘second phase' (what a monstrosity) does its bit. Actually, standards need to go up throughout the education system. I think they have only gone down in the last couple of decades.

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