From Publishers Weekly
In the feminist conception of gender flexibility, no set rules apply: girls can play with trucks; boys can play with dolls. But pediatrician and psychologist Sax argues that our theories about gender's fluidity may be wrong and to apply them to children in their formative years is quite dangerous. Sax believes the brains of boys and girls are hardwired differently: boys are more aggressive; girls are more shy. And deliberately changing a child's gender—in cases of intersex (hermaphrodism) or accident (as in the case of David Reimer, who was raised as a girl after a hideous circumcision mishap)—can ruin a child's life. Sax also believes modern gender philosophy has resulted in more boys being given behavior-modifying drugs and more girls being given antidepressants. Much of his argument makes sense: we may have gone to the other extreme and tried too hard to feminize boys and masculinize girls. Sax makes a compelling argument for parents and teachers to tread lightly when it comes to gender and raises important questions regarding single-sex education, which he supports. His readable prose, which he juxtaposes with numerous interviews with school administrators, principals, scientists and others, makes this book accessible to a range of readers.
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From Scientific American
When I was a college freshman, a male teaching assistant I sought help from told me matter-of-factly that women were not good at inorganic chemistry. Had I been armed with Why Gender Matters, about how biological differences between the sexes can influence learning and behavior, I could have managed an informed rejoinder to go along with my shocked expression. Saxa pediatrician and psychologist in the Washington, D.C., area and founder of the National Association for Single-Sex Public Educationhopes to make todays teachers and parents aware of the science behind differences between girls and boys. He was inspired to write the book as more and more parents brought their young sons to his office in the mid-1990s, seeking an evaluation for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Recalling studies that show boys do not hear as well as girls, Sax felt that for some of the boys he assessed, simply not hearing the teacher led to their inattention, a problem that could be solved by a front-row seat. Although Sax repeatedly makes clear these differences do not limit what either sex can achieve, he does contend they play a valuable role in determining the most effective methods for teaching, disciplining and understanding children and young adults. Using studies as well as anecdotes from his practice and visits to classrooms, he offers advice on such topics as preventing drug abuse and motivating students. In his chapter on aggression, Sax cites research that shows young male primates are much more likely to engage in rough-and-tumble play than females to illustrate why some amount of aggression in boys is normal and why banning "healthy" outlets such as dodgeballdone in his local school districtis misguided. The book is thought-provoking, and Sax explains well the science behind his assertions. His anecdotes are generally instructive, although some are a little too thin to support his points. Sax ends by offering several compelling arguments in support of same-sex education, such as analyses that find girls are more likely to study physics and boys are more likely to study literature in single-sex schools. But whether or not you agree with Sax, his volume is a worthy read for those who care about how best to prepare children for the challenges they face on the path to adulthood.