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#1673549 - 05/08/11 11:54 AM Gender specific piano pedagogy
MegumiNoda Offline
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Registered: 05/31/09
Posts: 203
Surfing today led me from a thread here to a blog (Color in My Piano) to the announcement of a series, which, apparently, cater to boys: http://www.pianomusicforboys.com/

I have to admit, my knee jerk reaction was one of horror. I had once seen some old lesson books (published in the 1940's, say) that had gender separated themes like that. (I don't remember the exact phrasing, but the "boy" book had marches and patriotic songs; the "girl" book talked about helping girls to become poised and become ready to one day entertain her husband's guests.) I remember making fun of the staled gender roles, but shrugged them off as typical of their time. But really? In 2011, do we really need to make "fearless fortissimo" a boy trait?

I suppose there may be good pedagogical reasons (e.g., children go through phases of strong gender identification; or maybe it's harder to convince boys to practice than girls). Still...

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#1673585 - 05/08/11 12:40 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Looks dreadful. I notice the ad is backed by hard-rock guitar. Boys who want to play hard rock guitar, should play hard rock guitar.

There may be something in the gender-specific theme that would be useful. But not this.

Does remind me a little of a conversation I once had with the head teacher at the primary school. I asked her why my son's reading book always had a girl as a central character. She said authors write for a girl's market because girls do more reading. Right... wink
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#1673599 - 05/08/11 01:18 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
Diane... Offline
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Registered: 11/16/06
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Originally Posted By: MegumiNoda
Surfing today led me from a thread here to a blog (Color in My Piano) to the announcement of a series, which, apparently, cater to boys: http://www.pianomusicforboys.com/

I have to admit, my knee jerk reaction was one of horror. I had once seen some old lesson books (published in the 1940's, say) that had gender separated themes like that. (I don't remember the exact phrasing, but the "boy" book had marches and patriotic songs; the "girl" book talked about helping girls to become poised and become ready to one day entertain her husband's guests.) I remember making fun of the staled gender roles, but shrugged them off as typical of their time. But really? In 2011, do we really need to make "fearless fortissimo" a boy trait?
I suppose there may be good pedagogical reasons (e.g., children go through phases of strong gender identification; or maybe it's harder to convince boys to practice than girls). Still...

Oh such a great topic discussion!

Just lent out a book to a boy that was titled "Something for the Girls" that had "Larger than Life" by The Backstreet boys! Well, one of his male friends was at his house & teased him that we decided to "hide" his piano books away! Tough lesson for use all, rather tough piano lesson (pun intended)!

Have noticed recently that the Dan Coates books are calling these pop books, "Pop Hits for the Teen Player"! Not much better as I have tweenagers playing out of these books as well!

Can't win! Just call them music collections "Pop for EVERYONE"!

So, I have photocopied pieces that both genders will enjoy, regardless of piano book title! Now I just have to go and answer the door, as the "photo-copying Police have arrived! grin


Edited by Diane... (05/08/11 01:20 PM)
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#1673673 - 05/08/11 02:49 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: Diane...]
Exalted Wombat Offline
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Loc: London UK
Originally Posted By: Diane...
So, I have photocopied pieces that both genders will enjoy, regardless of piano book title!


Now THAT is an interesting statement! "Pieces that both genders will enjoy..." If there's a middle ground, there must be extremes. Why deny either sex the enjoyment of them?

Because your son probably doesn't want to do pink-fairy-ballet stuff, do you deny it to your daughter?

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#1673677 - 05/08/11 03:02 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
ando Offline
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Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3612
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Yes, I found that my 3 volume collection of pieces I assembled for the transgendered was not at all well-received by the mainstream market.... The were oddly popular with Lady Gaga fans though...

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#1674304 - 05/09/11 10:42 AM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
tdow Offline
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Registered: 04/13/10
Posts: 203
Loc: Canada
I am glad this debate has surfaced because it was certainly front and centre in the minds of myself and my husband when we created The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo. We knew, undoubtedly, that the material would give rise to some discussion on gender-specific material.

Our conclusion, and the reason why we continued to write the series, was because we came to recognize the difference between materials written to promote gender-specific behaviours and materials written to address gender-specific behaviours. The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo was obviously written with the latter in mind.

Over the years at our music school we came to recognize a discrepancy in motivation between our male piano students and our female piano students. This discrepancy was resulting in male piano students having a substantially higher dropout rate than female piano students.

To address this we sought to find the root of the problem which was in fact that, boys learn differently than girls. This extends beyond the piano into many areas of education. Through a year of extensive research into the learning styles of boys we felt we had enough information that we could create a piano program that would eliminate the motivational discrepancy that we had first recognized.

The result was, The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo (Piano Books For Boys). Will pieces and storyline appeal to girls? Probably... but when we wrote this series it was based on the research highlighting the different learning styles of boys (not girls), and therefore to call the series anything other than “Piano Books For Boys” would be misleading to teachers interested in the material. The series is meant to address gender-specific behaviours, not to promote gender-specific behaviours.

If you have any concerns or questions please message me, I would be happy to discuss at length.
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#1674338 - 05/09/11 12:03 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: tdow]
kevinb Offline
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Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
Originally Posted By: tdow
The series is meant to address gender-specific behaviours, not to promote gender-specific behaviours.


I wonder if, in our society, it's really possible to separate these issues? Does not targetting a gender behaviour have the circular effect of promoting that behaviour in the long term?

Not that I'd be enormously worried -- my experience is that children are quite capable of drifting into traditional gender roles whatever their parents think about it. I can't see how a piano book for boys is going to cause society to crumble smile

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#1674344 - 05/09/11 12:15 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
scotpgot Offline
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Registered: 10/26/10
Posts: 128
I think it's a good question. Particularly in light of tdow's post about "addressing learning differences" and "promoting" them.

Of course, as a teacher, I find that nearly every student learns a LITTLE differently. Even at 10 years old, there are expectations and quirks "inherited" from family members that are to be considered when designing any kind of syllabus for learning. That's what a teacher is FOR. smile

That said, writing a series of books that is catered to the learning styles of one gender or the other does not seem, to me, to be a bad idea. Writing ONE series and just changing the title of a piece here and there to "patriotic melody" or "ballerina melody" does not.

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#1674349 - 05/09/11 12:28 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: kevinb]
Exalted Wombat Offline
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Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 1197
Loc: London UK
Originally Posted By: kevinb
I wonder if, in our society, it's really possible to separate these issues? Does not targetting a gender behaviour have the circular effect of promoting that behaviour in the long term?


Remind me again why gender differences are bad? We steer our children in so many ways, under the pretence that we're just providing "opportunities for discovery". A middle-class family "assumes" their children will read, study, achieve .... and angle their environment to encourage and enable these things. Why are we frightened of assuming that a boy will act like a boy, a girl like a girl?

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#1674380 - 05/09/11 01:22 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
keystring Offline
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I have a more basic question. Regardless of any tastes which a large number of people in a group may share, there is still learning to play the piano as a skill. You want eventually to be able to play any music in a manner that reflects your own personality and what you see in the music. So what about that side of it? There are some sample videos up showing both the music and I think how it is expected to be played. Does this tell us anything?

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#1674383 - 05/09/11 01:39 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: Exalted Wombat]
MegumiNoda Offline
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Registered: 05/31/09
Posts: 203
Originally Posted By: Exalted Wombat

Remind me again why gender differences are bad? ... Why are we frightened of assuming that a boy will act like a boy, a girl like a girl?


I don't think people think that "gender differences are bad," but people may have concerns about *perceived* gender differences that unnecessarily restrict a child from developing in certain ways. The situation is exacerbated by the problem that a lot of the research is still on-going, so it's difficult to decide what "a boy will act like a boy" exactly means (how much of it is innate and how much of it is socially/culturally created?).

In my original post, I had admitted that my immediate reaction to this particular series (Fearless Fortissimo) is visceral. If the series turns out to be effective for boy piano students, great.

In theory, I don't actually have a problem with gender specific teaching material targeted at leveling the playing field (e.g., exposing girls to robots, boys to ballet, or whatever). In practice, it's very challenging to create effective materials, even with developers who have the best of intentions. In my own experience, at least, gender specific packaging of general things often end up being not so effective for either gender (e.g., Pink Tools for Women).

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#1674430 - 05/09/11 03:10 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: tdow]
Legal Beagle Offline
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Registered: 12/24/09
Posts: 776
Originally Posted By: tdow
... to call the series anything other than “Piano Books For Boys” would be misleading to teachers interested in the material...


Hope you all don't mind a non-teacher chiming in with an opinion. This topic is pretty interesting to me.

tdow, I applaud your efforts and your intent, and it looks to me like you've produced a really interesting product.

My question is... WHY does it have to be titled "For Boys?" What would be "misleading" about simply calling it "Fearless Fortissimo" and leaving it at that?

Why not just put it out there, knowing it will appeal mostly to boys, but maybe to some girls, too? To me, that would solve the problem, and certainly teachers would be capable of identifying which of their students might like it (whether they are boys or girls).

I would analogize it to other products: There's certainly no problem with the fact that there are both dolls and toy trucks on the market, and I don't think many folks would question that more girls than boys like dolls, and more boys than girls like toy trucks... but what if those products were labeled "Barbie Doll For Girls" or "Tonka Truck For Boys," or most analogous to your product, "Toys For Boys" and "Toys For Girls." I think THAT'S where the problem comes in. That's when we get into the slippery slope and circular logic of whether we're "promoting" gender stereotypes or "addressing" them (to use your terms).

In other words, I think that with regard to producing "Fearless Fortissimo," you're right... you're "addressing" gender differences. But with regard to naming it "Piano Lessons For Boys," I think you're wrong... I think you're "promoting."

Just my two cents. Cheers.
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#1674438 - 05/09/11 03:18 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Quote:
In other words, I think that with regard to producing "Fearless Fortissimo," you're right... you're "addressing" gender differences. But with regard to naming it "Piano Lessons For Boys," I think you're wrong... I think you're "promoting."


Actually, he may wind up "anti-promoting." He may lose more sales by segregating the market that way than he gains by including the specific "boy" language.
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#1674443 - 05/09/11 03:24 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: Piano*Dad]
Legal Beagle Offline
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Registered: 12/24/09
Posts: 776
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Quote:
In other words, I think that with regard to producing "Fearless Fortissimo," you're right... you're "addressing" gender differences. But with regard to naming it "Piano Lessons For Boys," I think you're wrong... I think you're "promoting."


Actually, he may wind up "anti-promoting." He may lose more sales by segregating the market that way than he gains by including the specific "boy" language.


PD, I meant "promoting gender-specific behaviours," as tdow distinguished it from "addressing gender-specific behaviours."

But you're right, PD, and I had the same thought. That's guaranteed to cut out that portion of the market. If I'm making a pink easy-bake oven, I've got a pretty good idea that mostly girls are going to buy it, but I'm not going to call it an "Oven For Girls" and be SURE to exclude any potential boy buyers. In fact, I'll probably put a picture on the packaging of a boy and a girl playing with it together... not for societal gender issues, but for potential sales.

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#1674449 - 05/09/11 03:32 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Ah, I see now what you meant. I was indeed focussed on the market angle.
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#1674463 - 05/09/11 04:15 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5512
Loc: Orange County, CA
Labels are bad. Gender-specific labels are even worse.

I do have some of those "for boys" books in my library. Most of them are pretty stereotypical.
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#1674465 - 05/09/11 04:19 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: Diane...]
AZNpiano Offline
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Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Diane...
Just call them music collections "Pop for EVERYONE"!

Amen! Gender stereotypes are awful.
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#1674466 - 05/09/11 04:22 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
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Loc: Banned
I attended a children's recital not too long ago where all the boys had at least one cowboy and indian piece. It was more of a pow wow than a recital.

Whatever we do with books, when the kids start talking to each other and peer pressure is applied, that is what is going to have the most effect.

I definitely prefer seeing books titled "Piano Lessons for Boys" than nothing as in many places the assumption is that all piano books are titled "Piano Lessons are for Sissies"

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#1674471 - 05/09/11 04:29 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: tdow]
AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted By: tdow
Over the years at our music school we came to recognize a discrepancy in motivation between our male piano students and our female piano students. This discrepancy was resulting in male piano students having a substantially higher dropout rate than female piano students.

Could it be that, culturally, we are driving our boy students out of piano lessons because piano is not "cool"? Or that boys are encouraged to do more sports once they enter middle school?

A couple of years ago, one of the older teachers in my branch of MTA gave me a program of a public recital from 1989. Several of my classmates were in the program (a few were surprises), but one that stood out was the "cool guy" from school. No one expects him to play the piano. He never talked about it.
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#1674550 - 05/09/11 07:06 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
tdow Offline
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Registered: 04/13/10
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Loc: Canada
From a marketing perspective, the more specific your message, the more successful your advertising. The book was not written for a general audience, it was written for teachers who may be struggling to motivate boy piano students.

Successful marketing is based on identifying your audience and marketing directly to that audience, and therefore the book was titled “Piano Books For Boys”.

I think the Curves Fitness Franchise serves as a good analogy for this discussion…

Curves, the world’s most successful fitness franchise markets their product as “Curves Gym For Women”. They are not pretending to be a co-ed gym. They recognize that many women feel more comfortable working out among other women and that many women feel the need to have a workout experience designed specifically for women. I think this represents a successful company that has addressed gender-specific concerns just as the Fortissimo Series addresses gender-specific concerns around learning piano.
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#1674585 - 05/09/11 08:15 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Yes, but unlike the gym workout, piano is a solo experience. Women may (or may not) feel uncomfortable working out with men, but that's because working out in a public gym is .... well ... public. The analogy with boys versus girls solo study of piano is not quite apt.

Ultimately, it's an empirical question. But unless you can run a controlled small-group test, you'll never know whether the more inclusive marketing (with boys as a clear subtext) would have worked better than trumpeting "BOYS" in the title.
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#1674589 - 05/09/11 08:18 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: Piano*Dad]
AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Ultimately, it's an empirical question. But unless you can run a controlled small-group test, you'll never know whether the more inclusive marketing (with boys as an advertised subtext) would have worked better than trumpeting "BOYS" in the title.

Sounds like a good research paper topic!
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#1674592 - 05/09/11 08:19 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
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Loc: Williamsburg, VA
grin

But not by me!
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#1674602 - 05/09/11 08:25 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
Andromaque Offline
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I am not "hearing" gender-specific differences in "learning styles", as much as in motivation or interest. Something along the traditional "pink dolls" for girls and " motorcycles and toyguns" for boys.
Do you actually write different music or do you package it in comics/ titles/themes that are more likely to appeal to boys? if the former, do you go beyond the -traditional- adagios for girls and allegro/fortissimo staccatos for boys?

You also mention extensive research: what are the actual data emanating from the research that led to your conclusions that boys and girls actually "learn" piano differently?

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#1674611 - 05/09/11 08:37 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: tdow]
MegumiNoda Offline
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Registered: 05/31/09
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There are a few factors to consider when we think about the Curves analogy. First, Curves' primary targets are adult women, who have, arguably, grown up with more cultural stereotyping. I am much more likely to sign my shy, body-image conscious mother up for a Curves membership than a daughter whom I would want to grow up to be able to interact with men and women confidently[+]. Second, the studies on physiological differences between men and women are better grounded and understood than research on how the brain works. There are on-going research about how children learn (esp. on classroom learning), but the field is still young, and there are still lots of debates among researchers[*].



[*] For anyone interested:
* Here is a survey-style article: The evidence suggests otherwise: The truth about boys and girls S Mead - 2006 - Education Sector
* Here is a recently published book: Boys, Girls and the Myths of Literacies and Learning. Roberta F. Hammett and Kathy Sanford (Eds.). Toronto, ON: Canadian Scholars Press, 2008, 252 pages. Here is a review for the book by B. Kelly in the The Alberta Journal of Educational Research.

[+] Incidentally, I had joined Curves for a few months myself. It was not for me. I realize it is a very successful franchise, but to me, its attitude felt condescending, not unlike the Pink Tools for Women. I had since then returned to a co-ed gym.


Edited by MegumiNoda (05/09/11 08:52 PM)
Edit Reason: added footnotes

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#1674639 - 05/09/11 09:28 PM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
tdow Offline
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Loc: Canada
Interesting points to consider.

The curves analogy was simply meant to illustrate that there are times when a gender-specific service or product is okay (or at times in fact needed).
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#1674749 - 05/10/11 12:33 AM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: MegumiNoda]
Candywoman Offline
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Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 850
I think it's fine to address boys in the title. When I choose music for my students, I have a large body of music that both genders play. And then I have a few pieces that I find the boys like more, and a few that the girls like more.

I wouldn't likely give a boy much Gretchaninoff for the grade three level (I think it's opus 100), or Leslie Fly: Snow White.

I wouldn't likely give a girl much Leslie Fly: the Queen's Beasts or Robin Hood, or Inspector Gadget.

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#1674807 - 05/10/11 03:30 AM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: Exalted Wombat]
kevinb Offline
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Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
Originally Posted By: Exalted Wombat
Originally Posted By: kevinb
I wonder if, in our society, it's really possible to separate these issues? Does not targetting a gender behaviour have the circular effect of promoting that behaviour in the long term?


Remind me again why gender differences are bad? We steer our children in so many ways, under the pretence that we're just providing "opportunities for discovery". A middle-class family "assumes" their children will read, study, achieve .... and angle their environment to encourage and enable these things. Why are we frightened of assuming that a boy will act like a boy, a girl like a girl?


I'm mildly surprised that this question needs to be asked in the 21st century...

Of course there are fundamental biological difference between males and females, and invariably they will lead to behavioural differences.

What we don't want to happen is to allow these differences to lead to an inequality of opportunity for girls. Or, worse, to _exploit_ those differences to so that women are pushed into menial and submissive roles in society. Since we've been doing exactly that for, oh..., 6000-or-so years, and since we (in the West, at least) aren't really doing it any more, it seems to me we're moving in the right direction.

The tricky question -- the question that there seems to be no clear answer to -- is whether reinforcing gender stereotypes is a cause or a symptom of gender inequality. There's been a lot of hot air blasted out by both sides of the debate, and I'm not sure we're any nearer a convincing answer than we were in the 60s. I certainly don't pretend to know the answer.

More on topic...

The issue of gender-specific pedagogy is pretty prominent in mainstream education -- it's certainly not limited to learning the piano. We've had a suspicion that our entire primary education strategy works better for girls than for boys for a long time. You've only got to look at educational achievements at age 11 (or thereabouts) to see the evidence for that.

But, again, what we don't know is if they problem is biological or sociological. If it's mostly biological, then perhaps the right thing to do is to modify educational practice to suit the different genders better. But if it is mostly sociological -- if boys and girls _learn_ different responses to the educational environment we offer (from their peers or their parents) -- then perhaps what we should be changing is something else.

For all that, it's unfair to expect folks writing piano method books to tackle deep and complex sociological issues single-handedly.

Quote:

A middle-class family "assumes" their children will read, study, achieve ....


Remind me again why this is bad smile

It's hardly limited to the middle classes, anyway. In the western world, pretty much every parent assumes that that children will have, and should have, these opportunities. This seems to me to be unquestionably a good thing.

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#1674848 - 05/10/11 05:57 AM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: kevinb]
Exalted Wombat Offline
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Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 1197
Loc: London UK
Quote:
Quote:
Remind me again why gender differences are bad?


I'm mildly surprised that this question needs to be asked in the 21st century...


And then you fill half a page discussing how they aren't really bad at all! Why can we not celebrate gender differences while also striving for equal opportunities for individuals?

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#1674850 - 05/10/11 06:10 AM Re: Gender specific piano pedagogy [Re: Exalted Wombat]
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
Originally Posted By: Exalted Wombat
Quote:
Quote:
Remind me again why gender differences are bad?


I'm mildly surprised that this question needs to be asked in the 21st century...


And then you fill half a page discussing how they aren't really bad at all! Why can we not celebrate gender differences while also striving for equal opportunities for individuals?


I never said we couldn't.

The problem is how to be accepting of gender differences while not allowing them to lead to inequality. As I society, I don't think we can be sure yet that we have yet developed a way to do that.

That's why, I think, we often encounter what often seem (to me, anyway) to be be wacky restrictions -- not allowing little boys to play cowboys, etc. I grew up in a culture where little boys played cowboys and little girls played with dolls, and a woman's place was in the home. There's no particular reason for thinking that the cowboys and the dolls lead to women being poorly regarded as professionals but, at the same time, there's not a huge reason for thinking that this _isn't_ the case, either.

That's why, I think, we tend to be overcautious in this area. Nobody much wants to see a return to the fixed gender stereotyping of the 50s -- Heaven forbid -- but we aren't yet sure how to prevent that happening while still accomodating the fundamental differences between men and women.






Edited by kevinb (05/10/11 06:12 AM)

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