N.O.W. Task Force on Education – Background Comments

Background Comments of the Substitute Temporary Convener – Helen Schleman, May 1967

I. Composition of Task Force – We are dealing in an area where only the word of well-known experts gets much attention. It is therefore recommended that every effort be made to recruit a few well recognized persons for this group whose recommendations will carry weight. Suggestion: 1) Rosemary Park, who has spoken out frankly about women’s lack of aspiration to achieve at top levels*, 2) Mary Keyserling, whose agency is also on record as believing that lack of aspiration is a critical factor in women’s achievement**, 3) John Macy, who recognizes the importance of motivation and of changing fathers’ expectation for their daughters***, 4) AliceRossi, who is already active on another task force, but whose reputation for pinpointing needs for fundamental change is such that we need her support for any undertakings that focus on this effort, 5) Dr. Jean Paul Mather, Executive Vice President of UniversityCity Science Center at Philadelphia Pennsylvania who has appeared on various national programs, speaking of the necessity of using woman power at top levels (e.g., Intercollegiate Associated WomenStudents, National Education Association), and 6) Eli Ginzberg, who is well known for his knowledge of woman power and who is currently directing a national-scale study being undertaken by a research group of Columbia University. (The study, financed by a $235,000grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is to evaluate counseling in areas of education and employment. It will undoubtedly include study of the influences which motivate young girls in junior high school and high school, were aspirations for high achievement begin to take form.) 1

II. Focus of Immediate Attention: There are undoubtedly many reasons why women do not hold influential leadership positions, at high levels of our national life, in proportion to their numbers in the populations, or to their numbers in the labor force. Two far-reaching and all-pervading attitudinal factors, however, seem to be among the chief culprits; 1) Women’s own lack of aspirations to achieve levels commensurate with their intellectual ability and 2) the limiting sex-oriented self-concept and “other-sex” concepts taught to young children (and continuously expressed to them as expectations), which result in traditional ways of thinking about women by men in decision-making positions (and even make it difficult for many mature women to achieve a broad, inclusive self-concept)

Attitudes can be changed. It is suggested that the NOW Task Force on Education focus it efforts 1) on raising the aspirations of girls and women at all stages of education and 2) on combating the limiting influence of traditional sex-oriented self-concepts and expectations. This is no under-taking for amateurs. High aspiration must be preceded by motivation. Motivation in common sense terms, is made up of all of the factors that cause a person to want (to aspire) to do a certain thing, to reach (aspire to) a certain goal. These factors are legion.

III. Specific Action To Be Undertaken: (Note: It is recognized that there will be overlap with the work of other task forces.Obviously, there must be good communication to avoid duplication of effort. For instance, the work of the Task Force on the MassMedia Image of Women ties in directly in the aspirations and motivations of junior high school girls, high school girls, and women – not to say the image held by boys and men.) It is suggested that the NOW Education Task Force:

1. Make contact with Dr. Ginzberg regarding his current study for the following purposes: 1) to inform him of our interest and concern in the study as it pertains to the aspirations and motivations, or lack thereof, of girls and women toward high goals of achievement, and 2) to seek his counsel regarding useful steps we as a task force might take to raise the aspirations of girls and combat the traditional, limited self-concept so many of them hold.

2. Make contact with junior high school and high school counselors of both girls and boys to persuade them to try to inspire girls to aspire to educate themselves to the limit of their intellectual capacity and then to use their education fully. We should place articles in their professional journals which will give specific information about scope of opportunities for both girls and boys, will discuss the current life-patterns of women and men that both boys and girls need to be familiar with, and will emphasize the importance to girls themselves, as well as to our whole society and economy, of their aspiring to use their full intellectual talents in top-level spots. Counselors need very much to adopt a new outlook and set of expectations for girls if the girls themselves are to develop higher aspirations and a new self-concept. This is a crucial change that must be emphasized in every way possible.

3. Make contact with school administrators and try to persuade them of the importance of making successful, outside-the-home, loved and respected women models visible to boys and girls. Urge them to use them in the school system as well as to bring them in from the outside community to demonstrate that women are expected to participate at significant levels outside the home.

4. Make contact with parents, PTAs, any way possible to make known what the current situation is and to urge higher expectations for their daughters equal to those they hold for their sons

5. Make contact with men’s service club. in a variety of ways- through their publications programs, etc., with particular emphasis on the father’s role in rising the aspirations of his daughter by his own expectations of her.

The ways to effect change of the traditional self-concepts held by many girls that limit their aspirations are as many and varied as imagination will produce. The same holds for changing the traditional expectations held by others for girls and women, We need a working task force to agree on limited objectives and specific approaches.

Summary of Proposed Action

It is suggested that NOW name at least 3 or 4 members of the Task Force on Education at once to begin work in the areas indicated.

A. Specific objectives: 1) raise the aspirations of girls and women at all stages of education and 2) combat the limiting influence of traditional sex-oriented self-concepts and expectations

B. Some specific action programs:

1. Make contact with Dr. Ginzberg. . . .

2. Make contact with junior high school and high school counselors.. . .

3. Make contact with school administrators. . . .

4. Make contact with parents, PTAs. . . .

5. Make contact with men’s service club. . . .

* “On the subject of women’s education, Rosemary Park, in her final report as president of Barnard College, declared that the traditional lack of scope in women’s aspirations is the factor most responsible for their absence in posts of leadership.” (From Intercollegiate Press Bulletin; Vol. 31, #35, May 1, 1967.)

** “An important part of the answer to the disparity in women’s educational attainment and earnings lies in the goals and aspirations of these women when they were girls.” (U.S. Department ofLabor, Women’s Bureau, April l, 1967, WB67-281)

*** “This educational fallout is due largely to lack of motivation, but a negative attitude on the part of parents toward college for their daughters is an influential factor. I think that fathers are especially responsible in this. Fathers, in particular, need to abandon the assumption that their daughters really cannot learn math, or that it’s not quite feminine to major in physics or chemistry, or that the engineering degree is strictly a male degree.”(John W. Macy, Jr., “Unless We Begin Now,” Vital Speeches of the Day, p. 680, September 1, 1966. Paper delivered at Atlanta,Georgia, July 25, 1966.)

1 School and Society, Vol. 95, p. 286. Summer 1967. Columbia University Study.

2 “Women also encounter manipulative counseling. ‘A counselor will tell a woman that it really doesn’t matter what she studies in college because she will get married and won’t have to work.But studies show this is not true.'” Eli Ginzberg, “Study of Education and Job Counseling.” School and Society, Vol.95, p. 286. Summer, 1967. Columbia University study.)

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