When Bright Girls Decide Math Is a ‘Waste of Time'

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Devin David

English 101

Evan Harrison

8 November 2011

Smart Girls

In Susan Jacoby’s, “When Bright Girls Decide Math Is a ‘Waste of Time,’” she begins to explain how a 16 year old girl decided not to take physics and calculus as a Senior in high school, replacing them with electives. Her parents approve because she expects to major in Art or History in college. However, this limits her in the future. This choice is referred to as a self-inflicted limit girls place themselves, which seems to relate to social stress, and is caused by not wanting to be too smart compared to the opposite sex. Jacoby goes on to say that girls who were once out doing boys in mathematical areas are later passed up by boys due to this phenomenon.

Decisions to avoid advanced science and math course eventually lead to not being qualified for better jobs, women being excluded, and anxiety about not understanding mathematics and science as well as the opposite sex. Overall, “masculine” and “feminine” knowledge will never seem to change. Although it seems Jacoby supports her argument that women limit themselves in the areas of Science and Math with small examples of statistics, she also contradicts herself some throughout the essay. Whether this contradiction is meant to be a concession or not, it leaves the reader skeptical of the facts previously stated. Jacoby continues to make the reader skeptical by stereotyping young girls as evidence, saying that they are self-conscious of being smart, which is not solid reasoning behind her argument. In addition to contradicting herself and failing to have solid evidence, Jacoby leaves the reader by saying that the only possible solution to her argument is to tell younger women to continue studying math after the age of 16.

According to Jacoby, “During the teenage years the well-documented phenomenon of “math anxiety” strikes girls who never had any problem handling numbers during earlier schooling”(629). Although this may be...
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