Meehan gives us an example (and I'm quoting her word-for-word) of the way girls, in contrast to boys, use both hemispheres of their brains to tackle math problems: "If a train leaves Chicago and another leaves Baltimore, both going sixty miles an hour, when will they crash? 'WAIT. WAIT!' say the girl mathematicians. 'Are there families on those trains? Are there animals? Why can't we stop the trains?'"
The first thought that passed through my own brain's two hemispheres when I read this was: Don't worry, girls--even in the heyday of the B & O Railroad, there never was a direct run between Baltimore and Chicago, much less one in which two trains traveling at high speed in opposite directions shared the same track. My second thought was: Didn't Larry Summers say something like this a couple of years ago? Isn't that why he's no longer president of Harvard?
Learning Like a Girl is crammed with this sort of giddiness, even though Meehan seems to have a Ph.D. in something or other and boasts a career as an award-winning documentary filmmaker (mostly films about--you guessed it--women). When I got to this paragraph, on page 46, I started counting the pages until the end (only 278 to go!) and wondering whether the publisher, PublicAffairs Books, was a vanity press. It's not, but you can't help but think that some of its editors might have been on that Chicago-Baltimore train:Jim McManus [a veteran girls'school administrator who served as consultant for Archer during its formative months] is a prudent man. This is confirmed by his wardrobe, which is invariably khaki trousers, Oxford shirt, and Irish tweed jacket with the narrow shoulders popular in the 1960s, and before that in the 1940s, and, I think, 1920s. He wears this outfit irrespective of the temperature, which is often warm, as if clothes were meant to be all-terrain, all-weather garments in which one can climb Everest in the manner of Sir Edmund Hillary, or take tea, also in the manner of Sir Edmund Hillary.Hmmm. Edmund Hillary scaling the Himalayas in a tweed jacket. There's a name for this kind of prose; it's called writing like a girl.
Friday, March 21, 2008
About Diana Meehan's book Learning Like a Girl: Educating Our Daughters in Schools of Their Own, from a review by Charlotte Allen in the March 24th Weekly Standard (subscription only):