April 15, 2006

While the morning eat-out brunch is quickly taking over the post candy hunt, it is traditional in the western world for even the take-out generation to cook a full family dinner on Easter Sunday evening. Grocery stores and markets are closed then: one must plan ahead by an entire day.

Judging by the chaos around the grocery stores today, I suspect a fair number of soon-to-be chefs opened their refrigerators to see what could be made of what was there, only to exclaim "Oh my God!" as they discovered little more than some leftover cartons of take-out food. Nothing quite like last-minute planning.

Life teaches far more, ever, than structured schooling. From an early age, women are taught and encouraged to cook: to see a bunch of disconnected ingredients and bring them together into something useful; or else to plan ahead to determine which disconnected ingredients will be required for that meal. While the actions of the cooking itself is skill-specific; the ability to take a number of disconnected elements and compile them into a greater pattern; or, alternately, to be able to determine in advance which particular parts of a future system need to be acquired, is transferable and very valued. In fact, it is nothing less than the initial empirical hypothesising required by the scientific method.

From an early age, whether or not they were to pursue those specific paths in life, men were once taught and encouraged to acquire such skills as trades or hunting for survival or the arcane folkways of the restored second-hand automobile: all of which taught the parallel and complementary ability to bring together seemingly minor elements over time toward a desired major outcome.

But trades and hunting and mechanics are no longer taught at very young ages to most men in most cultures, and thus men are no longer encultured into widely transferable building and patterning skills. The shift is a recent one, only a single generation, or perhaps the edges of two. It is not alone in its impact, there are certainly other factors: yet now, perhaps (as changing expectations, changing societal mores, and supporting legislation have begun to erode other economic factors working against women in higher education), we are beginning to see unexpected consequences.

"Inherent" is a very tricky adjective, considering at just how young we begin absorbing environmental influences -- including our interactions with our parents/guardians, who had been so moulded in their turns. It is easy to identify differences between socioeconomic strata, between different ethnicities, between genders; and easier, perhaps, to label them "natural" ... until something quietly shifts in environment, such as the increasing numbers of young girls who grow up having never learned how to cook, and who will be applying to university in a decade.

girls have poor depth preception!
? I do know depth perception -- or, to be exact, learning to interpret visual stimuli as a practical sense of depth -- is to some extent a learned thing in both genders. The "cliff" and other, later studies suggest much the same innate potential, at least, in both: which begins to be developed as the child begins to physically manipulate its environment and to crawl. I don't (yet) know of any clear gender differentiation wrt depth perception that could not be accounted for also by early learning environment. If you do: please share?
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