How the News Media Peddle Junk Science
American Journalism Review:
The idea that the brains of girls and boys are so different that they should be parented and educated in different ways and steered towards very different careers is one of the most successfully promoted media narratives of the decade.
A small group of advocates have pushed this notion so hard that it’s become the conventional wisdom. They write best-selling books, speak to large groups of teachers, parents and school administrators, and are quoted - endlessly and usually uncritically―by the news media. They claim that due to vast differences between boys and girls, the single sex classroom will improve children’s academic achievement.
But it’s not true.
In September, the journal Science ran an article by eight prominent scientists titled “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling.” They argue that “There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex (SS) education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.” The lead author on the piece was professor Diane Halpern of Claremont McKenna College, past president of the American Psychological Association.
The Science authors, prominent psychologists or neuroscientists, find the performance of the news media sorely lacking. “Novelty-based enthusiasm, sample bias, and anecdotes account for much of the glowing characterization of SS education in the media,” they write.
“Factoids” promoted by advocates keep appearing in news stories around the world, even though good science has disproved or critiqued them. In the past few years, the news media have promoted a series of myths that, as it turns out, have little evidence behind them. As more misinformation is reported, the false narrative of great differences grows stronger. Here are a few of the myths that power this narrative: