Sunday, July 12, 2009

Does America really hate educated women?

by Gracie Remington

In the July 9th installment of her New York Times-based blog, “Domestic Disturbances,” Judith Warner discussed the plight of Bridget Kevane, a professor at Montana State University who faced charges of child endangerment after leaving her children and their friends, aged 3 to 12, at a mall near her home in Bozeman. Leaving the older children to look after the young ones, with strict instructions that the 3-year-old remain in her stroller and that they should contact her on her cell phone should the need arise, Kevane drove home. The police telephoned her an hour later and, upon her arrival at the mall, charged her with child endangerment (the older children had wandered off, leaving the younger children unattended).

Obviously, the event in and of itself is unfortunate, and leaving two 12-year-olds in charge of younger children is not demonstrating the best judgment. However, the city attorney assigned to the case decided to charge Kevane with “violating duty of care,” an offense punishable by jail time. The charge definitely seems overblown, but Kevane is quoted as claiming the prosecutor pushed for this sentence by claiming “she believed professors are incapable of seeing the real world around them because their ‘heads are always in a book’”.

Warner’s article goes on to rail against those who would attempt to persecute educated women, noting the prevailing desire to silence these supposedly “entitled” women. The rise of Sarah Palin, she notes, is reflective of this kind of thinking, whereby educated women are encouraged to shut up and “real,” “down-to-earth” women are allowed to take the spotlight.

While I definitely agree that the prevalence of such a mindset is disturbing and needs to be addressed, Warner’s conclusion that Kevane’s punishment arose solely due to her education status seems misleading. Relying only on quotes from the charged professor, Warner doesn’t substantiate these claims of education-based bias. Thus, the editorial is only really flipping the terms of discrimination, relying on the words of an educated female over a perceivably less learned prosecutor. If this article was truly meant to expose a longstanding (and fairly prevalent) bias against educated women, this was not the case to demonstrate the validity of such a claim (or if it actually was, more evidence was needed to substantiate such claims- maybe talking with the prosecutor or actually gaining access to court documents, for starters).

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