Favoritism in the school system

By Jenna Careri

(Official Rate My Professors Facebook page)
(Official Rate My Professors Facebook page)

Remember all those student evaluations we just filled out at the end of last semester? Did you give your female teachers lower ratings than your male teachers?

It turns out it’s a pretty common thing, and you might have done it without even knowing.

A new study has come out from the Paris Institute of Political Studies, also known as Sciences Po, which claims that student evaluations are so biased against women that the results of the evaluations are nearly irrelevant.

In one of the tests, American students (both female and male) took an online class where they never met their teacher and had only the teacher’s name to go off of to determine gender. The test was controlled so that each class, whether taught by a male or female, was conducted exactly the same way. The teachers who got higher ratings were the ones the students thought were male.

Whether we realize it or not, we are culturally conditioned to be gender-biased toward our teachers, particularly when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of their teaching.

Last year, a study from a Northeastern University professor looked at gender bias in the words used to describe teachers on RateMyProfessors.com. The researcher found that women were more likely to be evaluated on their personality and appearance, while men were evaluated based on their skills and intelligence.

There is evidence that shows that the teaching profession is biased against females when it comes to the mindsets of their students. Yet, it was originally thought that teaching was one of the only suitable jobs for women and, in fact, suitable for women only.

How did it come to be that a job originally “meant” for women has come to be biased against them?

Kristina Anderson, a junior studying management and human resources, thinks it comes down to societal gender bias. She says from a young age children are conditioned to think females are more nurturing.

“People just automatically assume that women are willing to give more and be more lenient than men,” Anderson said. “People just automatically go into it thinking that their male professor isn’t going to make an exception but they think that they’ll have better luck with their female teacher.”

“(Female teachers are) expected to be nicer and more understanding, so if they aren’t, definitely kids will take that way more personally than if a male was mean to them,” said junior management major Jeffery Ordung.

Ordung had one female professor that he felt was an extremely good teacher, yet he saw another student mark the professor poorly on a student evaluation.

“The way she provided the information and made sure kids understood it was excellent. I understood everything she said,” Ordung said. “There was one girl in the class who literally just didn’t like one thing she said to her one time and she put down ‘extremely poor’ on the whole evaluation.”

Apparently, society has taught us that females are supposed to be more empathetic toward people’s needs and wants, and now this ideology is seeping into students’ perceptions of their teachers.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a true representation of our professors, and it is impeding our ability to judge them fairly. Whether we’re filling out student evaluations, rating our professors online or even interacting with them on a daily basis, we are impacted by this gender bias. It is distorting our attitudes and making it harder for us to recognize the dedication many of our professors have to our education and improvement.

It is our role as students to be cognizant of this favoritism. Before we put an answer on an evaluation, before we post a rating, before we judge our professors on something they say to us, we need to think about why it is that we want to respond in that way.

Jenna Careri is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]