Parents reinforce math gender biases by playing games differently with boys

The National Post continued its coverage of the 75th Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at York this week in the series “Oh, The humanities”, with a story about the gender divide in math studies published June 2. Here is an excerpt.

The way parents play board games with their young children may be the first step on the well-documented path to the gender divide in mathematical ability. Four researchers from the University of British Columbia observed parents as they played board games with their sons and daughters and found that the parents were reinforcing the boy-girl math proficiency divide through words and gestures. Small things like preventing their daughters from touching the game pieces to gender-specific words of praise for their sons – “Good boy!” – were noted, demonstrating the inadvertent gender constructions parents facilitate at home. “These findings suggest that young children may be learning a great deal about gender and mathematics and about themselves as active [or] potential mathematicians long before they begin formal schooling,” said Lyndsay Moffatt in her presentation at Canada’s annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences this week.

Source of funding doesn’t affect voting, elected officials say

Vaughan Mayor Michael Di Biase receives 93.5 per cent of his campaign contributions from the corporate sector, including developers, but that doesn’t influence his council votes, he says. While he concedes such a high percentage might give the public the wrong idea, “we (all of council) work in the best interest of residents because they are the ones who elect us and the ones we should look after first,” Di Biase said in an interview in the Toronto Star June 2. “We work very closely with ratepayer associations and their input is most valuable to us.”

Di Biase was commenting on a study by Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, that shows in 2003 in nine 905 municipalities, corporate contributions made up 85 per cent of the total compared to 45 per cent in Toronto. But Di Biase insisted comparing 905 to Toronto isn’t apples to apples. If an individual contributes money to a candidate in Toronto, that person can claim a municipal rebate of 75 per cent on the first $100 and lesser amounts beyond that, a program subsidized by the property taxpayers, Di Biase said. None of the 905 municipalities in the study, except Ajax, have such a rebate program. In those cities, it’s better for a business owner living in the community to donate money as a corporation because it can be claimed as a business expense, Di Biase said.

Mattel will battle to defend Barbie, says Middleton

Canada’s highest court is to rule whether so-called “famous” trademarks, such as the fashion doll Barbie and French champagne Veuve Clicquot, deserve wider legal protection than the average brand, reported the Toronto Star June 2. The two multinational brands are separately battling two small Canadian entrepreneurs over their use of similar-sounding names to promote their businesses. In one case, Mattel Inc., which owns the Barbie brand, is trying to prevent a small two-restaurant chain in Quebec from registering the name Barbie’s Bar and Grill. “The Barbie brand is so incredibly valuable they will go to any lengths to protect it,” said Alan Middleton, marketing professor in York’s Schulich School of Business. In fact, “you’re going to be seeking a lot more of these kinds of cases,” Middleton predicted.

Handscombe was a birder and ‘a perfect Eeyore’

Richard James Handscombe, a retired York professor who died last December, was profiled in a “Lives Lived” column written by his son, Matthew, for The Globe and Mail June 2. Here is an excerpt.

It’s awfully hard to remain sombre when opening e-mails of condolence to find, after an initial word or two of sympathy, a line such as, “He was my favourite Eeyore!” or “his reading the voices of Charlotte’s Web would give me chills.” Normally, I imagine, one can’t share childhood story-time memories of Daddy with people one hasn’t met, but if your dad made a career out of language, about its use, and was delighted to make children’s literature a focus, then one might have a chance.

At grammar school, he distinguished himself in English and passed his entrance examinations for Cambridge at 16, receiving a national scholarship. University entrance regulations and national service – he became a pilot officer in the RAF – meant that he didn’t actually begin his degree until he turned 21, by which time he’d read everything on the English syllabus and had focused considerable attention on the regional dialects of Britain. His ability to take friends on a linguistic tour, for a pint or a laugh, became something of the parlour trick that made the man.

At Cambridge he rowed, developed several lasting friendships and managed to finish a thesis on Othello that allowed him to graduate. A teaching degree followed, then, tired of dreary English weather, he moved to Turkey to teach. He returned to Britain and a post at the University of Leeds where he also met my mother, Jean, then a graduate student. She brought a ’52 Bordeaux to their third date and, of course, they married in 1966, coming to Canada in 1967 because an ex-Leeds colleague suggested he would be a good fit at York’s Glendon campus. He divided his time between the Keele and Glendon campuses for his entire teaching career, lecturing on linguistics and children’s literature. He remained a committed bird-watcher, rarely far from his binoculars and eventually this great love saw him off to six continents. Also in the 1970s, the family began visiting the West Indian island of Montserrat; over nearly three decades, he walked nearly every inch of the island in search of birds and took in countless sunsets.

He worked steadily on myriad professional things until his retirement in 1996. Not long after, he was diagnosed with cancer and, although this dashed his plan to have a decent bottle of wine every day of his retirement, he did manage to see both his children married off to very suitable spouses and spend some time with his grandson, Liam, born in 2004. He took the last few years of his life quite easy – a study in self-respect I so admired – reading and birding from whatever chair he found himself in.

Promising York filmmakers strut their stuff at Edmonton’s NeXtFest

NeXtFest covers a broad swath of the arts, and that territory includes flicks both great and small, reported The Edmonton Journal June 2. David Cheoros and David Bates have put together a package of films displaying the raw enthusiasm of youthful experimentation. In the darker of the two series, called “Ghosts and Shadows”, Anamnesis is the best of the bunch for sheer drama and craft. Made by film students at Toronto’s York University, this drama is about two men who were mistreated as kids meeting each other in a boxing ring where aggression linked to childhood traumas is unresolved. The premise is a bit simplistic and banged home too relentlessly, but the strength of the film is in its crisp editing and well-choreographed boxing scenes. These young filmmakers show promise.

 York professor’s comments cited in drug-plan polemic

A guest columnist in the Times & Transcript (Moncton) June 2 cited York’s Dr. Joel Lexchin in a piece on healthcare that argued that feeding this nation’s pharmaceutical drug habit at taxpayers’ expense is a step in the wrong direction. Charles Moore wrote  that  prescription drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in the industrialized world, surpassed only by heart attacks, cancer and strokes. He quoted  Lexchin, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, noting recently on CTV’s “Canada AM” that the arthritis pain drug Vioxx “in the United States (is) estimated to have caused between 80,000 and 100,000 excess cases of heart disease.”

 Glendon co-sponsored provincial French contest

Renaud-Philippe Garner from École Secondaire Catholique Jean-Vanier, participated in the Provincial French Contest hosted by Ottawa University and Laurentien University, in conjuction with York’s Glendon faculty, reported The Tribune (Welland) June 2. This contest attracts the provincial elite in French language skills.

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about the intricacies of the US-Canada passport conflict on CBC Radio June 1.
  • Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about his newly released study of municipal election campaign contributions on CBC-TV’s “Here and Now” June 1.
  • Saeed Rahnema, political science professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and the Faculty of Arts, spoke about the prospect of direct talks between the US and Iran on CTV NewsNet June 1.
  • Paul James, head coach of the York Lions men’s and women’s soccer team, spoke about this summer’s World Cup tournament in Germany on CBC-TV’s “The Hour” June 1.
  • Jana Vizmuller-Zocco, professor in York’s Deptartment of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, spoke about Italian-Canadian artists on CFMT-TV’s “Studio Aperto” June 1.