According to Psychology Today, a study found that girls were more likely than boys to give up when something became too difficult. It claimed that the reason for this is because girls are taught that success is driven by innate intelligence and talent as opposed to hard work.
The study also found that in 5th grade girls, outperformed boys in harder material. This quickly changed though and girls became less confident in their work while boys became more confident. This led them to think that they were not smart enough to do tasks that did not come naturally to them.
I think this is true for a lot of girls and definitely true in my own life. In my freshman year of college I turned in a paper for one of my pre-law classes and received a high C. This was the lowest grade I had ever received on a paper. Instead of looking through it and figuring out how I could do better next time, I assumed I was not smart enough to continue with pre-law.
Looking back on this, I realize how rash this reaction was. It was only one paper grade and it wasn’t even that low of a grade, but my immediate reaction was to question whether or not I was capable of performing a certain career. I never really thought much of my reaction until reading this article and I realized that I do view my academic ability as innate. It’s not that I do not work hard to maintain good grades, but when I do not do as well as I want to I see the results as unchangeable.
Intelligence and talent do have an impact on success, but I would argue that hard work is just as important. We cannot expect to do well in life on talent alone. Therefore, we should work to make sure that all students see hard work as necessary in school work.
The Psychology Today article claimed that the differences in interpretation between the genders has to do with the praise they receive. Girls are often complimented on being clever, smart and good students. These are all character traits and do not refer to action at all. On the other hand, feedback for boys is more action oriented, like encouraging them to pay attention. I think both of these types of encouragement have their place. However, one type of encouragement should not be used with one gender more often. I think students should be encouraged in both ways so they realize that they are smart and talented while being told that they can work to improve all of this.
As much as I wanted to drop the class and quite pre-Law in that moment I stayed in the class. I ended up with an A-. I am still a pre-law student and I am planning on attending law school. Even though I now realize the error of my ways, I still find it challenging not to question my ability to succeed when I do not do as well on something that I would like.
White is a junior majoring in communication. She can be reached at WhiteSJ@jbu.edu.