Politics & Policy

Title IX Quota Creep

A law and its legacy.

The 30th anniversary of Title IX, to be officially marked next week, has been dominated by news of quotas instituted under the federal anti-sex-discrimination law decimating men’s Olympic sports. Less noted but perhaps even more alarming, however, is the spread of Title IX sex quotas out of sports into other areas of education.

The latest offering from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) is a perfect example of quota creep under Title IX. Last week a NWLC “study” charged high-school vocational and technical programs with “enduring sex discrimination.” The evidence offered by the ladies of the NWLC? The shocking fact that girls dominate voc-ed classes like cosmetology and child care while boys form majorities of would-be plumbers, pipe-fitters, and engineers.

The Law Center’s logic in charging pervasive sex discrimination in vocational education is the same as that which is resulting in widespread destruction of men’s athletic programs. Evidence that women are discriminated against cannot be found in the real world of education, where they are ever more successful. So it is found in numbers. A world free of sex discrimination, in the view of the National Women’s Law Center, is a world in which participants in any given educational program perfectly match the number of males and females in the school itself. In this androgynous view of human nature, all girls and women and all boys and men are equally interested in and capable of playing lacrosse, excelling in physics, becoming electrical engineers or scoring 1600 on the SAT. Any failure of this perfect equality of interests and abilities to manifest itself in equality of athletic and academic achievement, then, is prima facie proof of illegal discrimination under Title IX.

On the basis of “data” culled from 12 states, the NWLC found that females are 96 percent of the students in cosmetology classes, 87 percent of students in child care, and 86 percent of students in classes the lead to jobs as health assistants. Boys, on the other hand, are 94 percent of plumbing and electrician students, 93 percent of future welders and carpenters, and — gasp! — 92 percent of those studying automotive technologies.

All of this is actionable, so say the girls of the National Women’s Law Center, because these insidious patterns aren’t the result of choice but of enduring bias against women.

“Biased counseling, the provision of incomplete information to students on the consequences of their career training choices, sexual harassment of girls who enroll in non-traditional classes and other forms of discrimination conspire today to create a vocational system characterized by pervasive sex segregation,” reads the NWLC report.

The same misogynistic counselors who are steering girls into “traditionally female” vocational tracks, however, are failing utterly in their conspiracy to keep women down in other areas of the academy. Somehow, despite the insidious forces feminists believe are arrayed against them, girls and women have managed to penetrate areas of “traditionally male” education and become the dominate sex in American education.

In grade school and high school, girls of all kinds and all ages in all subjects excel relative to boys. Girls get better grades than boys do. More girls than boys take courses in chemistry, algebra, geometry, precalculus, and biology. Girls and boys are equally likely to take trigonometry and calculus. Boys and girls took high-school advanced-placement tests at the same rate in 1984 but today 74 out of every 1,000 high-school girls take an AP exam compared to 58 out of every 1,000 high schools boys.

Similarly, when they get to college, women increasingly participate in — and excel in — subject areas traditionally dominated by men. Women earn 46 percent of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering and 49 percent of business degrees. Women were one percent of engineering grads in 1972 and 17 percent in 1997. In the physical and computer sciences women have climbed from 15 percent of graduates 30 years ago to almost 40 percent of graduates today.

In fact, if anyone has a plausible claim of sex discrimination, it’s the boys. While an equal number of girls and boys graduate from high school every year, overwhelmingly more women go on to college than men. Women are 56 percent of undergraduates today, a number the Department of Education estimates will rise to 58 percent by 2009. But hey, who’s counting?

The gender-equity litigation industry has a penchant for uncovering patterns of Title IX-actionable discrimination that come in neat, politically relevant numbers. Thus, on the 25th anniversary of Title IX, the NWLC filed sex-discrimination complaints against 25 colleges and universities alleged to be shortchanging girls in the provision of athletic scholarships.

This anniversary, apparently unable to find 30 instances of even their expansive notion of discrimination, the gals of the NWLC have settled for the number 12 — twelve investigations in each of the Department of Education’s twelve regional offices of its Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Having lost their allies in the Washington offices of the OCR, feminists must now rely on the career education bureaucrats who remain in control of the OCR’s regional offices.

And it’s not hard to predict what remedy will be advocated, once these “investigations” are complete, to correct the sex imbalance in the nation’s vocational-education system. When they fail to convince high-school girls, who are a declining share of voc-ed students, to take more classes in welding and auto mechanics, activists will begin to agitate for boys’ representation in these classes to be curtailed in order to reach gender parity. What is happening today in collegiate athletic programs will soon be coming to high schools across the country. Boys will lose. No girls will gain. But the law will be complied with.

Is this scenario the stuff of fantasy? Asked recently if anyone thought men’s sports teams would one day be eliminated because of Title IX, former senator Birch Bayh, the law’s original sponsor, said no: “That was not the purpose of Title IX. And that has been a very unfortunate aspect of this. The idea of Title IX was not to give fewer opportunities to men; it was to make more opportunities for women.”

A look back at the history of Title IX makes the law’s 35th anniversary appear ominous.

Jessica Gavora is a writer in Washington, DC, with clients including former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich and the College Sports Council. Previously, she was the senior speechwriter to attorney ...


The Latest