Pink Brain Blue Brain, by Lise Eliot, PhD (Hardcover, 2009)|
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Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles
This is an excellent work. Not only is it informative and factual,
it's a joy to read. It's well-written, exhaustively researched, and
well-structured. It's outstanding work by a competent author.
Unlike most books in the nonfiction genre, it actually is nonfiction.
And it's honest. The author does express her opinions, but either
with substantiation or some indication she's not presenting conclusions
as elemental facts. She's very careful to inform, rather than
manipulate, the reader. Her opinions are confined to the subject of the
book and her areas of expertise, so they belong in the book. Also
impressive is the fact that she doesn't hide behind jargon. She makes a
point, throughout the book, of being clear in what she means.
I said earlier that the book is exhaustively researched. The
bibliography goes on for 45 pages (that's not a typo), though the book
itself is only 315 pages. The number of books Dr. Eliot tapped for this
book exceeds the number of books read in a lifetime by 10 average
Americans. And these aren't vapid fad books put out by people who have a
lecturing gig and sell self-published hokum in the back of the room. As
a subject matter expert, Dr. Eliot could have skipped the research and
still written a factual and authoritative book.
And unlike so many authors today, she does not quote such
disinformation sources as the New York Times (I mention that issue
frequently in my reviews, because if I wanted to be disinformed I'd get
the paper and skip a book based on it).
Our public education dollars are largely mis-spent these days. Most
of the funds extracted from us go toward new buildings for the people
who choose to move away from where the schools are, a crazy and
unethical wasting of huge volumes of tax dollars. In terms of literacy
rates and math skills, the USA is near the bottom among industrialized
countries and the fact we squander resources on erecting buildings
rather than providing quality education can't be helping.
Because of the dismal misuse of educational resources, we have a
shortage of Americans entering engineering schools and taking on other
challenging curricula. The average American graduating from high school
can't pass a test of Standard Written English. Evidence of a raging
stupidity epidemic is all around us.
Adding to these problems is today's frequently spewed view that boys
are dumb and shouldn't be expected to be competent communicators,
readers, speakers, etc. People who specialize in psychobabble love to
talk about this problem. Except it doesn't exist.
And this is the thing that Dr. Eliot takes by the horns.
The fact is that race, gender, and other groupings tell you
absolutely nothing about an individual. Yes, there are differences
between the sexes. But they are not what pop culture "experts" allege.
Unfortunately, public policy often gets formed based on "expert" views
that are flatly wrong.
In this book, Dr. Eliot discusses what the differences are. She looks
at which ones come from nature, which ones come from nurture, and which
ones don't even exist. Most of what she says directly contradicts the
majority view of today's influential talking heads. Let me remind you
again of the 45 pages of bibliography.
While most nonfiction books have a ten chapter format, Dr. Eliot
chose an eight chapter format. The book also has an extensive,
informative introduction. The bibliography could be considered a chapter
of recommended reading. You could count ten chapters, if an eight
chapter format bothered you. In any case, instead of adding two chapters
of fluff to meet the standard formula, she produced an overall solid
work. It's consistent, cohesive, and comprehensible.
Chapter 1 begins, not coincidentally, with life in the womb. Here,
Dr. Eliot looks at how boy and girl babies start to differentiate. She
explains how and when, and what actually happens. The book then proceeds
chronologically. Chapter 2 looks at the toddler years, Chapter 3 looks
at the preschool years, and Chapter 4 looks at the start of school. At
each stage, we see the development and the biology that goes with it. We
also see the cultural influences. Dr. Eliot provides substantial
references to studies and data, frequently debunking various myths at
Chapter 5 is an amazing look at how we learn language (verbal and
written). As would be expected, Dr. Eliot debunks myth after myth about
gender differences in this area. She does the same in the next chapter,
"Sex, Math, and Science."
No book on the differences between males and females would be
complete without some discourse on love and war. We get that in Chapter
7. The final chapter, Truce Time, draws conclusions from the rest of the
book and provides Dr. Eliot's recommendations for helping both
boys and girls excel. There isn't an inferior sex that we need to rescue
or write off, contrary to the written works of people who hold this
view. The current approach of "Success through Stereotypes" isn't based
on reality. Thus, anything that is based in reality doesn't rely on
I found Dr. Eliot's recommendations quite sensible. They are fair,
practical, and achievable. This book is a "must read" for mentors,
parents, counselors, and teachers. I'd like to say it's a "must read"
for makers of public policy, but since they rarely read a bill before
voting on it there's no point.
Replacing harmful stereotypes with actual fact is perhaps the main
thing this book accomplishes. And that's an important benefit for the
reader. Whether these stereotypes are excuses for others to hold you
back or excuses for you to hold yourself back, you can beat them if you
have the facts. Many of the theories in pulp culture are fiction, but
have made their way into the nonfiction genre. This book helps restore
the integrity of that genre, while also proving it's not necessary to
make stuff up for a book to be a pleasure to read.