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Published in Print: November 1, 1999, as What Girls Want

What Girls Want

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What Girls Want

When the American Association of University Women asked teenage girls what they would change about school, the girls took the question seriously. No one suggested that schools pipe Ricky Martin over the public address system or institute school uniforms designed by Tommy Hilfiger. Instead, says the AAUW, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., "the human and social dimensions of school weigh heavily on girls' minds." Following is an abbreviated wish list-as collected by the AAUW in its report Voices of a Generation--of what girls want from school, and from their teachers.

"Schools need to stop telling us that we should just be good and not think about what we believe good is. I think they try to get us to all act alike so that they can deal with us all in the same way. When we stop using our own judgment, these problems [body image, sexual activity] start to come into play."

--14-year-old from Montana

"I wish that the school could be more understanding. The teachers are out to break our spirit. A lot of times, things are made as hard as possible to 'prepare you for the real world.' The preparation we need is the support to get emotional stability so we can function in the 'real world.'"

--age 15; Delaware

"I wish that teachers didn't put you down to the point that you can't concentrate on getting your grades up before you make the choice of dropping out."

--age not given; Washington, D.C.

"I wish teachers would be more open to those students who do bad in school. Some of them get so much pressure, and they want to fit in a group so much that they do stupid things. If a teacher befriends one of their [sic] students, the student might be able to know that someone cares and take their [sic] lives more seriously. When people think no one cares, they do things that they wouldn't do otherwise."

-age 14; Wisconsin

"We should be able to pick our favorite teacher that understands me better. Have a group in school and all of us get together after school and do our homework and talk about home and health problems."

--age 14; Delaware

Vol. 11, Issue 3, Page 51

:: Web Resources

  • Read more about the AAUW report, Voices of a Generation: Teenage Girls on Sex, School, and Self (1999).
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