Sick of Title IX “Myths”? Just call them “Facts”

The National Coalition for Women & Girls in Education recently issued a report evaluating how Title IX has influenced girls’ achievements in education and athletics.

Instead of presenting a factual assessment of the harmful side effects from Title IX enforcement methods, the report is chock full of opinion, agenda and rhetoric (though the Washington Post thinks otherwise). That’s no surprise given the authors and their affiliations: Lisa Maatz, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations at the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). These groups are anything but helpful when it comes to ramping up genuine Title IX reform efforts to end the elimination of men’s sports and prevent harmful roster management manipulation on both men and women’s teams.

The AAUW and NWLC lobby the federal government (or as the AAUW did, host the Secretary of the Department of Education at its office for a supposedly serious discussion of Title IX issues) and create legal nightmares for high schools (as the NWLC did in 2010, filing complaints in 12 school districts nationwide). Much of what they advocate for stems from their desire to expand proportionality, the Department of Education (DOE) rule that has led schools to cut down the number of men’s teams until the number of male and female athletes is close to the number of male and female students.

Now that we’ve covered their intentions, we can debunk the section, “Title IX and Athletics: Proven Benefits, Unfounded Objections.” One of the “unfounded objections” is that reform hopefuls and those negatively impacted by the law’s enforcement say that it has “resulted in reduced opportunities for boys and men to play sports.” Similarly, they write, “Attacks on Title IX often spring from misconceptions about how the law works.”

It is confusing that they cannot imagine why reformers cite men’s cuts and related harms as fuel for their efforts. James Madison University, Millersville University, University of Delaware, Liberty University, and hundreds more schools have cut men’s teams because of Title IX concerns. At the University of Maryland, boys’ teams will not be saved unless girls’ teams fundraise enough money to say afloat by July. That’s proportionality and gender politics, not another phenomenon. The AAUW and NWLC don’t have to accept the truth, but if they’re going to publish manuals to influence public policy, they have an obligation to accurately report what’s going on.

The section, “Benefits of Sports for Women and Girls” rattles off the various upsides to physical activities, including improved overall health and an alternative to “risky behaviors.” Those are all valid points, and as an organization made up of present and former athletes, the American Sports Council likes to see kids staying out of trouble. But one has to wonder why activists often exclude boys and men from the list of people benefiting from physical activities. Participation in athletics is advantageous for boys and girls alike, so why are groups like the NWLC, AAUW and the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) supporting policies that will deny boys the chance to keep busy and remain healthy?

In, “The Blame Game: Title IX Myths and Facts,” the first myth is that “Title IX requires quotas.” No, but a defacto gender quota system certainly has evolved from the use of proportionality. The second myth, “Title IX forces schools to cut sports for boys and men.” Unlike what the authors claim — the “three-part test is lenient and flexible” — schools have been threatened by so many costly lawsuits that they just resort to hard numerical analysis (proportionality) to assess compliance. Because schools are allowed to cut opportunities per the DOE’s 1996 clarification — “An institution can choose to eliminate or cap teams as a way of complying with part one of the three-part test” — that’s exactly what they have done.

Official position statements from the AAUW and NWLC  make it clear that they do not support the use of student interest surveys, essentially nixing part three of the test: Assessing student interest. And forget part two: Demonstration that the school has expanded athletic programs offered to girls. Until the numbers are equal, activists will reject claims that girls are satisfied, even when countless schools like Auburn University, Boston University, Swarthmore College and Pace University, among many others, offer more girls’ teams than boys’ teams.

Like the other myths, number three, “Men’s sports are declining because of Title IX,” is incorrect. The authors suggest that men’s teams have been added and dropped to “reflect trends in men’s sports: wrestling and gymnastics teams were often dropped, while soccer, baseball, and lacrosse teams were added.” Well, the only trend that happened there is proportionality quickly reduced the number of male athletes to boost the number of female athletes. Wrestling and men’s gymnastics were so popular to cut that they have all but disappeared  at the college level. And that’s not because wrestlers and gymnasts suddenly decided to change their athletic paths, as this report insinuates, but because administrators utilized a Title IX regulation that unfortunately causes perverse outcomes that limit opportunities for one sex.

Maatz and Goss Graves believe their opponents think, “women and girls are inherently less interested in sports than are men and boys, and that providing females with equal opportunities therefore discriminates against males.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Reformers want Title IX regulations to end sex discrimination in athletics caused by proportionality. People who want to improve the implementation of Title IX want boys and girls to have equal opportunities to play sports and pursue their hobbies. They hope that schools will use surveys to assess the interests’ of their students, but given the Obama administration’s repeal of the 2005 clarification encouraging this practice, that’s a long way off. They also recognize that dictating equal outcomes is not what Title IX intended, nor is it what we should aiming for if we want to end gender discrimination in athletics.

The report then misstates the rationale behind the American Sports Council’s lawsuit (filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation) against the Department of Education. The court threw out our case because we did not have standing; it didn’t weigh the merits of our arguments. As the PLF  explains, “There is absolutely no evidence that the Three-Part Test was ever intended to be applied to high schools. The Three-Part Test’s enabling statute clearly does not authorize its application to high schools.  And, most importantly, Congress assembled no evidence regarding pervasive discrimination in America’s high schools that can constitutionally justify treating people differently on the basis of sex.”

If groups like the AAUW, NLWC, WSF and dozens more could accept that the their so-called “myths” are actually 100 percent true (and admit it publicly), they could remove many of the barriers standing in the way of reform.





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