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Bridget syndrome is an injustice

IT COULD be the first major political realignment of the 21st century; James Tooley, the right-wing champion of private education, agreeing (in part, at least) with libertarian feminist Germaine Greer.

Having previously lambasted the rigour of educational research and government intervention in education, Professor Tooley has now turned his fire on the "Bridget Jones syndrome".

In his latest book, The Miseducation of Women, he looks at thirty-something women who have a career but not a family life.

"The book says women are actually unhappier now than they used to be 30 years ago. My sources are varied. Greer arrives at the same conclusion in her book, The Whole Woman," said the head of the E G West Centre and professor of education policy at Newcastle University.

"My suggestion is that the Bridget Jones syndrome is about injustice to women and is in part to do with their schooling - the fact that boys and girls are compelled to do the same things and yet may be different.

"The sex discrimination Act and national curriculum outlaw differences in the way boys and girls are treated in education. They are explicitly told they have the same ambitions, and they are the same ones boys used to have - pursuing careers at the expense of all other things."

A chapter on "stubborn girls" argues that, when given the choice post-16, boys and girls revert to masculine and feminine subjects.

So should girls go back to doing needlework and the boys to metalwork?

Professor Tooley said: "The thing is freedom - we must be able to talk about these issues", but he noted that two chapters of the book tackle whether or not gender differences are socially generated.

"There may be very important differences which may be biologically determined, including that boys and girls may have different things they want to prioritise.

"The fundamental question is, if boys and girls are different, are some of those differences educationally relevant and - if not dealt with - do they lead to injustice to women?

"The model of schooling is very clearly based on what suited men in the past. It may be that women want a different career structure, and want to have babies when they are younger and start careers in their 30s."

'The Miseducation of Women,' from Continuum Publishing, London, is out on May 21. Telephone 020 7922 0913

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