A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Knowing your limits

 Diane Ravitch has just published a controversial book on the state of education in this country. As revealed in this blog on Huffington Post, she is unhappy about some of the criticisms and has referred her critics to a very funny video about how women should keep their proper place in polite society. 

About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All


Great video. On the other hand, here's a study of texts on Facebook, written by females or by males:  and here's the corresponding word cloud: (notice the puppies, but I didn't see any kittens.)

Just a few days ago I was at a meeting (not at work) where I was the only woman, and the men were talking about dealing with problem behaviors, and how it is necessary to be assertive and forceful, with examples in which they reacted to verbal aggression by answering rather rudely. They glanced at me and I said meekly: "I'm listening! Very interesting! I'm learning a lot!" - sometimes I remember to keep my proper place.

A friend told me that the only way in which she got anywhere dating was by hiding the fact that she had a PhD, else her date would be scared and run away from a woman who might not know to keep her proper place.

I am occasionally rude at work when men try to push me around and I have a brief flare of temper, but it seems to earn me some respect, as though I thereby deserved to be treated like "one of the guys"; I guess they're relieved to realize that they don't have to put gloves on around me, and that if they insult me I just might insult them right back. I'm not sure it's ideal, but it sort of works. In a way I suppose that it does make my life easier to not need to watch my temper, at least not among my peers.

My daughter, on the other hand, had a little trouble finding work (also in a male-dominated field), and some feedback she received after some interviews was that people were worried that her demeqnour was too aggressive and might not be a good team-player. I suspect hidden sexism, and I suggested to her that she consider faking meekness.


What a cheap shot by Ravitch against her critics, none of whose (often devastating) arguments even hint at sexism. For example, check out what Sol Stern wrote:  Ravitch obviously can't respond to much of what he says, so she just whines about (non-existent) sexism instead. 

Someone should send the YouTube link to Pope Francis and the G8 - a video explanation of the (institutional) church's definition of "complementarity".

We've come a long way, baby (but still have a way to go).

Here, in the "On the other hand" department. (I won't send it to Diane Ravitch.)

Interesting article from Der Spiegel.

There was a review in this morning's NYT of Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, by Wendy Lower.

And there was an editorial about how a female midshipman was interrogated after accusing three male midshipmen (football players) of rape.


I thought of sending the video to the pope too  :)

I look forward to the day when women will be treated like people, neither better nor worse than men.  As Michael Kimmel (, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook, said in a lecture  ... what we know in behavioral and social science is that on every available, every measurable trait, attitude, behavior, women and men are far more similar than they are different.

This National Journal profile of Janet Yellen, President Obama's nominee to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairperson of the Federal Reserve, portrays her as one of a group of women who have needed to be be tough to reform the chauvinistic world of Wall Street.



By coincidence, today's news in France is about a debate at the Parliament last night, during which a female representative, who was making a speech about  funding pensions, was interrupted by the cackling noise of a male representative, and complained: "Stop it; I am not a hen".


Being aggressive about one's opinions is actually unattractive in both sexes, I think. How many times do we run into the conservational bore, the blow hard, the arrogant prig, the ideologue, the demagogue, or the vain, puffed up egotist of either sex, and sigh inwardly, saying to ourselves "Oh, when will he/she shut up!" If we've been brought up to be polite, we don't say so to the person's face of course. But that's what we're thinking as we go to get another drink or visit the dessert table or join another conversation cluster. It's a mistake to think that male practitioners of verbal aggression are always greeted with rapture and admiration. "What an asshole!" can be read in many a thought-balloon -- male and female -- as some of these guys perform.

Poor Diane Ravitch. She's evidently surrounded by men who think they are ALWAYS entitled to say what they think, but she's not. My view is not that she should revenge herself by bludgeoning her interlocutors, but that THEY should learn the value of reticence and genunine conversation over bullying and a take-no-prisoners style. 

Yes, women do need to stand up to bullies, especially in the workplace. Women need to say what they think. They need to believe that they have something to say when, in fact, they do. But it doesn't mean they should take a page out of the book of people who are behaving as if the world revolves around their every utterance. That would be a foolish thing to do, and would make their world smaller in the end.


"My view is not that she should revenge herself by bludgeoning her interlocutors, but that THEY should learn the value of reticence and genunine conversation over bullying and a take-no-prisoners style."

True, but not helpful for her, because it's a resolution that depends on their choices more than on hers, so, by putting them in charge of resolving the issue, in a way it keeps her in the position of someone still apt to being victimized. A good solution should be one that would work for her independently of what those would-be bullies choose to say. For example, she could ignore them. 

Thanks, Claire for raising the question of what should she do. She has already done something by poking fun at them through the linked video. A good way to disarm aggression is through humor. Ignoring may be an option. Confrontation may be an option. Self-assertion doesn't have to be aggressive, but it's confrontational when the situation calls for it.

I think I know my limits and I would not  promote the Manhattan Institiute's house organ, City Journal and one of its cheerleaders, Sol Stein, as a defense of what's wrong with Diane Ravitch. Stein's article examplifies what Ravitch is poking fun at. His "arguments" hold no water as he provides a brief historical timeline of Ravitch's turn from being the darling of the neo conservatives to the thinker she is today.  Of course I wonder if Wasting Time has read Reign of Error.

Poor Diane Ravitch. She's evidently surrounded by men who think they are ALWAYS entitled to say what they think, but she's not.

This is completely unsupported. Ravitch has her critics, but neither she nor you can point to any examples of the attitude that you decry here, nor can you point to any criticisms that wouldn't be made just as vigorously about a man who was engaged in such strident ideological activism in education. 

Crying "sexism" here is just a blatant attempt to change the subject on Ravitch's part, because she has no substantive answer to substantive criticisms.

To clarify:   I didn't start this thread because I agree with Diane Ravitch's argument in her book, which I haven't read, or with her complaint about sexism among her critics. I was simply indicating the source where I found the hilarious video. So you needn't waste time decrying this thread.

I haven't decried this thread or anything you said.

Reading the City Journal piece was sure a waste of time. Talk about whining.

Long ago, my mother, a college educated woman who managed an office for a John's Hopkins trained internist, helped her huband raise four children and made a bunch of life-long friends was sitting on the beach with my sister.  A young man, in her eyes an exemplary example of God's best efforts, walked by.  My sister noticed my mother's eyes following the young man.  My sister, undertandably asked "Mom!  What are you doing?" My mother calmly replied "Honey, I'm married not blind."

We are the same shmucks.  IMHO, anyone convinced a single chromosone produces irreconcilable differences in men and women knows little about chromosones and even less about the human beings who carry them about.


Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment