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Girls in Sports: Celebrating 35 Years of Title IX

Karen Zittleman, an adjunct professor and researcher at American University in Washington, DC, found that, though educators and students know of Title IX, many don't understand it. This ignorance of the law has persisted despite that fact that "Title IX mandates that schools appoint a Title IX compliance coordinator" whose job it is to inform teachers and students of their rights under Title IX.

Much of the confusion over Title IX comes from the negative publicity it has received from advocates of men's sports who see it as a threat.

Former college wrestler Chris Serjak, age 34, points out, "The collegiate wrestling community has largely been an unintended victim of Title IX. Along with other non-revenue producing men's sports like water polo, wrestling programs have been cut throughout the country as colleges have attempted to 'balance' their programs by cutting men's -- rather than adding women's -- sports."

But Title IX advocates suggest that pitting men's sports against women's sports is a false argument. Rather than blaming the law or blaming women for causing the cuts in some men's sports, one needs to look at who makes the budgetary decisions at the local or university level.

Or as Diane Regan of the AAUW puts it, "If there is one pie, then it needs to be fairly divided. The worst thing would be for the male athletes to blame the female athletes over how the pie is divided when that decision is being made by the baker."

Indeed, Title IX was never meant to create a zero-sum game for athletes. Its tenets are firmly grounded in the notion of equality and fairness for women and men. And the Title IX's effects go far beyond sports.

One could even make the case that we would never have female astronauts or a woman running for president of the United States without Title IX.

Part Two in this series will examine Title IX in action today, and what work remains to be done in the future.


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An educator for nearly 20 years, Emily Arms' latest publication is "Gender Equity in Coeducational and Single-Sex Classrooms" in S. Klein (Ed.) "Handbook for Achieving Gender Equity through Education," published in Spring 2007 by Lawrence Erlbaum. She can be reached at www.emilyarms.com.
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