A Train Wreck Called Title Ix

On this 30th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX, the law prohibiting sexual discrimination in education, consider this: has even more nonsense been written about Title IX than has been committed in its name?

Title IX, as adumbrated by ideology-besotted Education Department regulation writers, has produced this lunacy:

Colleges have killed more than 400 men's athletic teams in order to produce precise proportionality between men's and women's enrollments and men's and women's rates of participation in athletics. And Title IX has given rise to a huge "gender equity" industry of lawyers, sensitivity-trainers and consciousness-raisers.

The industry prefers the word "gender" to "sex" because "sex" suggests immutable differences, while "gender" suggests differences that are "socially constructed" and can be erased by sufficiently determined social engineers. The story of the policy train wreck that Title IX has become in the hands of such engineers, and of further misadventures that may be coming, is told in a timely book, "Tilting the Playing Field: Schools, Sports, Sex, and Title IX" by Jessica Gavora, a senior policy adviser at the Justice Department.

The U.S. soccer players who won the 1999 Women's World Cup were called "daughters of Title IX," and when the WNBA began playing in 1997, arenas displayed THANKS TITLE IX! banners. This propaganda pleased people who believe all progress comes from government. But throughout the 1970s, the years of the most rapid growth of participation of girls in high-school sports, which presaged the growth of women's college sports, Title IX was, Gavora says, unenforced and unenforceable because no athletics regulations had been written.

The first Title IX implementing regulations for athletics were written in 1979, and through most of the 1980s athletics were exempted from Title IX coverage. By which time, the women of the 1999 soccer triumph and of the WNBA were already excelling in their sports. By 1979, one in four high-school girls was participating. Since then, the Title IX "revolution" has made the number one in three. Clearly, autonomous cultural change, not Congress, produced the increase in female participation, which carried over into college athletics, where the real Title IX revolution has been perverse.

Gavora says the "ever-mutating" Title IX has been construed on the basis of a non sequitur: if there is unequal participation when there is discrimination, there must be discrimination when there is unequal participation. Title IX fanatics start from the dogma--they ignore all that pesky evidence about different male and female patterns of cognitive abilities, and brain structure and function--that men and women are identical in abilities and inclinations.

Confronted with evidence of what Gavora calls "the sportsmania gap"--men care more about playing sports--the fanatics say: This is the result of historical conditioning, which colleges must combat. Colleges must not just satisfy women's demands for sports, they must create demands. Until it is created, statistical proportionality often can be achieved only by cutting men's teams. Leo Kocher, University of Chicago wrestling coach, explains the Alice in Wonderland logic:

"Say there's a school that has equal numbers of boys and girls and it decides to offer 200 athletic opportunities. If they have 100 girls who want to play sports and they have 1,000 boys who want to play sports, the law says you must give 100 opportunities to those 100 girls and you must give 100 opportunities to those 1,000 boys. In the end, 100 percent of the girls are fully accommodated but only 10 percent of the boys are taken care of."

Between 1992 and 1997, 3.4 men's positions on college teams were cut for every woman's spot created. UCLA's swimming and diving team, which has produced winners of 22 Olympic medals? Gone. University of Miami's? Going. As are hundreds of men's gymnastics, wrestling, baseball, track and other teams.

Under what Gavora calls Title IX's "affirmative androgyny," it is illegal to accept the fact that men and women have different interests, abilities and zeal regarding competition, or that young men have distinctive needs for hierarchy and organized team activities. As Gavora says, Title IX feminists seem to think "young girls aren't worthy of respect and admiration unless and until they act like young boys." And until women have their consciousnesses "raised" by social engineering, they need not be thought of as individuals, but merely as malleable raw material.

And now some Title IX imperialists want to extend it from locker rooms to classrooms: If participation in sports must mirror the sexual composition of the student body, why not participation in the engineering department? And why not in extracurricular activities other than sports--debating, orchestra, choir, cheerleading?

Title IX has become, Gavora says, the "codification of feminism," and "the story of this law is in many ways the story of the women's movement." A depressing story.