Nan Austin

On Campus: Will Common Core help girls get the good-paying jobs?

The 1952 Nugget was the first yearbook of Mark Twain School in Modesto.
The 1952 Nugget was the first yearbook of Mark Twain School in Modesto.

Count the American Association of University Women as a fan of Common Core, arguing it will give girls a better shot at higher-paying jobs. While women have a long way to go in the job market, an old yearbook gives a glimpse at how far we have come.

A study released Tuesday by the AAUW and the Center for American Progress concludes the new standards will raise the number of women entering better-paying science, technology, engineering and math fields.

“Bias and stereotypes prevent girls from performing well in STEM, pursuing STEM majors, and ultimately working in high-paying STEM fields,” said Lisa Maatz, AAUW vice president of government relations.

“Our research has found that one way to mitigate stereotypes’ damaging effects is through explicit and transparent standards, such as the Common Core. The Common Core ensures that all students are being taught the standards they need to succeed,” Maatz said.

The report, titled “For Women and Girls, the Common Core Is a Step Toward Greater Equity,” points out gains by girls in New York, where Common Core has been taught for several years.

It also lays out the pink vs. blue case for change. For example, boys taking science Advanced Placement tests in 2013 outnumbered girls 2-to-1 in Physics B, 3-to-1 in computer science. The report notes women make up 88 percent of graduates in health care fields, 81 percent of graduates in education, but only 18 percent of engineering and tech field graduates.

The result: College-educated women made, on average, 82 percent of what their male peers did one year after graduation. “Even after controlling for factors such as college major, occupation and average hours worked, the wage gap still exists,” the study says.

That wage gap has existed since before Rosie the Riveter showed off her bicep in the classic World War II-era poster. Even today, equal pay legislation has little traction in Congress.

But I got a sense of how far girls have come browsing a copy of the 1952 Nugget – the first yearbook of Mark Twain School in Modesto.

Here’s what a quick look reveals: The new school’s first student government officers – president, vice president and treasurer – were boys. The secretary was a girl.

Jokes scattered through the typed pages included: “Wife to Husband: ‘I scratched the front fender a little – if you want to look at it, it’s in the back seat.’” Another one goes: “What is the difference between an eighth-grade girl and a preacher? A preacher says ‘Amen’ and an eighth-grade girl says ‘Ah-Men!’”

Under Home Economics, the yearbook notes, “Seventh- and eighth-grade girls are given special training in cooking, sewing, good grooming, home responsibilities and child training.” Boys took Industrial Arts, which taught “an understanding of tools and materials, with an opportunity to recognize work of quality.”

More than 62 years later, that sense that girls should be tending, guys should be making still shows in those college major choices.

Most telling of all in the 1952 record are the career aspirations of the junior high students. Boys planned to be doctors, ranchers, jet pilots, baseball players, ship captains, military commanders and spaceship captains.

Girls had very different careers in mind. A few wanted to be horse trainers, nurses, math teachers or in the women’s branches of the military. Others dreamed of being a chorus girl, actress, stenographer or secretary. Then there were those hoping to be housewives, “beautiful housewife,” “happy housewife” and “mother of four.”

But Velda Youngblood and Fay Brown wanted to be newspaper reporters. I hope they kept at it, and I hope they were paid well.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.