cover image Schoolgirls


Peggy Orenstein. Doubleday Books, $23.5 (335pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42575-9

The American Association of University Women's 1990 study, Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America, created a great deal of controversy with its contention that American girls, especially in contrast to boys, experience a dramatic loss of self-confidence as they enter their teens. The American education system, according to the report, ``shortchanges'' girls both by paying them less attention and taking them less seriously than boys; as a result, many come to doubt their abilities and scale back their ambitions. Freelance journalist Orenstein, under the aegis of the AAUW, spent a year in the classrooms of two California middle schools and concluded, through a series of interviews with eighth-grade girls, that the original findings are true. Often engrossing and at times profoundly depressing, her portraits of these girls and their relationships with their families, teachers and peers explain why most of the girls have come to see ``their gender as a liability.'' First serial to the New York Times Magazine. (Sept.)