Everyone in my composition class is doing the same topic for our final argument paper: Facebook and its effect on society. We did the research together, and they can only use the articles we found in class. This way I can control MLA and plagiarism (theoretically) and focus on teaching incorporation, not research methods. (That's next semester.)
For homework, they had to summarize two articles. And here's the thing. One article, written by Gregory Jones, begins like this:
"WITH ONE CHILD in college and two teenagers at home, I learned vicariously about "being friended" and "facebooking." My kids didn't want me to join Facebook, but relented when I told them that our seminary students were forming groups on Facebook and inviting me to participate. I entered a new universe."
No fewer than five students deduced from that opening that Gregory Jones is a woman. One even started out her summary with "A mother recently joined Facebook, even though her kids asked her not to." Two other students called her a "lady" and another said a "woman."
It's no surprise that my students didn't look at the author of the essay--even though an MLA citation was at the top of the page. That's extra reading! What is surprising is their certainty that the writer was a woman, simply because the essay mentioned children. The underlying assumption is obvious: A man would never discuss his kids in an essay!
I don't mean to say that my students are sexist. On the contrary, I have a great group of bright young adults this semester whom I thoroughly enjoy interacting with. But their shared mistake reveals a lot about how far we haven't come as a society: Women are parents. Men aren't.