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Sex and gender essentialism in textbooks

Essentialism is the lay assumption that categories of living things have underlying, unobservable “essences”.

Brian Donovan et al

February 22, 2024

Viewpoint Detected:


Fallacies Detected:

Straw Man, Slippery Slope, False Dilemma, Biased Language, Red Herring, Appeal to Emotion

credAIble Evaluation:

The article critically examines the portrayal of sex and gender in high school biology textbooks, arguing that these materials promote an essentialist view inconsistent with current scientific understanding. It employs a straw man fallacy by suggesting that textbooks uniformly present sex and gender without acknowledging biological complexity or the continuum of human diversity. The argument follows a slippery slope, predicting that such representations in educational materials inevitably contribute to stereotyping and discrimination, without considering that textbooks might also include nuanced discussions or that teachers could provide additional context. The presentation of the issue as a false dilemma implies that textbooks either adhere strictly to outdated essentialist views or fully embrace contemporary scientific perspectives, ignoring the possibility of materials evolving over time to incorporate new findings. Biased language is evident in the description of textbook content as "departing from scientific reality," suggesting a monolithic failure to convey the complexity of sex and gender without acknowledging variations in educational approaches. Red herrings distract from the core discussion by introducing broader social and political implications of essentialist views without directly linking these to the specific content of biology textbooks. An appeal to emotion is present in the portrayal of the consequences of essentialism, such as discrimination and the undermining of gender equality, aiming to provoke a sense of urgency for educational reform. The narrative's intensity is amplified by these logical fallacies and rhetorical strategies, creating a strongly biased assessment of the portrayal of sex and gender in educational materials. The focus on the shortcomings of textbooks in discussing sex and gender diversity reduces the complexity of educational content development and the diversity of pedagogical approaches to a simplistic critique, detracting from a more nuanced discussion of how best to update and improve biology education to reflect current scientific consensus.

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