Yes, it was men who identified and classified mathematics as an academic discipline. I wonder if women, if they had the choice, would have classified at all. Classification suggests a hierarchy, and women may not have created hierarchies. Hierarchies impose a power structure, and a power structure implies competition for control.
Morris Kline acknowledges that mathematics "has brought life to the dry bones of disconnected facts and, acting as connective tissue, has bound series of detached observations into bodies of science" (2). But mathematics has also allowed us to dismiss those natural phenomena that cannot be organized - those disconnected facts and detached observations that do not fit into bodies of science. Our methods of labeling and/or classifying both elucidate and limit our knowledge of the subject in question.
If women had classified mathematics, or if women do classify mathematics, it will yield a greater understanding of the subject. A new classification system allows people to look at something from a different perspective. Take a mathematical example. Classifying triangles as equilateral or equiangular, isosceles or scalene, forces one to measure sides and angles. Comparing triangles by their symmetries focuses on properties other than sides and angles and clarifies where the figures are the same instead of different. Dr. Roberta Hamilton, a sociologist and lecturer in Women's Studies at Queen's University, has said about women: "In changing the world, we are changing what there is to know. Our way of apprehending the world is different because we ask different questions of it. It has to do with how we define what is women's work and how we value it." Seeing things from different perspectives gives a more complete understanding of the whole.
The parameters of the question define the parameters of the answer. Men have valued analysis at the expense of intuition, content at the expense of process, and objectivity at the expense of subjectivity. (Adrienne Rich says that objectivity is merely male subjectivity). Men thrive on dualities; women tend to be more comfortable with continua. Yet the male view of the world has generally been accepted by both sexes as the only view. Women are beginning to identify our own view, but it must be remembered that we cannot forge new meanings overnight.
Women's own view is beginning to be identified in methodologies of teaching. Feminists consider that the methods of education (the process) are as important as the content. Evaluating students through testing, assigning marks, and ranking, is a patriarchal approach. In feminist teaching, marks are generally not determined by one do-or-die exam. Marks for work during the term have become increasingly important. But let's not even assume that marks are necessary. We could use grades or even assign complete/incomplete status. Why do we even labour under the assumption that evaluation is essential to education? It is not essential to learning. In fact, it may even be detrimental.
Douglas Barnes in From Communication to the Curriculum says that there are different types of language. The language of control and authority, the patriarchal approach, is not the language of learning. Teacher-led learning does not promote student learning. Learning is asking questions and listening to the ideas of others. Learning is an active process where the learner remains open to ideas, is self-processing and initiates the exploration. The dualistic, right/wrong way of approaching a subject leaves many elements out of consideration.
For example, Carol Gilligan recognized that Kohlberg, a psychologist, constructed moral dilemmas as a conflict between life and property (3). For example, should the penniless man steal a drug he cannot afford in order to save his wife's life? Women frequently found his questions difficult to answer because they wanted to put them in context. The dualistic response to the dilemma is either yes or no, but putting the question in context means bringing in the pharmacist to ask if she would provide the drug free of charge.