Shattering of a Sex Myth; Young Female Chimps Are Brighter Than Males, We Learnt This Week. Whatever the Feminists Say, the Fact Is the Sexes Are NOT Equal. the Sooner We Change Our Schooling to Reflect This the Better for Us All .

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Byline: DESMOND MORRIS

THE more we learn about chimpanzees the more like us they seem to become. We now know that they occasionally hunt and kill, something that our ancient ancestors developed into a whole way of life.

And we have discovered that, again like us, they make and use tools.

Now, according to a report published in the scientific journal Nature this week, it seems that young chimps also show an uncanny similarity to human children when learning from adults.

For example, if an adult chimp demonstrates how termites can be extracted from a termite hill using a twig, young females are far more diligent in learning this special skill. The young males soon become impatient and disappear to indulge in chasing games and roughhouse play.

Teachers of human children report much the same gender difference, with young females more inclined to stick at their classroom studies, while young males more easily become restless.

It looks as though this human difference is an ancient biological feature, and yet for years, in educational circles, it has been thought that boys and girls should be taught in the same way. Could this have been a mistake?

There is an old saying that 'boys will be boys' but it is equally true to say that 'girls will be girls'.

The fact is that evolution has ensured that men and women have a slightly different outlook on life, and this difference starts very early on. It can even be seen in the nursery school - and it is not due to the way we treat our offspring, but to what is in their genes.

This idea, that there is an inborn masculinity in boys and an inborn femininity in girls is something that has come under a great deal of attack in recent years.

It has been argued that if you treat little boys and little girls in exactly the same way as they grow up their responses will be similar, and that masculine behaviour and feminine behaviour will become a thing of the past - a relic of oldfashioned sexist thinking.

Unfortunately, human evolution has been working against this genderless ideal for more than a million years and has ensured that significant differences in male and female thinking do exist, deep inside our brains.

This evolutionary trend had nothing to do with one sex dominating the other.

Throughout our ancient tribal past, back in prehistoric times, men and women were of equal importance.

There was a vital division of labour, with men specialising in hunting prey, and women in food-gathering and caring for the young.

EACH sex needed the other if the group was to survive. The males became the hunting specialists because they were more expendable than the females.

The females were too precious as 'reproductive units' to be exposed to the high-risk activities involved in chasing and killing large animals.

If a few of the males were killed on the hunt, the reproductive rate of the small tribe need not be affected, but if a few females were killed, that was a serious matter at a time when human populations were so small.

This primeval division of labour led to several key differences in human males and females. The males became more muscular. On average, they were 30 per cent stronger, 10 per cent heavier and seven per cent taller than the typical females.

They were nearly twice as muscular as the females and had better visual acuity. They also had a more highly developed urge to take risks and to engage in prolonged, single-minded activities.

The primeval females, although less muscular, had twice as much fatty tissue as the males (fat that would protect them better against starvation).

They were much more cautious in their actions, more fluent in their verbal communications, more caring and nurturing, and better at dealing with several problems at once.

They were also more diseaseresistant and had better colour vision. …