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Fifty Years of Title IX (#1195)

Topics/tags: Academia

I believe today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Education Amendments of 1972. Congress intended them

To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Vocational Education Act of 1963, the General Education Provisions Act (creating a National Foundation for Postsecondary [1] Education and a National Institute of Education), the Primary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Public Law 874, Eighty-first Congress, and related Acts, and for other purposes. [2]

That act did many things, including increasing (continuing?) funding for developing institutions and for students. Other things, too. Buried deep within it (p. 353, in the copy I have; more generally, in TITLE V—MISCELLANEOUS, immediately before TITLE VI—INVESTIGATION OF YOUTH CAMP SAFETY), we find the following interesting statement.


SEC. 510. It is the sense of the Congress that the governing boards of institutions of higher education should give consideration to student participation on such boards. [4]

How’s that for weasel words? [6]

Speaking of weasels, I see many things in a statement by President Nixon at the time of the signing, including a newly established National Institute of Education [7]. But Nixon spends most of the statement discussing busing [8]. That is, he panders to [fill in your choice of group] by suggesting that the bill reduces/eliminates forced busing. Here’s how it begins.



SEC. 801. No provision of this Act shall be construed to require the assignment or transportation of students or teachers in order to overcome racial imbalance.


SEC. 802(a). No funds appropriated for the purpose of carrying out any applicable program may be used for the transportation of students or teachers (or for the purchase of equipment for such transportation) in order to overcome racial imbalance in any school or school system, or for the transportation of students or teachers (or for the purchase of equipment for such transportation) in order to carry out a plan of racial desegregation of any school or school system, except on the express written voluntary request of appropriate local school officials. [9]

If it makes you feel any better, Title VII of the legislation does try to address these issues.



SEC. 701. This title may be cited as the Emergency School Aid Act.


SEC. 702. (a) The Congress finds that the process of eliminating or preventing minority group isolation and improving the quality of education for all children often involves the expenditure of additional funds to which local educational agencies do not have access.

  1. The purpose of this title is to provide financial assistance—
  1. to meet the special needs incident to the elimination of minority group segregation and discrimination among students and faculty in elementary and secondary schools;
  1. to encourage the voluntary elimination, reduction, or prevention of minority group isolation in elementary and secondary schools with substantial proportions of minority group students; and
  1. to aid school children in overcoming the educational disadvantages of minority group isolation. [12]

Given the current extereme educational disparities in the US, it certainly doesn’t make me feel any better. But, hey, they tried.

Where was I? Oh, that’s right. Discussing Nixon’s discussion of the act. Although Nixon focuses primarily on busing, he also mentions many other aspects of the act. But he doesn’t mention something that has become one of the most important outcomes of the act [14], Title IX.

Let’s see how it begins.



SEC. 901. (a) No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, except that: [15]

And then there are the carve outs you might expect. It doesn’t apply to religious institutions if it conflicts with their beliefs. It doesn’t apply to military institutions. It doesn’t apply to single-sex institutions. Schools have time to implement it. It doesn’t apply to admissions at private colleges [16].

So, what was Title IX supposed to do?

According to an interview in The Seattle Times

[I]t was originally passed to make sure that women weren’t continuing to face quotas on their admission to law schools, medical schools, graduate programs to get into the highest-paying professions. [17]

I wonder if the carve out for private undergraduate institutions relates to that intent.

In any case, it appears to have been successful on that front. According to a great article in The Washington Post,

In 1970, before Title IX, women earned just 10 percent of all doctorates. Now they earn 54 percent. [19]

For the first forty-or-so years of Title IX, people primarily used Title IX to mean something different: That women should have equal opportunity to participate in athletic activities.

As someone who grew up with Title IX in effect, it seems strange to me to think that there was a time when women were actively discouraged from participating in sports. I think one of the articles I’ve read about Title IX suggests that one of the first women to compete in [20] the Boston Marathon was dragged off the course by a race official.

The aforementioned Washington Post article by Sally Jenkins suggests that participation has had important direct and indirect impacts on American women’s confidence, leadership skills, and more.

As a faculty member, I must say that I’ve been thrilled to work with Grinnell’s many female athletes [21] and to have the opportunity to watch them and their peers compete on the playing fields. Some of my favorite students have been student athletes [22,23]. I appreciate the drive, organization and time management skills, and sense of community I see in many of those students [24].

And as a person, I find myself enjoying the performance of other women athletes, whether it be Katie Ladecky’s swimming or the joy of watching women’s basketball and soccer.

But I find myself wondering so many things …

Why didn’t they name the damn act? They named the much less exciting Title VII the Emergency School Aid Act. They could have named this the Gender Equity in Education Act or the Prohibition of Sex Discrimination in Education Act or something else useful.

What’s with Section 904? Section 904 reads as follows.


SEC. 904. No person in the United States shall, on the ground of blindness or severely impaired vision, be denied admission in any course of study by a recipient of Federal financial assistance for any education program or activity, but nothing herein shall be construed to require any such institution to provide any special services to such person because of his blindness or visual impairment.

It’s an important non-discrimination clause. But what does it have to do with sex discrimination? And what’s with the crap about not requiring any special services? I suppose that’s why we eventually got the American with Disabilities Act. Also: Who added that clause?

Why did NPR’s On Point episode on Title IX seem to get the basic facts wrong?

Here’s some background they provide early in the episode.

KIMBERLY ATKINS STOHR: On this day, 50 years ago, June 23, 1972, an amendment was signed into law that held a promise to change women’s lives forever.

BIRCH BAYH [Tape]: Our goal was to see that our daughters would have the same opportunities as our sons.

ATKINS STOHR: That’s then-senator Birch Bayh from Indiana, described as the father of Title IX, an amendment tacked onto the 1964 Civil Rights Act, banning gender discrimination at all schools receiving federal funds.

It was just one sentence, a mere 37 words, but it gave thousands of women in the U.S. more opportunities, from the classroom to the playing fields. [25]

I’m pretty sure that Title IX was an amendment tacked onto the Education Amendments of 1972. If we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary, it should be an act from 1972, not 1964. How do they get the wrong? Or am I getting it wrong? I’m so confused.

Is it really a mere 37 words? Nothing Congress writes is a mere 37 words. Perhaps they mean the introduction. Let’s count.

No1 person2 in3 the4 United5 States6 shall7, on8 the9 basis10 of11 sex,12 be13 excluded14 from15 participation16 in17, be18 denied19 the20 benefits21 of22, or23 be24 subjected25 to26 discrimination27 under28 any29 education30 program31 or32 activity33 receiving34 Federal35 financial36 assistance37

Yup. 37 words. But I still think it’s from 1972 rather than 1964.

Why did they write it in the passive voice? My first response was Of course it’s passive; it’s Congress. I suppose it could have been Birch Bayh was from the Midwest, of course it’s passive. But I tried to rewrite it and it seems like in a more active voice, it’s potentially ambiguous whether on the basis of sex applies to only subject to discrimination or also exclude from participation and deny benefits. It’s also not clear who does the denying of benefits.

Maybe I need more practice rewriting text.

Why did I spend so much time going off tangent in this musing? I have no earthly idea. Maybe it’s just that I enjoy looking into odd details.

In any case, Let’s celebrate! Title IX wasn’t perfect, but it’s made a huge positive difference. I hope it continues to do so for the next fifty [27]

Postscript: No, I am not going to discuss the additional meanings of Title IX introduced under the Obama administration. That’s a thorny and complex subject.

[1] Fascinatingly, the OCR’d version says p:iementary instead of Primary.

[2] U.S. Public Law 92-318. 1972. 86 Stat. 327 [3]. Available online at

[3] I have no idea what 86 Stat. 327 means. But it feels like I should include it. Someday I may learn more about referencing acts of Congress.

[4] See endnote 2 [5].

[5] I don’t have a direct link to endnote 2 because, well, it confuses the system that is supposed to make links to and from endnotes when there are two links to the same endnote.

[6] There are also so many ways to improve this. should give consideration to can be should consider. It is the sense of Congress could be Congress believes or Congress suggests. Perhaps it should have been Congress requires.

[7] You can read the history of the NIE on its short Wikipedia page.

[8] There’s no explicit discussion of bussing.

[9] See endnote 2 [6].

[10] See endnote 5 [11].

[11] I don’t have a direct link to endnote 5 because, well, it confuses the system that is supposed to make links to and from endnotes when there are two links to the same endnote.

[12] See endnote 2.

[14] Can I call it an act? Should I write the law? The legislation? The amendments? The opening line suggests that it’s an act. But it has sub-acts, such as Title IV, the Indian Agent Act.

[15] See endnote 2.

[16] Yeah, that’s a carve-out I hadn’t known about until I looked at the act.

[17] Lopiano, Donna, quoted in [18].

[18] Shefte, Kate. 23 June 2022. Yes, no and it’s complicated: Title IX experts dispel misconceptions. The Seattle Times. Available online at

[19] Jenkins, Sally. 22 June 2022. Title IX’s greatest achievement wasn’t equality. It was possibility. The Washington Post. Available online at

[20] Participate in?

[21] Male athletes, too.

[22] Do I need to distinguish the students who are athletes because they are on an athletic team (a varsity athletic team) and those who are athletes because they are athletic in other ways? I think not.

[23] Others of my favorite students do not identify as athletes.

[24] Other students also exhibit those characteristics. And some student athletes do not.

[25] Sutherland, Paige, Atkins Stohr, Kimberly, and Skogg, Tim. 23 June 2022. Title IX, 50 years later: Why female athletes are still fighting for equality. On Point. Recording and transcript available at

[26] I think you can guess the source by now.

[27] Or, better yet, that it doesn’t need to.

Version 1.0 released 2022-06-23.

Version 1.0.1 of 2022-06-24.