The crisis about boys and schools

April 10, 2007 | By | 4 Replies More

A recent article in Newsweek describes this national crisis well.  Here’s one symptom: “At many state universities the gender balance is already tilting 60-40 toward women.”  The problem starts well before college, though:

By almost every benchmark, boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind. In elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. High-school boys are losing ground to girls on standardized writing tests. The number of boys who said they didn’t like school rose 71 percent between 1980 and 2001, according to a University of Michigan study. Nowhere is the shift more evident than on college campuses. Thirty years ago men represented 58 percent of the undergraduate student body. Now they’re a minority at 44 percent. This widening achievement gap, says Margaret Spellings, U.S. secretary of Education, “has profound implications for the economy, society, families and democracy.”

Then again, there are many dysfunctional grade schools and high schools out there, where boys (and girls) are forced to sit still all day and where the teachers teach to standardized tests.  To the extent that boys go to those many schools, isn’t it rational to rebel against the system?  I’d like to find an article about how boys are doing in good schools. 


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Category: American Culture, Education

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Erika Price says:

    As far as I've read, the decline in boys' performance has occured across the board: girls have even begun to make a better showing as math and science majors in college and grad school. Often, when people speak of these shifting figures they demonstrate relief that girls have begun to perform comparatively very well, without a passing thought that we shouldn't want either of the sexes to fall behind. It demonstrates a flaw in the system, and probably in society too, if one sex outperforms the other by any considerable margin.

    And I do think that social expectations make up a large component here. Girls have reinforced from birth that they should behave in a friendly, helpful manner. That includes appeasing teachers with attentive note-taking (even of completely mindless rote-memorization tasks), full completion of homework (even idiotic busywork), and studying to perform well on a test (even if it gleans no true knowledge gained). Socially, boys don't have that same expectation to behave, but to just bring what intelligence and skill they have to the table. Since the public education system doesn't much value skill or intelligence, only kids willing to jump through hoops will succeed. Unfortunately, mostly girls jump through those hoops.

  2. Boelf says:

    This widening achievement gap, says Margaret Spellings, U.S. secretary of Education, “has profound implications for the economy, society, families and democracy.”

    I would like to see just what she means by this.

    If she sees the problem not as the school's inability to meet the needs of boys but as the difference of achievement itself being the problem then this requires a lot of clarification.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    Beolf observes, "I would like to see just what she means by this."

    Indeed, Spellings is a hard-core Bushie, so we could probably guess what she means. She was a principal author of the "No Child Left Behind Act," which the educators I know say has been a financial and policy disaster. She also criticized PBS for airing a show that depicted children of a same-sex family, for apparently no reason other than that she doesn't personally like same-sex families. Critics describe her as a "moron." Likewise, her husband, a lawyer in Austin, TX, has lobbied for the use of school vouchers — basically a tool for diverting public money into Christian schools. Here is a huffpo article with more about Secty. Spellings:….

  4. MemeSmith says:

    Here's the pure data, shown in a graph. This picture's worth a thousand words. This is the $100 billion problem that's destabilizing society, the economy and the viability of marriage and the family… and the AAUW says it's not a problem.

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