Boys to Men – ABC = BFD: The Growing Gender Gap in Education

Men’s rates of college enrollment and graduation are sinking, and it’s only getting worse. What’s the solution?

First, let me apologize for the frivolous (and dated) Cooleyhighharmony reference. Though I do have a soft spot for that song, this article is meant to address an eminently serious topic: namely, the widening gender disparity in education.

According to the Pew Research Center, female first outnumbered males in higher education in the year 1992 (page 2). Since then, the gap has become a gulf, with 36% of women completing a bachelor’s degree, compared to only 28% of men (page 10). What’s more, it’s only going to get worse. Among young people in 2009, 44% of females were enrolled in college, compared to 38% of males (page 9).

If you’re a man currently in college, or a senior in high school getting ready to matriculate next year, this statistic may seem like a good occasion to exchange a high-five with your buddies, rather than raising the alarm. Sweet ratio; am I right or what? Up top!

But grave social consequences can be expected from this seismic shift, especially in a bad job market where the gap between the successful and the hopeless is more deeply tied to educational attainment than ever before. I won’t dissect the figures here, as our focus is elsewhere, but your chances of being unemployed are the highest by far if you lack a high school degree, and go down dramatically with each degree you attempt or complete. Despite all the anecdotal horror stories, unemployment is tiny among Americans who have a master’s degree or more (whether their wages are adequate, especially considering student debt, is another question entirely).

We’re going to see vast, unsettling economic changes as a result of this educational gap between men and women. Indeed, we’re already seeing it. The massive increase in the number of women in the workplace over the past half-century, as laudable as it is as a sign of social progress, nevertheless corresponded with a period of wage stagnation that is still strangling America’s middle class.

To put it another way, even for women who would prefer to limit their participation in the workforce, a two-income household is no longer optional, but mandatory, because most men aren’t getting paid enough to finance a family themselves.

America also, despite our flattering self-image as land of the free, has the highest incarceration rate of any country on Earth (probably of any major civilization in history). These prisoners are disproportionately male and disproportionately black, and are not only cut off from nearly all forms of economic activity, they are expensive wards of the taxpayers. This situation too will need to be addressed if we’re going to give men a chance in our society.

The crisis with males is a serious problem. It’s the mirror image of the girl-heavy ratio seen in our colleges, and it’s bad news. A surplus of frustrated, unemployable men is a recipe for trouble … war, for instance. (I’ve often worried about this given the gender gap in birthrates in India and China.)

We absolutely must do something to keep guys in school longer. If we don’t, they’re not going to have jobs, they’re going to be more prone to suicide, criminal behavior, political extremism, and just general maladjustment. It’s wonderful that women are seizing the levers of power, economically and otherwise, and I would be the last person to concern-troll you with cries of “misandry,” but these trends are very troubling. We need to launch a concerted national effort to help our boys, or we’re going to have a deficit of men.

 

Read more in Education.

Image of high school graduation courtesy of Shutterstock

 

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About Patricia Garza

Patricia Garza is a full-time freelance blogger who often writes about regionally accredited online colleges and other important aspects of higher education. Please leave her some comments!

Comments

  1. Peter von Maidenberg says:

    A quick Google search and read-thru is surprisingly vague about what’s causing the decline of men in higher education. There is speculation, of course, but nothing really stands out as a leading cause. A few make sense:
    – better opportunities for non-college men than non-college women
    – continued dominance of men in the workforce (see above)
    – less institutional help for men/boys than for women/girls (in areas such as literacy, where boys trail girls)
    A few have a ring of hooey about them:
    – “PC” anti-boy behavior in elementary & secondary education
    – Title IX cutting men’s scholarships in nondominant sports (really now – how big a % of college men were ever on athletic scholarships?)
    – cite for above: Why Men Aren’t Going to College (Lakeland Community College, Ohio)

    Nowhere do I see a factor I suspect: the decline of status and employability in the liberal arts curricula. When I went to college in the mid-80s as a history/American studies major, there was not that much of a gender gap in LA courses, and not such a stigma that you would end up underpaid and overworked compared to a B-schooler or engineer. Boy, have things changed.

    The fiscal conservatives will blame a perfect, knowing market for making LA majors obsolete. The social cons might blame the insular echo chamber of academia and the money-generating machine of easy majors. But I suspect the problem started with too many quick-n-dirty, HR-drone hiring policies, which don’t care about the best fit candidate for a job, only winnowing down the pool. That spread and became entrenched, institutional thinking.

    And, as Sec’y Rumsfeld once said, “you fight with the army you have,” so any deficiencies in workers’ critical or communication skills very soon got swept under the carpet. No one wanted to change hiring systems, so certain skills – and I would argue they are liberal arts skills – got devalued entirely.

    My own MA work in professional communications, always undervalued and sometimes resented, has been gutted, probably for all time. As long as software documentation or usability testing can be done poorly offshore for peanuts – end of story.

    We all know by now that high-education, low-value work goes disproportionately to women, because they’re either willing or forced to take it. The liberal arts are now considered devalued and even feminine in nature, with lots of kidding-on-the-square cracks about queer studies (which have their place) taking over entire departments (which is surely not their place).

    I may just be seeing things thru my own lenses here, but I don’t think entirely so. Food for discussion, I hope.

    • Random_Stranger says:

      @Peter Von Maidenburg

      Hmm…I’d don’t think this can be right. I’d hazard to guess that the hard sciences have tended to select men at disproportionate rates. If we we’re seeing a decrease in the overall appeal of and enrollment in LA degrees relative to the hard sciences, then the proportion of men enrolled in college would rise relative to women, but the opposite has happened. Unless your saying the forces eroding the value of a LA degree somehow don’t affect women’s decision making in enrolling the program which seems unlikely.

  2. Patricia, when you say ” This situation too will need to be addressed if we’re going to give men a chance in our society,” you’ve missed the point; we’re not going to give men a chance in our society.

  3. Solution #1. Care. It is politically incorrect to protect boys and young men, or even acknowledge that there is an education gap.

    Solution #2. Get a President in office that doesn’t believe that the gender education gap is a “great accomplishment for our country”, as Barack Obama stated.

    Solution #3. Stop blaming the victims. When girls/women were on the short end, they weren’t blamed. Neither should boys and young men be blamed.

    Solution #4. Imagine the reaction if boys/young men were 60% of the graduates and girls/young women were 40% of the graduates. Do what you would do for girls/women for boys/men. There would be a Title XV or something, with millions in funding for programs and gender equality enforcement ala Title IX.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful responses, fellas. Diogenes, I must confess that I share you and your namesake’s cynicism, especially in context, regarding the dehumanized flotsam we’ve written off in our prisons.

    Other two guys: you both make some good points, but there’s a slight hint of this devolving into the inevitable partisan quarrel, a prospect that always makes my heart sink a little. I think we can stipulate that not everything is about, as Donahue might put it, mulatto presidents and the right-wing culture warriors who love them :)

    What I’m trying to say is, all of us have skin in this game. The trend that I’m writing about here is not ultimately good for women either. There are, however, some zero-sum aspects to gender and power. It may get me kicked out of the girls’ club, but I do contend that this state of affairs is partly a consequence of women’s lib. At the same time, men and women are in families together, in this society together, and their destinies are connected in any number of ways. What’s bad for the gander is bad for the goose.

    Also, it’s important not to overstate the women’s lib narrative. It’s more than that. Peter, when you say there are more non-college jobs for men, that may be true, but there are way, way fewer than there were 40 years ago. Those factory-type jobs have just vanished, and it ain’t the ladies’ fault. That’s a much bigger global economic story. Technology, free trade, many factors are to blame — or as many do, you can take the lazy way out and scapegoat some other bloc of one’s fellow citizens (or non-citizens). The jobs that are left in this “service economy” may skew more female than in a manufacturing economy.

    I do also contend that the overall wage depression since the 70s has happened because employers simply figured out they could get away with it. Unions were basically castrated, efficiency became the buzzword, the tax code was rigged for the rich, and money was shuffled to the CEOs and extracted for the shareholders, not the employees…because who can insist they do otherwise? Here I do reveal myself as some flavor of lefty class warrior. So be it.

    Still, Eric, your aggravation is valid. There is a blind spot here. No one instinctively stands up for males, especially white ones. This is a problem. The diversity-driven left is often dismissive in a way that is flat-out not helpful. There is the potential for (crazy and dangerous) excess on both sides, so thank God we have a system where they temper each other, even if there’s the occasional period of time (like right now) when the most visible result is massive dysfunction. I don’t really agree with you that Obama is particularly to blame, in any way I can discern (I don’t think his celebration of womens’ advances means he doesn’t care about the male half of the country — although electorally there’s a gender gap too, of course)…but your other 3 points are well-taken.

    Again, thanks for the constructive and intelligent replies. As far as prescriptions, I didn’t think to mention this, but what about non-coed programs: boys’ schools and girls’ schools? I would have hated the idea as a kid…but to be objective about it, I might have been a better student. Do you guys think this old-fashioned approach could help?

    Patricia

    • Random_Stranger says:

      “although electorally there’s a gender gap too, of course”

      That’s a whole other topic that I’d like to explore. I’ve often seen that fact used as a means of tearing at the political legitimacy of a particular bill or as a threat against a political movement deemed counter to the interest of women. What get’s me is the rather cavalier acceptance of this fact as though its not itself a symptom of a deeper social problem.

      In a world where men and women are born 50/50 (actually boys are born at a slightly higher rate), the only way we find a measurable skew in the %of eligible voters is death, immigration and incarceration. And to my knowledge, men aren’t emigrating in large numbers.

  5. “A surplus of frustrated, unemployable men is a recipe for trouble … war, for instance.”
    Unemployable people cause wars, that statement sounds a bit sexist…People need the ability to find work, get work, and earn their keep. Without income, desperation will set in and if enough are out of work whilst a few elites hold a huge amount of wealth….then I won’t be surprised if we see civil wars break out, quite frankly I’m a lil surprised there hasn’t been any major violent protests in the U.S recently.

    “and I would be the last person to concern-troll you with cries of “misandry,” but these trends are very troubling”
    Instead you say that which to me sounds like you’re dismissing misandry? Are you trollin?

  6. Mark Sherman says:

    Interesting that you chose as the first words in your title, “Boys to Men.” After President Obama took office, he quickly established a White House Council for Women and Girls. By this time, of course, girls and women were far outperforming boys and men in school, from early grades through college (and within a few years, they’d be earning more graduate degrees as well). Two years later, a group of well-known scholars and practitioners (including Warren Farrell, Michael Gurian, and Leonard Sax) urged the White House to establish a Council for Boys to Men (http://www.theboysinitiative.org/images/Study_and_Proposal_to_Create_a_White_House_Council_on_Boys_to_Men.pdf) As far as I know, nothing has happened with this.
    Your article says that women first overtook men in college enrollments in 1992, but I believe it was actually before 1980 (http://postsecondary.org/archives/previous/GuysFacts.pdf). By 1992, the college gender gap was undeniable, and yet that was a year before the start of Take Our Daughters to Work Day and two years before publication of David and Myra Sadker’s book, Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls. In other words, boys and young men were already lagging well behind their sisters, and yet all the attention was devoted to girls and young women.
    Now one could say there is a genuine crisis for boys and young men, and yet it is still far from a front burner issue, and it is one that the federal government seems to absolutely ignore. You write that “it’s wonderful that women are seizing the levers of power, economically and otherwise…but these trends (about boys)are very troubling. We need to launch a concerted national effort to help our boys, or we’re going to have a deficit of men.” As long as the major emphasis is on excitement over how great women are doing (as per Hanna Rosin’s book, The End of Men: AND The Rise of Women – I put the “and” in caps, because she seems far more excited by the latter than she is concerned about the former) rather than on the crisis state of America’s young males (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-UclT3CscI), we will be facing a bleak future for both women and men.

  7. I read this article quite a while ago and it has stuck with me:
    http://www.esquire.com/features/the-state-of-the-american-man/ESQ0706SOTAMBOYS_94

    One proposed solution is to encourage more men to mentor boys in the same way women have jumped up to mentor girls.

    One proposed ’cause’ of the problem is that school systems were totally revamped to help girls (maybe in the 80s?). Then we totally forgot about boys. As a relatively recent schoolgirl myself, I can totally see how biased the classroom is to girls. There are more female teachers and sitting still for longer periods is stereotypically relatively easier for “us” (nature or nurture? who knows).

    I think there’s a Z-factor here. Women excel at school, but still don’t do as well, financially or leadership-wise, as their similarly-educated (with lower grades, probably) male counterparts in the workplace. I think school does not translate well into the workplace. Again, as a relatively recent schoolgirl, I MISS SO BADLY the days of grades and check-ins and end-of-semester goals. I am good at studying and getting As, but less good at negotiating salaries and networking with executives.

    I like what Peter says about Liberal Arts curricula. The issue here is definitely the education system. Sounds like a terrifying beast to start to try to fix :-/

    • Pedophilia hysteria is directly harming adult male role models for children. I could teach kids photography for instance, but I won’t because I am very aware of how dangerous it is for me as an adult male in the climate we have in Australia for instance, it makes me quite nervous to be around kids these days simply because of the hysteria. I’d never let someone harm a kid but too often people seem to focus on the bad men do vs the good, so it’s just not a good idea to be a mentor anymore.

      • I agree completely. It seems that even today women are stereotyped as being inherently motherthly, and thus more qualified to help younger children. Also men are still stereotyped as sex maniacs a lot of the time. For many people it is easier to imagine a male sex maniac than to imagine a man who is just as good with kids as a stereotypical woman.

    • Woah, interesting, thanks for the replies, guys.

    • Random_Stranger says:

      “Women excel at school, but still don’t do as well, financially or leadership-wise, as their similarly-educated (with lower grades, probably) male counterparts in the workplace.”

      The wage gap is a hugely debated topic and you can get really any result you want depending on how you segment the stats or define income, work, and hours worked. I will add though, that the usual measures are showing a persistent emerging wage gap favoring women among young unmarried persons. Give it time, and I’m sure the wage gap will inverse in a generation.

  8. I think there might also be a larger sociological effect that gives women reason to excel, and does the opposite for men. With the feminist movement the female social role has been transformed. Many women have abandoned their traditional roles in the home in favor of “empowered” ones in the workplace. Many more women try to accomplish both sets of roles and “have it all”.

    With the females accomplishing everything, the so-called “opposite” sex finds itself doing the opposite. There are many men who seek to become powerful alpha males, but there is a strong perception that powerful alpha males are horrible people. This even extends to husbands who are at risk of oppressing their wife. However the only alternative to being a “powerful alpha male” is to be a slacker/loser, something that is becoming more acceptable for men, regardless of whether or not it is desirable. Being a sucessful man is seen as a relic of another age, and really it is a relic.

    The idea of a guy that is male, sucessful in work, and treats women as equals all at the same time is pretty much incompatible with our current cultural narrative. The two choices for the modern young man seem to be slackerism and retro-sexism, at least in the social narratives I see. I’m sure there are plenty of counter-examples, but none of those counter-examples are made into role models.

  9. Here’s another unintended consequence: A husband shortage. As women tend to marry up in status, income, education, even height, (it’s called hypergamy) there are going to be a lot of unmarried women who can’t find husbands.

    Oh, and voluntary single-motherhood is going to continue to rise.

    • Random_Stranger says:

      …you’ve started to see the reverse in groups exhibiting the greatest gender gaps in income and educational attainment. Professional black women for example, have begun marrying down to secure a black male partner. That’s also a trend that is sure to continue (the consequence of this fact is less clear though)

  10. The problem starts earlier than what you’re all saying. State mandated testing, No Child Left Behind, all of these “reforms” favor girls. Kindergarten is the new first grade! Academics are drifting down into younger and younger grades, including preschool. Men and women end up being equally good readers, but girls start off with an advantage. When literacy is pushed on kids earlier and earlier, boys are the most likely not to be able to keep up, to tune out and turn off, and never to catch up. We need schools that are ready for kids, not kids that are ready for schools. Meet boys where they’re at. Teach them in developmentally appropriate ways. Give them recess, PE, and time to move around! Stop expecting them to sit, hold a pencil, read, write, and perform before they are ready or have had a chance to develop the social skills and habits of mind necessary for early learning. Let kids play more in preschool and Kindergarten! What we are seeing at the college level is the consequence of something that starts much earlier. If I could do only ONE thing to help boys, it would be to do away with high stakes testing, because that is what drives the boy-unfriendly curriculum, and what is making so many boys hate school or think they are not smart enough.

    • Great comment.

      But surely you’ve heard that any assertion that the school environment has been modified in which that specifically hurt boys is just silliness from whiny men who couldn’t cut it?

    • I hereby nominate Lori Day’s comment for comment of the day.

      Lori, I agree with you completely. And if I could do one other thing, besides eliminating the narrowing of the curriculum and methods that comes with high stakes testing, it would be this: Literacy is the key to it all.

      Get boys reading. Every day. Ask grown-ass men to actually come into classrooms and read aloud to the kids from that man’s favorite book. Give the kids, all the kids, including the boys, the choice of whatever they want to read. Comics, magazines, sports stories, wilderness adventures, the transgender drama of the Oz series, biographies, it doesn’t matter what they choose. What matters is that they keep trying different things until they get to that writing that they can’t pull they eyes away from. Don’t worry that it seems simple, or trite, or formulaic. Once a kid falls in love with reading (because he is reading what he loves to read because he discovered he loved it) there is no turning back.

      And teachers aren’t the only ones who can make the time and space to let this happen. Moms and Dads and Uncles and Aunts and Older Sibs can too.

      Just look at the drawing in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, of Junior’s new, smart, white friend, totally absorbed in a book. The one that says the reader has a ‘metaphysical boner.’ That is what I would wish for every boy.

      Oh God, I’m crying.

      • My favourite books are technical learning material, photography guides such as the bible I have on lighting. Kids might fall asleep learning about light’s angles and how to take a picture without a studio flash showing up in a reflection.

      • JustAMan, I could not agree more about literacy. Let boys read *whatever* they want when young. Don’t sweat about Captain Underpants. And let them read nonfiction. They will get to the classics later…if we don’t lose them first. I’ve worked in school administration for 25 years–7 of them in a boys’ school. There is no conspiracy about letting boys fail. No one wants them to fail. It’s not about modifying curriculum to favor girls. It was an unanticipated consequence that should have been anticipated when we went all out for high-stakes testing. And now, Most teachers can articulate what I did if you ask them. The problem is that this testing thing is a runaway train. It somehow needs to be stopped. And for God’s sake, can we not give boys (and girls) more time to play and move?? Thanks for your comment.

        • Lori @ 8:01 am
          “…It’s not about modifying curriculum to favor girls. It was an unanticipated consequence that should have been anticipated when we went all out for high-stakes testing.”

          Here it very specifically WAS about changing curriculum to favour girls.
          The first change was in the type of reading material that was provided. In class, the reading lists in the elementary grades became very strongly focused on heroine oriented stories, and intrapersonal relationship focused books. Action stories were eliminated. There was almost no aspirational figures for boys in the reading list.
          The second change was a matching elimination in the library purchases for the school.
          The third was an explicit program to de-emphasize the weighting of mid-term and end-of-term testing for content and mastery, and substitute a portfolio approach. The portfolio approach gives increased weight to mundane course-work. The argument made in favour of this was that girls were studied and supposedly found to have high stress levels over exams, and supposedly, poorer performance. To improve their evaluations, the portfolio approach was instituted. There is far more room for subjectivity on such coursework. The “unintended consequence”, as you argue, is that boys appear to view this coursework and homework load to be unmanageable organizationally, and it exerts an unwelcome control over their lives outside school. Many parents are well aware of this – it is the browbeat Johnny every night over his homework syndrome. It also shows up in boys failing due to a failure to turn in their assignments.
          Lastly ( on this partial list), is the projection of literacy into all course material. The intention on paper seems sensible. But when the boy, weak on literacy, cannot understand the complexity of the instructions in a science assignment, or cannot parse the language that a simple math problem has been present in, the the boy feels like an even more complete failure – even in material in which he is, in fact, quite competent.

          Simple test – ask boys ( as Judith Kleinfield has), how many of them like school, or would consider being a teacher. I suspect you will find, as I have, and as she did, that a high percentage of boys so hate school that they swear they will never set foot in one again.

          I doubt that it is all just high-stakes testing.

          • REZAM, where do you live and what schools do you refer to? Do you work in schools? Much of what you write bears very little resemblance to what is going on in the schools where I have worked. I agree with the last point about literacy being a part of most subjects and the effect this has on boys, and also agree that the organizational/executive functioning demands on boys are not developmentally appropriate. I am a HUGE advocate for boys when it comes to education, and have devoted a great portion of my career to this, and must tell you that there is no conspiracy to “favor girls” or make boys fail. I do worry that this kind of thinking and these kinds of inflammatory accusations do not help the cause of boys. Our schools need a lot of changes and boys need help. Where I must push back on you is you assertion that there is a coordinated, deliberate attempt to harm boys. If you are a teacher or school administrator and are aware of ways in which your school has deliberately made curricular changes in order to disadvantage boys, I’d be quite interested to learn how that went down. That would be not only unethical, but quite illegal.

            • Do your schools do any robotics, Lego mindstorms for instance? They didn’t have any at my school and it pissed me off to no end.

              If I ever have kids I wanna give them robotics, and other science related stuff to learn from as well as art, woodworking, metalworking, photography (which is my passion). I’ll be teaching a daughter the same as a son and hopefully both will enjoy building stuff in the shed like I do, it’d crush me to see them simply never try something because it’s gendered. Hell I even sew sometimes, traditionally female craft but I don’t mind it nor see it as gendered, it’s just another way to create, invent and build.

            • Yes, absolutely, lots of that kind of stuff for boys, and an ongoing conversation of how to get girls more interested in it! Also, chess club, debate, many things boys tend to love. I personally started the science fair at my daughter’s elementary school and ran it for six years, and it still runs to this day. I was allowed to do that as a parent when the school didn’t have the resources to make it happen. And everyone did NOT get a ribbon. Some competition is healthy, and boys especially respond to it.

              I see many books geared for boys. I recently wrote an article about how to get more boys interested in reading, and before writing it, talked to many teachers at different schools about what they did specifically to help boys, and they were clearly very engaged and doing many things on this front. Teachers are beaten up so much in the press. They are so undervalued and under-respected. And I see them trying to make things better for boys. If only they could get out from under the testing! They hate it as much as the boys do. Girls hate it too. It does not measure real learning or critical thinking, and does not even measure the value of a school when other bigger issues like poverty are at play.

              I know so many devoted teachers and administrators who not only are not out to sabotage the male half of the student population, but are doing what they can with what they have to make it better. I am willing to criticize them when they do not give boys enough time and room to move their bodies, or when they don’t teach to their learning styles, etc., but I will vigorously defend them from anyone slinging around conspiracy theories that the whole system is set up to make boys all over America fail and to elevate girls. That is simply not happening. That is as ridiculous as conspiracy theories about global warming not being a hoax, or evolution not being real, etc. A silly waste of time at best–harmful to the interests of boys at worst.

            • Global warming *being* a hoax…TYPO alert!

            • Thanks for the reply, sounds like lucky kids to have such an engaged teacher/s to help them out. It saddens me that girls aren’t as interested in robotics as the guys, I think gendered toys and tv shows, etc have a big role to play there. My interest in robotics started from Transformers and my interest in construction n building was from lego (stayed up many nights building stuff!). You can find so many damn GI Joe n robotic beings for boys being limited to building, breaking, killing but girls are usually limited to some role of human polite interaction, dating, relationships, etc. If I didn’t have lego or transformers I doubt my spark of curiosity would have been met by the toys I see that are pink friendly, vs blue friendly. If I have kids I’ll be avoiding gendered toys where I can and just letting them decide, and both male n female will be taught to fix stuff around the house at a bare minimum along with cooking, finances and every other necessity for life.

              With regards to bias, has there ever been a time where there was bias against boys even subconsciously? The most common one I have heard described is the boys are troublemakers whilst the girls are quiet/passive. Being that I am from Australia any biases I’ve seen could be limited to this country, but on the whole I think they’re being eradicated if they are there and it was mainly with just a select few teachers, not all of them.

              I think their is possibly a problem with education where in the 90’s was it? that girls were struggling so they gave them help but all that extra support helped elevate them but the boys were forgotten and either slipped behind or stagnated. I don’t think it was a conscious effort, but more like fixing your brakes but forgetting to change tyres. So you won’t see me giving any conspiracy theories, nearly everything I say about education is meant to be taken as questions vs statements. I have/had 2 parents who were teachers and they told me quite a bit about education, the troubles, such as recently the kids seem to be less disciplined but also a huge problem was redtape.

              And testing annoyed the shit out of me, some of the most enjoyable learning I did was like on a leadership camp where we had to build a raft, everyone working together and learning what works and what does. Ticking boxes on paper? Bah, gimme hands on stuff:P Biology class was at least interesting, doing a field trip and studying things up close, recording the eco-system whilst actually seeing nature and not a damn blackboard or textbook.

              What’s funny is that I hated learning in school but now at 27 and with my ADHD medicine and mental support I’ve had, I have a dire thirst for knowledge. I google so much, I watch youtube videos on how to build stuff and then try it in the shed, I read textbooks and books on photography, electronics, woodworking, metalworking, robotics, art and do it all purely out of my own interest and not because I have to. I learned more in a year with google than I did in a year in school I think because they were topics I wanted to learn, robotics, electronics, photography wasn’t available at my school. It’s amazing to actually love learning, when I hated school so much. I just hope future students can avoid a life like I had in school (untreated adhd, bullying, severe mental illness and health problems to deal with) and I truly hope they can get a thirst for learning.

              Dr Michio Kaku also describes with his daughter what I felt in school.
              ht tp://bigthink.com/ideas/19053 –
              “Well, many things are wrong. But among that is the way that we teach science. We teach science as a list of facts and figures to memorize and we crush, literally crush, any curiosity and spirit of innovation and imagination from young children. For example, my daughter once took the New York State Regional Exam. She took the exam in geology, and I had a chance to tutor her by looking at this manual. And I realized that the entire manual consisted mainly of memorizing the names of crystals, the names of minerals, hundreds of them, and of course, all the things that you are going to forget the day after your exam. So, it’s not that our students are stupid, they can memorize these things. They are so smart. They’ve figured out that this material is totally useless. Our students are so smart they’ve figured out they’re never going to see these things ever again. They just have to memorize it once in their life, throw away their book, and they’re absolutely right. They will never, ever see these hundreds of minerals, crystals, again in their life.

              So, my daughter comes up to me after struggling with all this memorization and she says to me, “Daddy, why would anyone want to become a scientist?” That was the most humiliating day of my life. I spent my entire life being a scientist trying to understand the way nature works, trying to tease apart some of the fundamental laws of physics, and my own daughter says, “Why would anyone want to become a scientist?””
              Dr Michio is nothing short of awesome.

            • Lori, by any chance can you post a link to your article about how to encourage reading / instill a love of reading for its own sake? Thanks in advance.

            • @ Lori @ 9:21 pm
              “where do you live and what schools do you refer to? Do you work in schools? ”
              Ontario, Canada, public school system; I am unclear that working in schools is the most objective perspective for analysis – having said that I was a 15 year work from home dad, well before it became common, and the changes I describe arose over the period from the 90s through 2004.

              “Much of what you write bears very little resemblance to what is going on in the schools where I have worked.”

              Which is why I said “Here”. However, very similar discussion and changes are evident in the UK, Australia and Israel. The submissions made to the Australian commission by the teachers unions and the state educational bureaucracies were simply fascinating.

              ” there is no conspiracy to “favor girls” or make boys fail. . . . Where I must push back on you is you assertion that there is a coordinated, deliberate attempt to harm boys. . . . deliberately made curricular changes in order to disadvantage boys, That would be not only unethical, but quite illegal.”

              The word conspiracy implies to me, something that is covert. This was not in the LEAST covert – far from it. It was openly discussed at great length. I suggest you read what I wrote a little more carefully – no where did I suggest that the changes were made to harm boys or to make them fail. They were made specifically, however, to favour girls. The boys were simply ignored, and the assumption was that the boys would be OK… perhaps benevolent neglect, but frankly, just plain indifference. Your claim that I “asserted” otherwise is simply incorrect.

              Certainly were that to be the case (changes made to disfavour boys) it would be unethical. I note however, that in Canada it would certainly NOT be illegal, based on the Canadian constitution Clause 15 Section 2, which exempts actions taken to “correct” historical imbalances from equal treatment protection, for everyone except white males.

          • I hated school. I even had a class where there was 2 males, I was one, with about 20 or so females. The females could talk heappppppsssss but us 2 guys would cop n earful is we spoke and were told to quieten down far far far more than the girls ever got. The teacher was female and I very much sensed this anti-male bias in her based on her actions, I had heard other guys in classes said the same too. I truly hope this is so rare that it’s just anecdotal evidence and no one else goes through this.

            I left primary school about 15 years ago but about a decade ago the pedophilia hysteria started up bigtime and the gender gap of teachers grew quite a lot here in Aus that I saw, favouring female teachers. In highschool the gap is smaller but still there. I had one male role model in primary school, and 3 male teachers that were abusive (physically n verbally). In highschool I had a few male n female teachers that were great, and a few of each that were terrible. But I saw cases where a teacher would tell a boy that he’d amount to nothing in life and that boy would literally shut down, it was like a stab in the learning center and disengaged them. All through my schooling boys were worse on behaviour, more adhd, etc, more rowdy, but also there were quite a lot of times they were unfairly treated as trouble makers and as if they were fucking useless, I do believe a few teachers gave up on them.

            The rowdiest bunch was probably in my grade, many teachers seemed to hate them and couldn’t relate yet my father was a great teacher who knew how to get through to them and get them to behave, he’d talk to them about fishing, etc for a lil bit and get their respect especially since he actually gave them respect.

            A great teacher is hard to find, and I think many may give up too early with the guys especially. Something that is really sad is some of the best teachers I had were female, but the nice, gentle natured women, real sweet n quiet voice, they didn’t know how to throw their voice or command the respect of the class and the class would walk all over them, bringing them to tears even. Maybe these women don’t really know how to relate to boys especially, although even the girls were quite frankly lil bitches too and caused lots of pain to the teachers, but it really bothered me the way some teachers were treated. Those sweet, nice, gentle teachers, are the ones who made me feel most safe, and I actually paid more attention to them, they gave a damn about their kids and that to me was worth so much. My favourite male teachers would also be decent, nice folk, they weren’t the gentle quiet type but they could throw their voice when they needed to and you sparked to attention real quick, they seemed to handle the boys much better. Maybe it’s because boys relate to men easier, but I think also these male teachers (and a few female teachers) wouldn’t let shit slide, they were confident and firm but usually fair.

            It could be a good idea if they don’t already for teachers to learn how to throw their voice effectively, to be stern and have authority in your voice without sounding like an asshole about it. You don’t need to go military drill instructor about it, but I do think kids will see quieter people as weak and try push their luck.

            They did a study in the U.K proving female teachers unfairly marked boys lower than girls, whilst male teachers marked both the same. Is there a bias towards boys in schools? I’ve seen people discuss that boys are called upon more in class and that is proof it’s biased against girls, but in my experience that was because the boys were told to shutup, sit down, and it was mostly addressing behavioural issues. The boys were more rowdy and physically active, physically disruptive whilst girls tended to be more disruptive with talking, etc. I wonder how much gender communication styles make female teachers misunderstand the boys too, n vice versa? I think schools favour kids to be submissive, quiet, sit at their desks all day and I got this feeling that very outgoing, or confident, uppity people with too much energy were too suppressed. I found quite a few teachers that were great, could relate, could engage, but there are also quite a few terrible ones that truly fucking suck as teachers and need to find a new job. When you get a teacher known across many grades to be hated, they probably need to go like the one who tells kids they won’t amount to much (should be insta-fired).

            I do feel sorry though for modern teachers though, kids are rowdy as hell and there seem to be very few disciplinary measures that work, my parents would tell me about how hard it is these days to mark a kid as an F. Too much bureaucracy and red tape, this pressure to compete with other schools and be the best, the hyperfocus on test scores vs things that actually matter like instilling a love of learning in a child, teaching them to personally grow and be confident, to try their best but not be crushed if they aren’t an A grade student because they still matter as humans. I sometimes feel we load too much pressure on our kids to excel, and quite frankly more than 30 minutes of homework is too much. If you can’t learn it at school then there is a problem, kids need time to be kids, to have fun, enjoy the world, be creative, do after-school activities instead of being freaked out like their life is going to end if they don’t get an A on their test and pushing adult level stress onto kids who have child level ability to deal with emotions, hell they have enough on their plate dealing with their adult level emotions that they don’t have adult-level understanding n ability to handle.

            So many are dealing with self-esteem issues, depression, bullying, suicide, body image, stress, info overload, I know for me I broke down around grade 10 and became extremely depressed from bullying, etc, I went from A’s to D’s in one year and spent every day wishing I never wokeup. Something else that will affect boys, as it did for me, is girls have more acceptance to open up on their issues whilst boys are more likely to bottle it up, suffer n silence so that is another big issue to look at. I escaped into games, porn, simply because I could feel good there, I hated going to school due to bullying and so I missed too much, fell way behind and never caught up, not to mention I was emotionally fucked and stressed to the max…I shutdown and gave up on learning. I saw guys also who were basically told boys are stupid and gave up learning because they though boys were dumb or that they specifically were dumb, girls were miles ahead of them and that made it worse. Hell I saw heaps of guys that were trade-skill orientated, school was so focused on getting people into university that they didn’t seem to care much about getting the guys n girls into apprenticeships for trades but I think that has changed here. Those tradie guys felt stupid because they weren’t great on stuff like engish, advanced math, science, etc but they were often quite intelligent in a non-academic way. They had intelligence related to building, construction, fixing, manual hands on stuff vs reading from a textbook. Yet they felt stupid because they weren’t academic achievers? That’s a fucking tragedy to me.

            /end random rant, take from it what you will as I am merely telling of my experience and things I think could help, it’s a bit over the place though as these thoughts just randomly pop in as I write it so you’ll have to excuse the poor form n all over the shopnessity of it.

    • http://theboysinitiative.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/the-10-issues-affecting-boys-today/
      particularly numbers 1, 2 and 6 :
      1. “that boys are on a different time clock than girls in reading and writing, . . . boys are learning to read and write at too young an age”

      2. ” being highly organized is not only expected, it is demanded. But, we all know that this is not developmentally possible for most boys, even in their teens…”

      6. “he is now sitting down to do his 3+ hours of homework at 8:00pm at night…”

      The high stakes testing around here is specifically designed to test THE SCHOOL, and not the individual student. The response has been for the teachers, and the bureaucrats who set the curriculum, to force feed the kids to gain themselves a favourable report.
      Here at least, the resistance of the school stakeholders – teachers, principals, unions, and curriculum designers has prevented any alternative proposed assessment system.

    • I love your comment Lori. In an effort to help girls excel we have shifted cirruculum to really focus on a standardized learning system. People are not standardized. Boys learn differently than girls and children accross the board have different learning styles, e.g. touch or hearing or seeing. Its not a matter of having necessarily boys schools vs. girls schools, though that might make it easier. Our teachers need to be trained to teach to different learning styles. Education isn’t about just passing the test, its about applying the knowlege gained. Learning how to apply knowlege doesn’t come from a book, but from real world experiences. Schools need to get out of the classrooms and into the world. Natural science class should move to outdoors, math class can move to a kitchen where you learn fractions and multiplying, etc. The internet has made the world a very small place indeed, and our children are ill equiped to deal with the world.

  11. I think one part of the problem is that when comparing girls/women to boys/men it basically ends up being comparing all girls/women to the slim portion of men that are at the top and then declaring that all is well.

    I think another part is that the problem is that boys are left out of the equation until it’s close to college time. The numbers show that boys are lagging behind girls in the earliest levels of academia. But again a lot of the articles that make the comparisons seem to not look at boys until its almost time for them to become men. The damage is already done by then. We can’t just start at the 17 year old boys and wonder why they are lagging behind. The lag is already set in.

    As a result of this set of clouded lenses results in talk where mention of a crisis with boys becomes “crisis” as if it’s not real and people shouting “well yeah girls get more degrees but men still run the top of most of the corporations!”. Seriously how does the top 3% of men still at the top of those corporations translate into boys and men being fine or that it’s girls and women that need help?

    If we can look at all the progress that girls/women have made and still say/see that there are still inequalities at work then why is it so damn hard to give boys/men the same consideration?

    If there is any hope of helping boys and men a crucial step is going to be getting rid of this idea that the fact that most of the Fortune 500 CEOs are men it means that men as a whole are doing okay or that the men that are not doing okay are the architects of their own demise (where the standard procedure is “if women/girls lag it’s society’s fault and we all have to pitch in to help but if boys/men lag it’s the fault of men/boys and they have to fix it themselves while still being expected to help girls/women because failure to do both means they don’t respect women/girls”).

  12. “The crisis with males is a serious problem. It’s the mirror image of the girl-heavy ratio seen in our colleges, and it’s bad news. A surplus of frustrated, unemployable men is a recipe for trouble … war, for instance. (I’ve often worried about this given the gender gap in birthrates in India and China.)”

    I don’t think that’s applicable to America. Unlike inner city blacks, most young unemployed men have access to video games and pornography. It’s opiate for the masses. I don’t think we’re going to have significant trouble.

    For this same reason, I don’t think the crisis with males is going to get addressed, as society won’t have any reason to care.

  13. We need to launch a concerted national effort to help our boys, or we’re going to have a deficit of men.

    Very true. We’ve launched such an effort http://www.theboysinitiative.org. Check us out!

  14. The system is performing as designed at both the primary and secondary educational levels and in this political environment nothing of any substantive value is going to change. Classroom environments are not going to be made more accommodating to boys because powerful political lobbies would see that as a step back and stop it.

    Like it or not we are in a zero sum gain environment in education. Educational costs have risen an average of 9% per year for the last 15 years or so (don’t have real current data). That pie is not getting much bigger and reallocation of current monies to support boys and young men’s will be stopped by the same forces as mentioned above.

    The issue may get some token lip service but ultimately, we’ll just keep building more prisons and celebrating the day when girls make up 80% of the college population until the withering tax base and borrowed money can’t support the system, We aren’t at the true break point yet and that’s what its going to take.

  15. Back when schools had strict disciplinary systems where students where explicitly told to be still and quiet at all times unless when given permission to do otherwise, boys used to consistently outperform girls. This was back then seen as evidence that girls are “just not as good at this school thing.”

    To some extent I feel people are bending over backwards to avoid admitting that this is exactly what were doing now, only in reverse.

    Pretty much every argument that was made as to why girls just can’t do as well in schools as boys back in the dark days has now been turned around to boys, just with different words. They don’t like the subject matter. They have other focuses. What ever.

    Boys, as a group, are no longer considered equally smart and mentally capable as girls in the western culture.

    This in my opinion is the main cause of the gender gap in education.

    They are not expected to be as interested in reading and writing and thus they don’t learn to read. The standard portrayal of father-son time is without exception something physical, which I’m pretty sure affects how actual fathers spend time their actual sons; doing sports, rather than learning to read. Boys who struggle with homework are sympathetic figures in our culture, where as boys who excel at them are annoying perfectinists or supergeniouses (freaks).

    And of course as has been discussed on this site a few times, there is a clear lack of positive, heroic and smart males on TV.

    (I btw think this is very much an accident, a side-effect of the fact that male heroes need to be strong, and heroes in general are nice and good-looking, but they need a weakness to be likable. So they are either traumatized (see: modern Bond, who is now a sociopath; and they have all lost loved ones), or they are not very smart.

    (Also, not-smart heroes give an excuse for continuous verbal plot exposition, as everybody needs to explain stuff to the hero.)

    There are also not a lot of smart boys on childrens/teens TV, other than nerds. It’s just not as okay for a boy to be smart. If they are smart, at the very least they need to be unruly, non-conformist misfits. Heck, even male scientists in movies tend to be portrayed as either kind of insane or fighting the system in every turn. (Being super-competitive is also an option, but those characters tend to not be the heroes.)

    Girls can like (or not mind) school on TV and do okay, boys are either super-smart or struggling, there’s no ground in-between.

    Guys are just not expected to have a normal, average, happy relationship with schools and do well. The most typical male student of any age portrayed today is the slacker. That’s the only way to relax at school for boys.

    • Factsseeker says:

      “Boys, as a group, are no longer considered equally smart and mentally capable as girls in the western culture”. To add to this stereotype, boys are also considered more anti-social and devious than girls. The consequence is that laws are being interpreted by judges today based on these stereotypes.
      Today male adults are automatically assumed to be the perpetrators in domestic violence. Males are also considered as less nurturing and more abusive of children. These stereotypes are completely false, yet court judgements continue to show a significant bias in favour of women. Men are also considered violent by nature so violence against men is trivialised by the media and justice system. These are serious violations of men’s human rights and they stem from the labelling of men and boys as anti-social and stupid (unenlightened). A conscious effort by teachers to give equal respect to boys in schools would be a good start in eliminating the stereotypes.

  16. I think if we are going to solve the problem we will have to diagnose it properly.

    Firstly not all boys are failing…some of them are. Some are excelling. In the past what would have happened is that the boys who excelled would have gone on to college and the others would have gotten jobs.

    In my view its probably always been the case the women were better suited to school than men on average but that most women did not need to excel in school and so they didn’t. Now everyone must be well-educated because increasing levels of education and credentialing are being demanded at all levels of society. That is why this disparity is showing up.

    An interesting question is why this is the case? Why is it that a Master degree is being demanded now whereas in the past a Bachelors would have sufficed. Is the education necessary? Is it useful. All of this coincides with the rise of large massive corporations which are heavily bureaucratic is nature. This can’t be a coincidence. Here I am reminded of the civil service exams the Chinese had once instituted.

    The other things that hasn’t been discussed is that even if one solves the problem that boys are having in schools, they will still face an even bigger problem in corporations. Corporate environments I would think are even worse than schools…more rules, more procedures, more constant shifting of priorities, multitasking etc. What is happening is schools is being mirrored in corporations.

    I also don’t think that school environments or corporate ones are that great for women. Women may be excelling but only in a relative sense. For instance one could imagine a society where everyone had to shovel shit. You might excel at that but would you really want to? The solution might be to stop shoveling shit. Not to equalize shit shoveling capabilities.

    And one final thing is the question of values and character education. I think it might be really important. I did very well in school but I actually don’t think school is that important. The real important thing is to know what you values are, what you want out of life, to figure out what qualities you admire in people and to figure out how to live a good life. These questions are fundamental and important but I only started thinking about them after I excited school. To me this type of stuff is most important because once you have the right character and values everything else in life follows.

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