Engaging the Gender Gap

Eric Sentell urges good men to teach themselves and their sons to engage with learning and with others before the gender gap becomes a chasm.

Over the last five-plus years, I have taught college composition to freshman and sophomores at multiple universities and community colleges in the Midwest and the East. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve observed multiple gender gaps among my students: the widely-reported enrollment gap and the underlying, more insidious gap in engagement.

My observations are necessarily generalizations, so some words of caution are in order. I’ve taught plenty of engaged, motivated males as well as many disengaged, apathetic females. Moreover, the gender gap involves multiple variables, such as family income. For instance, male enrollment in the Ivy Leagues remains higher than female enrollment. We need to remember these exceptions and caveats before we despair completely.

Yet some generalizations wouldn’t exist if they weren’t generally true. On average, my female students are much more engaged than the male students. They sit at the front of the room, bright-eyed and leaning forward. When I or their peers speak, they maintain eye-contact and listen attentively. When I ask questions, they readily volunteer answers. During peer review, they work hard the entire class session, independently exchanging papers with multiple peers. They use my advice on their writing and write longer papers (rather than set a minimum requirement, I ask students to thoroughly address the assignment).

Quite simply, more of my female students possess the ability to engage thoughts, ideas, and people who do not necessarily interest or entertain them.

In contrast, most of my male students have no apparent desire to learn. They stare vacantly, look out the window, or surf their smartphones while I or their peers speak. When I ask questions, they don’t seem to realize I asked anything. If they do, they wait for a female to break the silence that sometimes ensues when the women feel awkward about answering everything. During peer review, they half-heartedly exchange papers with one person and then socialize for the rest of class. Some of them largely ignore my advice on their writing and revise minimally. They sit in the back, sleep through half of class, and then email, “wen did you say u wanted revisions?”

This email is a perfect microsm of a systemic issue. The young  man who sent this email—a journalism major, mind you—took so little pride in his writing to his English professor that he could not be bothered to review his one-line email one single time. Predictably, his coursework, attendance, and participation all reflect a similar lack of effort. Which is really sad, because he might be one of the most talented writers I have this semester.

I believe the engagement gap directly causes the enrollment gap. If these are the young men who care enough about their educations and future careers to enroll in college, then just imagine how disengaged the rest of them must be! It’s no surprise that so many more women pursue higher education. In general, they clearly value it much more.

To be clear, I am not an elitist snob who equates lacking a college degree with failure. In fact, I believe a technical education can often better facilitate a person’s professional and personal goals. Moreover, many successful careers and good-paying professions do not require any post-secondary education, and I respect people who choose to enter the workforce or start a business rather than attend college.

But I also worry about the implications of the enrollment and engagement gaps. Our knowledge economy can’t afford to lose either gender’s contributions, yet relatively few men are gaining the education necessary for some of that economy’s most important, lucrative, and secure jobs. Besides credentials, they also aren’t gaining any of the less-tangible benefits of an education: namely, the ability to engage things that lack immediate interest and entertainment.

Consider the earlier generalizations about my students. The underlying difference isn’t the students’ chromosomes, intelligence, or even their learning styles. It certainly isn’t the female students’ inherent interest in college composition, a required course. I have 112 students this semester and not a single English major, male or female. Quite simply, more of my female students possess the ability to engage thoughts, ideas, and people who do not necessarily interest or entertain them.

So for me, the gender gap raises not only economic concerns but also anxiety regarding my male students’ abilities to stick with problems. Complex problem-solving requires contemplation, and contemplation requires some engagement and persistence—like proofreading a one-line email before clicking send. This is especially true of most real-world adult problems; unlike video games or sports, they are rarely fun or entertaining to solve, and thus they require especially demanding forms of engagement and persistence.

I also worry about my male students’ current and future relationships. Relationships require engaged attention, both at home or in the workplace. Wives, children, bosses, and co-workers all want to be heard, and the inability to engage less-than-compelling subject matter (I know English isn’t everyone’s cup of tea) does not bode well for these relationships. As I told one class, if you look out the window while your boss is talking to you and your co-workers, then there better be something awfully important happening outside.

Our society needs more men who can fully participate in the knowledge economy and engage in creative problem-solving and meaningful relationships, not fewer. So what’s to be done?

For starters, we can unplug from our hyper-paced, ADD media culture every once in a while. We can turn off the TV, ignore the smartphone, and let someone else answer the Call of Duty. We can spend some time reading articles and books, contemplating ideas in depth and detail. We can listen to those around us more attentively, searching for something of interest or usefulness until it becomes easier to just listen. We can value learning for learning’s sake. And we can share these lessons with the next generation.

Otherwise, the engagement gap may widen higher education’s gender gap into a yawning chasm.


Read more in Education.

Image credit: Moyan_Brenn/Flickr

About Eric Sentell

Eric Sentell lives in Piedmont, MO, with his brilliant and beautiful wife and teaches college composition at Southeast Missouri State University. His short fiction has been published online or in print by The Rivendell Gazette, Long Story Short, Moon City Review, Unlikely Stories 2.0, Blink Ink Online, Short, Fast, and Deadly, and Six Minute Magazine. In September 2010, Long Story Short selected “Stolen Thunder” as its Story of the Month. Role Reboot published his first essay on gender roles, “Why Emotional Intelligence is Vital for Husbands.” He frequently writes for Role Reboot and The Good Men Project on gender roles, marriage, masculinity, and political and cultural debates. Follow him on Twitter @EricSentell.


  1. Until we begin looking at differential treatment from an early age and show just how our individual environments create different mental/emotional/social conditioning; how average stress is made up of layers of mental frictions that take up real mental energy, and how differential treatment creates real advantages for girls today, we will continue to be at a loss to explain the growing Male Crisis. Please do not buy into the genetic models, for they will only make it much worse for Male students.
    The problem is more complex than school curriculum or boy chemistry. The problem involves two entirely different treatments of Males and Females beginning as early as one year of age and increases in differential treatment through adulthood. This is creating the growing Male Crisis in the information age. The belief Males should be strong allows more aggressive treatment of Males beginning as early as one year. This is coupled with much “less” kind, stable, verbal interaction and less mental/emotional/social support, knowledge, and skills for fear of coddling. This increases over time and continued by society from peers and teachers to others in society. This creates more social/emotional distance from parents and other authority figures who have knowledge; higher average stress that hurts learning and motivation to learn; more activity due to need for stress relief; more defensiveness and wariness of others further hindering emotional and social growth; and higher muscle tension (creating more pressure on pencil and tighter grip) that hurts writing and motivation to write. It creates much lag in development creating a learned sense of helplessness in school. This differential treatment continues on through adulthood, almost fixing many Males onto roads of failure and more escape into more short-term areas of enjoyment. Also the giving of love based on achievement that many Males thus falling behind academics then turns their attention toward video games and sports, risk taking to receive small measures of love/honor not received in the classroom.

    Since girls by differential treatment are given more positive, continual, and close mental/emotional/social/ support verbal interaction and care from an early age onward this creates quite the opposite outcome for girls compared with boys. The lower the socioeconomic bracket and time in that bracket the more amplified the differential treatment from a young age and increased in more differentiated over time.
    My learning theory explains how individual environments create large differences in learning over time and provides tools to improve our lives.

  2. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    I just finished 16 years of full-time college teaching, and 14 years of adjuncting before that. I don’t see this problem at all. But I’m sort of a strange, kinesthetic teacher, so it might depend on method to some extent. What I’ve noted, though, is that women, in general, will put up with discomforts that will make men disengage. This is probably why women are surpassing men now in management positions, and are breaking all kinds of glass ceilings. This is not necessarily good. From the standpoint of resisting outrageous demands by management, women are being preferred, and men are more likely to be the natural resisters (as individuals.) The labor movement of old (1930s-1970s) was a little different. Entire communities resisted.

    So, if the teaching is too lockstep, or not engaging enough, men may be more apt to resist. I heartily concur that we need to bring back recess, competition, and other things that will break up the school as prison model we seem to have gravitated toward.

  3. J.G. te Molder says:

    Back in the 70s, when 40% of the students were women, the system was blamed. Programs started, and students became 50-50 by the early eighties. The system continued to get blamed for the bad enrollment of women despite them being 50-50, more programs came, more programs came to lower education, like forcing children to learn reading by treating a word as a picture, as opposed to a series of letters. It hurt both boys and girls, but boys more because less development of the language centers of their brains. Feminists were eager to hurt girls, just so they could hurt boys more.

    At the same time, title IX destroyed any and all activity that boys particularly liked and girls didn’t, get drastically diminished, if not removed altogether; including physical activities. Boys don’t get to get rid of their excess energy, they fidget in class, they aren’t perfect little girls, so drug ’em with a cocaine derivative that destroys their brains and will kill them of a stroke before they are thirty.

    At the same time, courses that guys ARE interested in, and girls aren’t, most notably STEM. But title IX gets expanded, and that means half of those students must be girls or the school doesn’t get as much funding. So only two girls enrolled, only two guys to to enroll even if there is room for a hundred. And if it’s really little, the course gets scrapped altogether. And you wonder why guy sitting in your class because something he’s actually interested in he’s not allowed into, doesn’t care about your course, and wonder why?

    Oh, wait, no, you’re not wondering why, you’re blaming the men, you self-centered sack of crap. I wonder if you would have blamed the girls if you were teaching back in the 70s. No, you wouldn’t have. Those boys in your class room don’t bother answering, because they have 15 years to learn that if you have something to say or ask as a male, you will ridiculed, shamed, or outright punished for having the audacity to be a man; especially those who are “diagnosed with ADHD.”

    So guess why they are so interested in video games. Because the games, and the until recently predominant male audience allowed them one recluse from the misandric society and education system they found themselves in. One place, where they could be themselves and be celebrated for it, instead of derided.

    If an entire demographic is significantly less interested in your lectures, it’s not the demographics fault, it’s your fault as a teacher and the system you represent for your failure to engage them.

  4. Greg Allan says:

    I ran the funding systems for state schools in Australia up to the mid nineties. At that time there were programs for girls in every school in my state but not a single thing for boys anywhere.

    You reap what you sow.

  5. John Anderson says:

    I remember first bring up the gender gap in higher education to my grad studies class about 2 years ago. I kept bringing up stats and possible social ramifications. It finally hit home when I mentioned that educated, professional, women were having difficulty finding dateable men. The class actually reacted with derision until the black, female, instructor told them that it was already happening in certain communities when you overlay race and class. She noted having 9 professional, educated, female, friends who were never married.

    About 6 months later, another female instructor asked the class, which was 70% female, in all seriousness whether women were under represented in higher education. She was shocked into silence when the class responded with a resounding no. In my opinion, that is the primary example of why there is a gender gap in higher education, people thinking that women making up 70% of the class is an under representation.

  6. A Girl who Appreciates Good Men says:

    Could this possibly be because of the way boys are shown in the media from a VERY young age?

    Now, I have seen groups who hate any commercial or show where a female role is smarter than the male; and of course there are groups who hate the opposite, any media where the female is dumb or the damsel in distress and the males are the heros.

    I lie in the middle, in reality more or less, which is funny since the book I’m about to tout isn’t in reality – Harry Potter is above all IMO the best childs book when it comes to gender roles. It’s completely neutral. Gender hardly plays a role between the characters besides harmless crushes. Yes, Hermonie is the textbook brianiac but Harry is not bad himself in school, at all, and all three of the main characters solve mysteries almost even handedly. The females are generally not in any more physical peril than anyone else, everyone saving each other, and in the end one of the less suspecting, minor characters, who happens to be male, rallys strength and saves the day. That book is literally a world where genders are even.

    However, in most media, young males who are supposed to be ‘cool’ aren’t smart, are a bit rude, manytimes chauvinistic, yet they still get the girls and most time succeed (in the sense that they aren’t living on the streets penniless and girl-less.) If they aren’t dumb they are at least fighters or gangsters or … “street smart.” Rarely are they ever textbook smart, and when they are, they are “The Big Bang Theory,” and while they are awesome characters, they are not something most teen boys are going to say, “YES LETS BE LIKE THAT.” … There ARE intelligent, normal, “real” men in the media, like the father in “Up All Night,” but I’m going to assume that not a lot of young men are watching this show anyway.

    Again, I want to be clear – I DON’T think that boys, or girls for that matter, LITERALLY look at a tv show and say, “I want to be like x.y.z.whoever” … but considering that commercials are still around at all because they influence us to purchase certain things or feel a certain way, we MUST get a subconscious understanding of what is expected of our gender roles from what we watch as well.

    I’ve seen this argument many times, but unfortunately it’s always one sided – either a female based sight yelling about how women are depicted unrealistically, or a male based sight saying that males are depicted wrong. Can we agree *here* and come to the conclusion that stereotypes are running rampant through the media that should not be? That the stereotypes that are showing through in real life, perhaps are coming from an over-glorified amount of stereotype-bashing which in turn is making them more true than they had been before?

    Just a thought. Not based in a ton of fact.

    • You make an excellent point — part of the HUGE reason why boys also disengage is because, simply put, girls don’t exactly value intellectual pursuits the way they do certain types of boorish behavior. If the thug is more rewarded sexually than the smart guy, a massive incentive for being smart for a man is laid to waste.

      Couple that with virtually every social initiative on education fixated on how to make girls better, and how to get men and boys to accomodate girls and women, and you begin to see precisely why the average male really couldn’t care less about academic achievement.

      All of the above, of course, is a massive detriment to the future productivity of society. The default assumption that you could simply flog every incoming male generation for increasing wealth transfers while simultaneously undervaluing them over and over again won’t work when you no longer have males who care to produce.

  7. I suspect that the biggest problem facing young men has to do with the double-bind that progressivist thought has created in our society when it comes to men and success.

    Whenever I am successful, I am told that it is only because I am a white male. How many hours I work each week, the fact that I had to put myself through undergrad, the actual value of my work product, etc. is all ignored by someone who gleefully tells me “You would never have accomplished anything if you were a black woman.”

    Indeed, at the height of the financial crisis, I was treated to more than a few comments about how “White men have caused all of sciety’s problems and should not be trusted. They are evil.” (Side note: I’ve always wondered how Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citibank felt when financial leaders were referred to as “white men”)

    So why work hard at all? If my success will be dismissed because of my gender and/or race, why bother? If I’m successful, the world will just blame their problems on me anyway.

    But then we get into the double-bind, if I’m not successful, then I’m a failure who women should be ashamed of dating.

    So my choice is between working hard, having my work dismissed, and being thought of as an evil money-grubber, or bein a loser who women should avoid.

    Great choices there.

    Any wonder why men begin to disengage?

  8. Random_Stranger says:

    hmmm….well, either boys changed, girls changed, schools changed or some combination thereof. Its interesting though, that “boys changed” appears to be the null hypothesis by most feminist leaning social critics. It fits a pattern permitting such thinkers to preserve their labors against a fanciful system that consistently prefers male agency. It stand to reason, these feminists might argue, that such a system favoring male agency would also permit flawed male choices to flourish. And so my imagined feminist conjectures, male failing, as much as male success, provides clear evidence of a persistent patriarchal society -let us stay the course towards “progress”.

  9. My older brother is a perfect example of ADHD, totally disengaged and underperforming student…he went to a selective NYC HS but definitely not at the top of his class…he attended a community college, but then woke up one day and figured he could do so much better than the gang members in his class….long story short: he transferred out to an engineering school and now is a hot shot computer programmer out in Silicon Valley (and he makes many times more than I do, the studious “perfect” child with all of the honors and awards!)….

    Out in the real world, the marketable skills you have may have very little to do with how well you wrote that essay in English class….

    He plays that bloody interactive computer game, “Halo” with his colleagues AT WORK…and it’s all good!

  10. From a business standpoint- one of the best leading metrics for company performance is employee engagement. As a leader I cannot sit back and tell employees to become more engaged. I have to look at the environment, the work, the career path etc and figure out how to increase my company’s overall level of engagement. Look at the work done by Gallup on employee and customer engagement. This has been leveraged by businesses and churches across the country. You’ll always have some small segment of disengagement but you try to minimize it.

    When it comes to educators- all I see is them blaming others for the sad fact that nearly 50% of the children are not engaged. Or, better yet, they blame “society” and “culture.” Schools are failing boys. Educators need to be accountable for it. We expect this out of leaders in business- if a CEO says “Its not my fault sales have dropped- the customers need to change their behavior, or video games did it!!!!” they will get laughed out of the board room. Physician, heal thyself.

  11. I comment often on the negative consequences for boys of the pressure to force literacy down into younger and younger grades (often due to high-stakes testing demands) and how this disadvantages boys and often turns them off to learning at a young age. I won’t blab on about that again. Commenters on this site usually agree more or less with that idea.

    Here’s another that I find much less support for when I post about it, but I nonetheless witnessed it myself over the 25 years I have worked with children in schools as an educational psychologist, teacher, and administrator. Let’s put on the table screen time (esp interactive) and ADHD.

    Here’s one article–there are 100’s. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-parenting/2010/07/06/do-video-games-cause-adhd-3-ways-to-keep-your-kids-safe

    Whether boys with ADHD (and it is present in boys 4 times as often as girls) are drawn to video games and other screen activities *because* they have ADHD, or whether screen time actually causes or exacerbates ADHD, has not been proven. However, in my mind, I have NO DOUBT they are correlated. I worked in schools *before* the internet and the explosion in video gaming, and after. The difference in the attention spans of kids (usually boys) who spend a lot of time engaged in interactive screen time versus *before* this was a huge part of our culture is HUGE. Are we really wondering, “Hey, why can’t boys pay attention in class anymore?” Other people might be, but I’m not. I see a direct correlation across 1000’s of students I have known. Screen time needs to be limited regardless of the chicken-egg argument. Video games are exciting! They are visually, auditorily and kinesthetically *highly* stimulating, and no teacher, no matter how upbeat and creative, can be as entertaining to kids as video games. Once kids get used to that level of sensory input, school is BORING.

    I know a lot of people who really like video games love to say, “There’s nothing wrong with video games.” Ok, go ahead, say it. My experience says otherwise. And that may not be fun to hear or think about, but it is what I have seen with my own eyes and through evaluating 100’s of kids (mostly boys), including discussing their screen time habits with their parents. The correlation is clear to me. I also have seen so many boys fail out of school because they were “addicted” (I know, controversial word) to video games. That does not mean there are not *other* factors to boys’ underachievement as well–there are. But I will continue to put video games on the table whenever this conversation about boys tuning out in class comes up. It is one of several important issues we should address if we really care about boys’ achievement.

    • The Blurpo says:

      I dont know, it seems there are some dispute in the methodology of the experiment.

      Anyways before pointing the finger at others, you should alway point give a look at yourself. I keep reading over and over again in the commentary, that girls get encouraged and supported meanwhile boys do not. Is there something truth in this, if yes is that possible that this kind of procedure is actually responsable for the lack of boy’s interest in study? if not why do you think this meme is around?

    • Gonna rant a bit because I have so many views on the topic, some are generalizations, I’m sure some of what I will say is probably wrong so feel free to correct me. My school experience was traumatic and quite frankly pathetic, I have nothing but anger for 90% of my school life and I truly believe so much time was wasted with bullshit like bullying, shitty teachers, etc.

      It’s interesting teachers are so quick to blame other things though. Is it possible that with the elevated focus on helping the girls in the 90’s that boys were ignored or treated differently, that they disengaged? Did the teaching methods change?

      I’ll start with something I saw, a teacher or 2 would tell a person, pretty much ALWAYS a boy that they will never amount to anything and that had a huge effect on their self-esteem. I saw quite a few boys absolutely just shut down, it was like they said fuckit, I’m too dumb and I’ll never learn, they just unplug their learning module from their brain n drift on in school. A friend of mine had this happen to him, and he was also someone that saw his d’s or c’s on report cards n felt like he was nothing, felt stupid, I reminded him that academics is only one measure of intelligence and that he was damn good at metalwork, etc and that is where his intelligence lies. Teachers who do this, should be fired on the spot and have their credentials revoked unless they make a huge effort to change. I 100% believe that a few bad apple teachers absolutely destroy learning for some kids.

      As a male who went through the education system in Australia (not sure if it’s similar to where you teach) I noticed many boys in highschool gave up, girls were beating them on tests but also there was this stereotype that boys are dumb which actually sank in. I’m going to guess I was amongst the first generation of boys to assume that girls are more intelligent in schools, at least at academics.

      I saw the disconnect from boys that NEVER played video games, I think video games are just a convenient excuse, something to blame the boys and say HA it’s your fault instead of potentially unearthing a major bias against boys in education. Hell just the fact women mature earlier yet they learn alongside boys who are behind will have an effect on boys self-esteem, if kids feel stupid they will often give up I’ve found. I think classes should be based on ability, not age, that way no one is kept behind. I for instance would have been in senior computer studies in year 8 or 9 as I would do an hours work in 10 minutes, sit there bored stupid and thus ended up hating the class because I’d have nothing to do, I’d talk to others n get in trouble and it wasn’t fun OR engaging. Ever sat in a class for 50 minutes, WITH untreated ADHD, with nothing to do, CRAVING more n more to do but none is available, I couldn’t progress ahead so it became a huge waste of my time.

      I saw kids who couldn’t keep up get left behind, kids that went too fast get bored, I thought it was a huge clusterfuck and probably the worst way to learn. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything less efficient. My take on the school I went to is that they have a knack for destroying someones desire to learn, they were teaching people how to get a job basically, not how to learn. Maybe I am super critical of school but I think there are so many problems that need to be addressed but I only ever heard or saw effort in a half-arsed manner. We also had special learning kids in our class that were slowing it down a bit, call me an asshole but I don’t think we should have people with lets say a 1000hp of learning ability alongside people with 150hp, both are going to have less than desirable learning.

      Something I noticed were boys were also hassled more for their behavior, maybe they have too much unburned energy? I’d be interested to see a study in energy usage between the genders. Where I live is a rural area and many of the boys went into school-based apprenticeships which seemed to help, past grade 10 they’re the kind of people that should be working. Year 11 and 12 seems to be more about getting that magic OP number to get into university. Hell half the shit I learned at school was fucking useless to me, some subjects were so boring that they destroyed my desire to learn even more.

      Sadly the perfect learning for me would require me to be in the city with better funding, and a broader range of subjects. Things like photography, robotics, art (painting, sculpting, etc), engineering, etc are the stuff I loved but very little was available at my school. Just the basics like woodwork, metalwork (which were both on at the same time so I couldn’t do both grrr), maths, english, science, etc. Science touched on so many topics but didn’t go very indepth (we did electronics/soldering in 2 lessons 🙁 ).

      I think games themselves can be useful, games based on learning can be great and even our military’s use them for training. I disagree taht games are causing the huge problem, I think possibly it’s more the always on society. As you say kids now have mobiles in class with access to the internet, it’s information overload, at night you can stay up doing whatever. We socialize a lot more online now, when I was a kid 15 years ago we had to ride the bike to see or talk to a friend or maybe a phonecall but now I can grab the phone out of my pocket, text/call them and it’s always with me. Discipline methods also changed, you aren’t allowed to spank kids anymore and that could be an issue. I know I hear from my mother (a teacher) that kids today are FAR less disciplined and more disrespectful, that she says that teachers here get into shit if they fail a kid as they need to do some big process to show why and it’s basically to be avoided.

      Games are highly interactive yes but that can be a good thing, a classroom which can’t afford to goto a fieldtrip could dive into a game, see an engine pulled apart and piece it together, hopefully one day good VR will be around and they can grab the pieces and rebuild it regardless of the cost of the real engine (especially useful for turbines for instance which cost big $$$). The days of drawing on the board I think are diminishing, teaching will have to adapt to new technology and keep people engaged. Relying on text and basic pictures alone to learn with is absolutely stupid, the majority of what I was taught was basic copy paste notes from the board, memorize a bunch of useless shit for a test and that was that.

      Be careful not to assign too much blame to videogames. A person like me for instance who used games heavily in school did fail in my senior years but where someone like you might see “oh he plays a lot of games” you’d miss the real reason. I ESCAPED into games because of severe depression caused by a hostile school environment, bullying was extreme and nothing the teachers n staff did could help (made it worse actually). I went to school wishing I was dead and contemplated bringing a cricket bat to school and beating the kneecaps of a bully so badly that he’d require hospital just so people would see me as a guy not to be fucked with so I could be left alone.

      Can you understand how severe bullying has to be for kids to not only fantasize about it but nearly do it? The ONLY reason that stopped me was because back then I’d fear I’d goto jail, then after I was outa school I found out I could have done it and barely got any punishment due to being underage at the time and light sentences. That’s a scary thought, I could very well have permanently injured someone just so people would leave me alone because I ended up with mental injuries that have taken over a decade to even start healing. The ONLY thing that stopped bullying at my school was to hit the bully, the only way I stopped some of my bullying was throwing/punching/hitting a bully enough to scare them and that individual left me alone but I didn’t do it to all the bullies, and quite a lot were girls which I didn’t wanna hit so I was fucked either way. It reminds me of prison how people goto the toughest guy n beat them down so they get left alone, and it’s pathetic that it’s probably the only way to stop bullying at my school. So much of it went down that I would bet my life and the life of my own kid that bullying harms grades a huge amount, and costs our society a huge amount in lost productivity due to mental n physical illness + stress that comes from it. The gender difference though is that girls seemed better able to seek help, I sought help but felt like a failure of a man because of it and can see why other boys/men especially don’t seek it.

      There are many many reasons that boys are failing, and also that I think girls too aren’t achieving their max potential. And finally Dr Michio Kaku says what I think best about schools.
      ht tp://bigthink.com/ideas/19053

    • To focus on video games is to absurdly and intentionally deflect the issue from a systemic crisis that’s being borne out in education — our society overvalues the average female over the average male in virtually all forms of society which is conspicuously shown in public policy. It’s not just in education (as we see here), but in health care (men die of virtually everything more than women, but receive far less federal funding), poverty (men make up 90% of the homeless and a majority of the impoverished), crime (men are more likely to be imprisoned falsely, receiver harsher sentences for similar crimes, are 8 times more likely to be victims of violence, and are more likely to be raped), etc. etc.

      And for the record, I’m a valedictorian who became surgeon who played video games for all of his life. Most of the technology that you use today was invented and advanced by “video gaming” types of people (somehow I don’t see you running away from your internet, your smartphone, or your social network of choice). There’s another reason for our boys crisis, and it has everything to do with the fact that we simply don’t value boys and men — but we really really really want them to produce anyway.

      • John Anderson says:

        You’re right and by now I shouldn’t be surprised when I find out that men or boys are more abused or exploited than women or girls, but I’m still surprised. Lately I found out that most prostitution cases involve boys or young men and the majority of their customers were women. I suspect it is because the social safety net fails men leaving them with three methods of survival begging, crime (robbery or theft), or selling their bodies.

  12. Sorry about all tha typos. This new remote keyboard doesn’t seem to work that well

  13. The general attitudes you notice i your class happen long before these young people walk through your door. I’ve recently read a study tha claims that because of the differnt rate of brain developement between the sexes and because of different patterns of processing information, females tend to do better at course work (that might explain a couple of women I know wo can ‘ae’ just about any course but ave true difficulty applying that knowlege). If that is a part of it at all, I believe it is a very small part. The mustch larger probm that no one wishes to address lies with our public education system. It’s set up to educate girls and wharehouse boys. When my 3 daughters went to school, thet ere constntly encouraed to ‘go urther’ look toard you future(as in take your DAGHTER to work day). If they stumbled, there were ‘support’ personell dedicated to getting them ‘back on track’. My son basically larned at an early age to ‘sit down and shut up’. And when I enquired about hiring a math tutor (this after spending thousands of dollars at one of these outside ‘Learning’ centers) I wasn’t given any helpat ll (this was for someone I was willig to pay for) Finally, a Guidence Consulor (not his, but one I knew through mydaughter)put me in touch with someone. My situation is far fron unique in that many others I.ve spoken to feel the same. Unless your son is a star athlete, most of the oung men in school getthe feeling that t’s a place their obligated to go to , but if not for the act that state aid is attached to attendance the school would be fine with them not jst showing up at all

  14. Meant to say:
    By the end of high school boys average 3 full grades behind girls in reading comprehension.

  15. Yes, you can blame young men for a failure to be serious. However, most of these patterns are set in early childhood.

    During the 1990’s the AAUW released their report “shortchange girls shortchange america” and it issued in a lot of new laws, rules, and procedures in elementary, middle, and high schools which by design favored girls.

    The problem is that even in the 90’s girls were nearing parity. When you factor in boys who were expelled or dropped out giving them a Zero in whatever system you wanted to measure education, then girls had *already* pulled up equal to boys.

    By the end of high school boys average 3 full grades behind girls.

    We can blame boys or young men, or we can see reality in that these boys are actively being disengaged by the system at a very early age. School has changed in the last 15 years to favor girls:

    Due to litigation most recess is being minimized abandoned, which studies show boys need a break. Teachers now favor sitting still and collaborative efforts instead of individual efforts and quizzes.

    Most reading material may be not aimed at girls, but it is definitely not aimed at boys. Reading material that calls for examination of emotions rather than action or plot are going to disengage boys.

    When people erroneously believed that girls were falling behind the call was to change “the system” not blame girls.
    Boys should receive the same courtesy.

    • Great post John.

      I’m still skeptical of the boys crisis as it seems to be a manufactured debate. The idea of a boys crisis popped up in popular magazines such as Time and Newsweek and several books were published around 2007, but very little primary academic research suggests that the gender gap favors females.

      The AAUW is a major player in this debate. They analysed the 2007 NAEP exam and adjusted the disaggregated data to rule out factors of poverty and race. There findings showed that boys still out-preformed girls by an average of two points.

      That being said, in 1994 there was a congressional subcommittee that laid out a targeted effort to help girls achieve higher results in math and science. We’re starting to see this pay off. Why we have not seen a subcommittee being formed on behalf of boys is beyond me. Young boys are not going to college, entering professional schools, or privately reading at the same rates they used to. Blame videogames or the internet or whatever, but as you say don’t blame the boys, which is ironic, because the boys crisis, at least according to Sommer’s The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men, stems from a boy’s biological need to not sit still in a boring class, something young girls can do.

      As far as school changing to fit girls…I’m not sure. i think schools are changing to fit historically disenfranchised subpops. Our schools were geared towards the values and ends of white middle class Americans, and in a lot of ways, reuired far more “sit down and shut up” than is asked of boys today.

      • I graduate high school in 85 at a semi-upscale public school system in which teachers really seemed to care and was about 30-40% male teachers.
        In many ways I thank that I wasn’t born later in which schools seem to have been driven over a cliff.

        In elementary school I remember a teacher who had a rule that if we finished all of our work, and it was acceptably correct for the day we got to play with board games in the back. Nowadays I have a feeling that this would be seen as “punishing” the slow kids rather than as an impetus to get them to try harder.

        In junior high I had a (female) math teacher who would sometimes reserve the end of the class (last 10minutes or so) for a contest in which the teacher would call out a math problem and two kids would write it on the chalkboard and come up w/the answer. Whoever got the correct answer first got a point. The classroom was divided into two teams and each child would get one turn at the board.

        In high school I remember a reading elective class called “suspension and horror stories”. The class was about 3/4 boys.

        I don’t see or hear about ANY of this happening nowadays. I think it’s very sad, that children are losing out of a good education (which will help you all of your life) for reasons that really are beyond their control.

        Additionally, I would point out that in “The War Against Boys” also by Hoff-Sommers that she states the AAUW study was done in a very unethical format. For instance the stat which shows that boys are called on 2 to 1 over girls *includes* disciplinary shoutouts. In other words, the researchers were doing “advocacy research” in which they knew what conclusions they wanted and backed the data into those conclusions however they could. So, it was factually untrue that teachers were calling out to boys 2 to 1 over girls FOR ANSWERS.

        It’s this type of single demographic advocacy that I can’t stand.

        • Suspense and horror stories, not suspension lol

        • Speaking as someone who wrote very slowly I was regularly held during lunch to finish off writing on the board, it destroyed a lot of my desire to learn. Gimme a keyboard though and I would have easily beaten everyone else in the class. So yeah it would be punishing the slow kids as the fast ones get to enjoy a game and get that because they have extra skill, that will cause resentment for children. I had major resentment for people who were able to write fast because they actually got to enjoy their full lunchbreak, a 30 minute break that I only had 5minutes to eat my food in before the next class. I was pretty much denied 25 minutes of my lunch because of my issue with writing, why couldn’t the teacher just print the fucking shit out instead of being a royal C about it? Who knows.

          I think schools need to quit forcing people to write an entire board of notes down on paper, I had an exercise book only half filled each lesson, most of the notes I had were useless, you can’t review them since you only got half or less of the information. Thankfully in highschool they stopped that shit n gave us printouts more.

        • John Anderson says:

          @ John D

          When I was younger, we used to have math contests and spelling bees. I have always wondered if this shift from a competitive environment has affected boys negatively. Mt nephew loved playing football, but hated practice. He was a disruptive beast on the defensive line, but was average or so on the offensive line on passing plays, probably because the defensive player initiates the action.

          I also wondered why girls were consistently rated higher than boys in school, but when taking standardized exam, like the SAT boys scored higher. In grade school, I was the 7th or 8th ranked student in my math class according to my female teacher. The top 6 or 7 students were girls and the top 5 were given special tutoring sessions after school. On the Iowa exams the top two scorers were boys as were 3 of the top 4. I can’t remember if a boy came in 3 or 4, but I do remember outscoring the top girl by double digits. You’d never see teachers announce a kid’s grade to the class today.

          In high school, I was ranked 130ush/140ish out of just over 300 students, about average, but I scored in the top 2% in both English and math on the SATs, which put me in the top 1% overall. Are boys simply not practice players? Do we need more “game time” to bring out the best in boys? Why do the teachers, who should know the boys the best, rate them consistently low? If women and girls were rated consistently lower by men than boys and men when an objective, standardized third party finds the opposite to be true, people would call this a clear case of gender bias. Why is this not occurring here?

          When teachers consistently rate boys lower, whether deserved or not, and focus their efforts on girls, could that dissuade boys from wanting to pursue education? We criticize magazines because they send an unhealthy message to girls. We criticize movies and shows for the way they portray minorities, but boys are somehow immune to the messages being sent to them from their educators, the message that you’re not that good and a waste of my time.

      • Aaron,

        While I agree with the general sentiment of your post, I fail to see how you can suggest that the gender gap in academic achievement is primarily a manufactured crisis.

        Virtually all data on the subject supports the idea that around the mid 1990’s or so, girls began to outpace boys in academic achievement. That THIS particular gender disparity is couched as a victory instead of a symptom of systemic discrimination against one gender (as we did when girls were in a similar situation) is the likely root of the problem.


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