Today in the Mpls. Star Tribune
Posted by: "Jamil" email@example.com
Tue Jan 8, 2008 7:05 am (PST)http://nc.startribune.com/blogs/kersten/?p=347
Will Boys Crawl Up from the Educational Basement?
January 8th, 2008 8:30 AM
Politically correct legends die hard, but weıve finally
discarded the feminist fantasy that girls are shortchanged
in school. You know the conventional wisdom has
undergone a seismic shift when a New York Times
news article bluntly states that ³girls [are] outperforming
boys these days in high school and college.²
The Timesı conclusion is supported by a wealth of statistics,
some of which were highlighted in a recent Newsweek
By almost every benchmark, boys across the nation
and in every demographic group are falling behind. In
elementary school, boys are two times more likely
than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and
twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes.
High-school boys are losing ground to girls on standardized
writing tests. The number of boys who said they didnıt like
school rose 71 percent between 1980 and 2001, according
to a University of Michigan study.
Nowhere is the shift more evident than on college
campuses. Thirty years ago men represented 58 percent
of the undergraduate student body. Now theyıre a minority
at 44 percent. This widening achievement gap, says
Margaret Spellings, U.S. Secretary of Education, has
profound implications for the economy, society, families
Weıve finally identified the real ³gender gap,² but
agreement on solutions is harder to come by. One thingıs
for sure, according to the Times. High-priced counselors,
consultants and tutors are springing up everywhere to
help solve your sonıs gender-based academic difficulties.
These professionals are apparently focusing on organizational
skills, claiming that boys canıt adequately respond to the
intricate planning required to meet modern educational
demands. The typical tutor prepares an elaborate plan
consisting of color-codes, files, planners and calendars.
The clients are held accountable for the content of those
notoriously messy backpacks, and deviations from the
system are verboten. There is some evidence that boysı
grades improve when the new habits begin to stick.
But how much can we rely on improved organizational
skills to bolster the education of boys? Several years ago,
I wrote that modern education is fundamentally rigged in
favor of girls, and I believe the same holds true today:
Until about 40 years ago, American classrooms were
generally teacher-centered.ı Lessons were highly
structured, and discipline was strict. Teachers emphasized
fact-based learning and drill, and grading was competitive.
But with the rise of progressiveı education, a child-
centeredı approach became the norm. Progressive
pedagogy deemphasized structure in favor of discovery
learning,ı and focused on enhancing creativity and self-
esteem rather than imparting knowledge. Teachers
began to discourage competition, and promote cooperative
Instructional changes like these appear to have hurt
boys. Boys tend to be less mature, more impulsive and
more easily bored than girls. As a result, they benefit
from structured lessons, clear expectations and strict deadlines.
Boys also need firm, consistent discipline. Today,
classroom discipline is often inconsistent, and lacks
the authoritative tone to which boys are most likely
Finally, boys tend to thrive on competition, and
frequently flounder in collaborative group settings.
One researcher has summed matters up this way:
By rejecting the old-fashioned ladder of tests,
measurable achievement and competition, incentives
were lost that had once given school a comprehensible
point to many pupils particularly the male ones.ı
One additional obstacle to boysı improved academic
performance is much too fundamental and intractable
for the tutors to grapple with. Newsweek put it succinctly:
One of the most reliable predictors of whether a
boy will succeed or fail in high school rests on a single
question: does he have a man in his life to look up to?
Too often, the answer is no. High rates of divorce and
single motherhood have created a generation of fatherless
boys. In every kind of neighborhood, rich or poor, an
increasing number of boysnow a startling 40 percent
are being raised without their biological dads.
All the color-coded planners in the world will only scratch
the surface. Boys still need dads.
Jamil Jabr (Gabrielıs Dad)
PO BOX 14954
MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55414-0954
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