By Rivers and Barnett
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
A "boy crisis" is boiling up in media coverage of education, based on the perception that girls are outstripping boys academically. Today's commentators argue that the discussion should be about social demographics, not gender.
(WOMENSENEWS)--The "boy crisis" is now a major media trend.
It's been on the cover of Newsweek, featured in People magazine and examined by a PBS documentary. It's also the central issue in a suit filed by a high school student in Massachusetts saying that schools discriminate against boys.
The flap could harm both sexes by blinding us to the main issue; that less-advantaged boys--and girls--need help.
Instead of single-sex classrooms, we need more mentoring, more one-on-one sessions, more focus on individual kids' abilities instead of endless testing. But such programs are expensive and, at a time when schools are getting less and less federal money, how much will change? Rushing in with the wrong solutions will only make the situation worse.
Nonetheless, charges of an anti-male bias are in full swing.
"Often boys are treated like defective girls," says Houston neurologist Dr. Bruce Perry in the Jan. 30 Newsweek article, describing today's coed classes as a "biologically disrespectful model of education."
But if you look at the educational studies carefully, this isn't a boys' crisis. It's a "some boys' crisis."
Overall, elite boys are doing well academically. More males than females attend Ivy League schools. And while we have been hearing that boys are virtually disappearing from college classrooms, among whites, the gender composition of colleges is pretty balanced; 51 percent female and 49 percent male, according to the National Education Association.
"On most measures boys--at least the middle-class white boys everyone seems concerned about--are doing just fine, taking their places in an unequal society to which they have always felt entitled," says Michael Kimmel, a sociologist at the State University of New York-Stony Brook and author of the 1996 book, "Manhood in America: A Cultural History."
The real issue is that some boys, and girls as well, are doing very poorly, especially if they are poor, black, Latino or working-class white. For example, in Florida--one of the states with the lowest rates of high-school graduation--81 percent of Asians and 60 percent of white students graduate while only 48 percent of Hispanics and 46 percent of African Americans do.
Across the board, Latinos and blacks of both sexes lag behind, but the gap is more dramatic for the males. In Boston public schools, for example, for every 100 white males who graduate, 104 white females do; a tiny gap. But for every 100 black males who graduate, 139 black females do; a whopping difference.
In general, boys also have more learning disabilities and seem more vulnerable to autism. But the idea of "The War Against Boys"--which is how Christina Hoff Summers titled her 2001 book--is nonsense.
Furthermore, the idea that all boys must be taught in "boy" classrooms--as best-selling author and family therapist Michael Gurian argued last December in the Washingt