A week or so ago I was watching the evening news and one of the anchors mentioned a study showing that boys in school were NOT being adversely affected by the attention paid to girls, as has been widely reported in such respected journals as Psychology Today. I don't remember the report - as I was busy doing something else - but I remember thinking, "No duh!"
Let me clarify one thing: I like boys. I'm all for boys getting whatever attention they need and deserve in the classroom. The issue is whether or not the recognition of how schools were letting girls down by not calling on them in science and math, calling on the boys first and most, is valid. As the mother of 2 girls and 1 boy, I think I have some insight into this issue. As a woman, I also have an interest in it.
The truth is - I don't have the answer. I could go out and do lots of research and present both sides and I don't think I would come up with a definitive answer. My experience would not match your experience. How my children were educated might compare to how yours were educated, but in the end - it isn't so much the schools, as the children and the support system the children have at home, that determines their success rate in life - and whether or not their education sinks in.
Last week I did come across two articles that I thought were relevant to this question - of boys vs girls and who is being better educated, and I'd like to talk about them a little today.
The first one, from The Washinton Post, is called "Whither the Women?" This article discusses the rate of women leaving the workforce - which isn't directly related to the boys vs girls issue except when you remember that women entering the workforce in the past did so in jobs that were far inferior to the jobs (and pay) of men. According to "Whither the Women"...
"...women's rush to employment stopped in 2000 and started to decline, as they began to join their male counterparts in retirement, go out on disability and delay paid employment to get more education. Some economists think the high-water mark of female participation in the labor force was in 2000, when it hit 60.3 percent."
Sixty point three percent...of women in the workforce. Does that number speak to you? It speaks to me. It tells me that women account for the majority of economic support of the U.S. If we all called in sick one day - what do you think would happen?
The article also states (and this is the last quote I will take from it; it's excellent, do go read it for yourself) the reason women are most likely to leave work...
"While nonworking women are still much more likely than men to cite "home responsibilities" as their reason for not holding or seeking a job, that's actually less true now than it was in the past. The share of women aged 25 to 54, considered to be in their "prime" working years, who gave that reason for not seeking employment has shrunk for more than a decade. The share of men citing that reason has edged up over the same period, according to a Labor Department analysis of census survey figures from 1990 to 2003."
Interesting, isn't it? Of course, this study reflects adults - especially baby boomers who spent their youth in the warm, peaceful comfort of new suburbia - surrounded by doting parents and hundreds of friends. No one cared back then if girls learned math or science. Not even the girls.
Let's get to the good stuff. "Whither the Women" goes on to show that younger people are electing to stay in school longer, these days. Women, especially, recognize the value of an education and more women than men are opting to go for that degree, be it a high school diploma or a college degree. I talked about this somewhat in my book, Dickless Marketing, showing that in the near future young women will be the family support person - while their husbands stay home with the children. (I actually wrote a silly short story about this back in the late 1960s! Who knew!)
The fact that young women are choosing to become educated bears some scrutiny, also. Let's look
at this article from The NY Times (free registration required). "At Colleges, Women Are Leaving Men in the Dust." This is a series looking at what the Times is calling, The New Gender Divide.
According to this article,
"A quarter-century after women became the majority on college campuses, men are trailing them in more than just enrollment.
Department of Education statistics show that men, whatever their race or socioeconomic group, are less likely than women to get bachelor's degrees — and among those who do, fewer complete their degrees in four or five years. Men also get worse grades than women. "
Men, apparently, like to party more than women. Which leaves me to wonder who they're partying with, but perhaps that's another story for another day. In this story, let's look at the educational and socio-economic implications. As best we can in a single blog post.
The article is much more detailed than I will present here - and I think the series is worth reading, if you care about education and the future of this country. Meanwhile, the troubling part of this trend is that it shows a disturbing result related to race and economic status. Black and Hispanic boys, from lower income families, are throwing education away - far more often than boys from white, upper-income families. In those upper-income families, the boys even slightly outpace the girls, their sisters.
I don't necessarily see a correlation between how these kids were educated in grade school and high school, and how they perform in college (if they even go to college), but I have to wonder where it's going to take us in the future. The article goes on to note that,
"At Harvard, 55 percent of the women graduated with honors this spring, compared with barely half the men. And at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, a public university, women made up 64 percent of this year's graduates, and they got 75 percent of the honors degrees and 79 percent of the highest honors, summa cum laude."
Again, I was reporting on this in my book - and in some ways it's not a problem. If we shift to a dominance of women in the workforce and men staying at home, and the men actually perform the same child-rearing tasks as women have traditionally done (volunteering at school, shopping for household goods and groceries, cleaning, and nuturing the children), then a flip-flop isn't a bad thing. It could even be a good thing. I know some men that make much better mothers than some mothers I know. Not to mention that in this country we tend to dismiss fathers far too carelessly. Fathers are critical to the emotional and psychological well-being of our children - mothers who know that and who embrace the father's help, have happier children (my opinion, I don't have stats to cover that - but, I bet I could find them.)
Meanwhile, this quote brings us back to the original question at the start of this post:
"... some scholars say the new emphasis on young men's problems — recent magazine covers and talk shows describing a "boy crisis" — is misguided in a world where men still dominate the math-science axis, earn more money and wield more power than women."
Hello. We're back to square one. Who's getting shafted in our educational system? Boys or girls? Who should get the attention in the classroom? Boys or girls? Who should be rewarded with high paying jobs once he or she leaves school - boys or girls?
Well, the answer is boys and girls. The answer is - we need to change our educational system. We need to stop working in a system that is antiquated it squeaks - it has mold growing on it - it crumbles under scruntiny. We need to embrace the social media power of looking at people as individuals rather than groups - and teach our children according to their abilities, not according to some testing procedure devised by old, white men living lives of quiet desperation.
As a closing statement, I can't help noting that women tend to do better in college if they attend an all women's institution. Which begs the question: should education be segregated from kindergarten up? Less distractions, better focus, less competition - that's the upside. What's the downside?
Stephens College can tell you why women attending gender- specific higher education institutions do better. And, in the doing better, they make life better for those around them. Could the same be true for men?