Magazine article The American Conservative

Snakes, Snails, and Puppy-Dog Tails

Magazine article The American Conservative

Snakes, Snails, and Puppy-Dog Tails

Article excerpt

Hands are gnashed and teeth wrung over the current superiority of girls over boys in school. The probable consequences, both economic and social, are grave, going far beyond cutesy gender-wars sparring. Why are boys crashing?

Some writers imply that boys are just, weU, doltish and can't keep up. The evidence doesn't support the idea. In 1999 - I pick that year because I then wrote a column on the question - the average math SAT score for boys was 531; for girls, 495. The respective verbal scores were 509 and 502. The number of boys scoring 800 in math, the highest possible score, was 4,815; of girls, 1,611. Girls with 800 verbal scores, 2,828; boys, 3,087. The disparity cannot well be explained by stupidity.

Nor is it that girls have gotten better. They have always done well in school. Yet boys are now doing much worse. Why? Perhaps because schools refuse to recognize that boys and girls are very different animals.

Girls co-operate; boys compete. Girls like order; boys, disorder. Girls like security; boys, adventure. Girls are not particularly physical; boys, relentlessly so.

I don't argue that either is better, only that the differences exist. Ignore them, and you get what we've got.

The schools today promote everything that boys aren't, don't want, and can't be. Boys are churning energy wads. They usuaUy hate school. Girls, I think, do not. For boys the routine is horrible, the material boring, the enforced confinement to desks almost physicaUy painful.

When I was in high school in King George County, Virginia, boys played football at school, three hours of (Mlcontact) fast-break pickup basketbaU at the gym after school, and spent long afternoons swimming and canoeing in the river. We needed to burn off energy. It was a requirement for weU being. The girls, by choice, did none of this.

Boys like to take chances, valuing freedom over security. My friends and I canoed into the Potomac in high waves with storm warnings out because it was fun, exciting, uncontroUed. Girls didn't. They could have, there being no restrictions on sales of canoes to girls, but they by choice did other things. Different animals.

Put boys in suburban moors where there is Uttle physical to do; enact rules against hazardous sports such as tag and dodgebaU; outlaw competition; teU them that everything they want to do is violent and evil; forbid them to swim without two lifeguards, a Coast Guard-approved Ufe preserver, and sunblock - and you get miserable, frustrated boys who are Ukely to say the heU with it. …

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