Magazine article Social Studies Review

Where Are the Boys?

Magazine article Social Studies Review

Where Are the Boys?

Article excerpt

The Gender Gap

Did you know that the Palm Desert Campus of California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB) has a population this Quarter of 73% females? This is great news - "Go Girls!"

The Office of Institutional Research at CaI State, San Bernardino reports that with an enrollment of over 1 6,000, the recent graduation rate was 68% female and 32% men. Colleges and universities across the country report that female graduation rates have reached 65%.

While this is not true of the elite universities who have so many applicants they are able to balance their gender acceptance rate, it is true of the CaI States and many of the public universities and smaller liberal arts colleges.

Many of us have grown up in the Women's movement. We have seen it play out before our eyes. This does not mean however that the work for women is done. In many professions, there still is a glass ceiling. There still is pay disparity.

But, let us flip the switch; let's look at the other side of the coin. While the Palm Desert Campus of CSUSB has 73% females, this also means that only 27% of the students are males. Where are the boys? Where did this inequity come from and do we have a responsibility to do something about it?

Concerned about the low number of males enrolled at the Palm Desert Campus, I have gone to local high schools to ask the question, "Where are the boys?" The vice-principal at Cathedral City High School says the boys view school as "girl stuff."

Our Boys are Being Denied the Opportunity to be Engaged and Excited about Social Studies

Today, in most elementary schools, the focus of the curriculum is on reading and language arts. Very little time is devoted to social studies.

But we all know that boys love battles and bombs, and all kinds of wars from the Revolutionary War to WW II.

They also love explorers and their obstacles and their accomplishments; broken treaties and massacres, conflicts, and competition over land.

They love builders of forts, railroads, businesses and new industries like aerospace, electronics, oil, automobiles, communications and defense.

They love the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl; the struggles over slavery and ratification, hoarding and profiteering and economic hardships and fighting for freedom and liberty for all.

Every one of these topics mentioned above comes straight from the Kindergarten to Grade 5 History-Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools, and yet our boys are being denied the opportunity to be engaged and excited and energized by such topics.

In California, students are not tested in social studies until Grade 8. A familiar adage says, "What gets tested, is what gets taught" (Porter, 2006). Many teachers have told me that they are not allowed to teach social studies because they must spend at least 3 hours a day teaching reading.

What they fail to understand is that while students are learning to read, they can read to learn! Instead hours are spent reading vapid little stories that are of little or no interest to our boys.

Most schools have been trying as hard as they can to improve reading test scores. Indeed, gains have been made in the primary grades, when sounding out (rather than comprehension) is chiefly being tested. To make real improvement in reading comprehension, a rich content vocabulary and in-depth background knowledge are needed. E.D. Hirsch, Jr. maintains me only way to narrow the reading gap is systematically to provide children witìi the wide-ranging, specific background knowledge they need to comprehend what they read (2006). An intensive and well-focused effort to enhance content vocabulary and knowledge during the classroom reading period in the elementary grades will not only raise reading achievement for all students, it will engage our boys in die non-fiction, action text they enjoy.

Dr. Amanda Podany of CaI Poly Pomona says her young son echoes these sentiments. …

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