The educational performance of boys has generated much notice of
late. They are falling behind girls at just about every grade level
and dropping out of school in ever greater numbers. Young men who
manage to get to college find themselves in the minority,
outnumbered almost three to two by women. As school doors swing open
again, thoughtful educators - as well as the nation's concerned
parents - want to know why.
One answer may lie in a fundamental assumption dear to the hearts
of academic planners and school superintendents in the 1960s.
Fearing that separate meant unequal, and seeking to break down
sexual stereotypes, they decided to mix the sexes together at the
earliest possible age. In 1965, a majority of America's public
school classrooms were single sex; by 2000 barely a handful
Co-ed schooling imposes the need for sex-blind instruction
material and uniform testing and standards of behavior. As a result,
on the way to a perfectly balanced sexual universe in our schools,
"equal to" was turned into "the same as." But there's a problem when
you bleach out gender differences: boys and girls are not the same.
They do not develop in the same way or at the same time. For
example, most parents who have them know boys develop more slowly in
everything from vocabulary to penmanship, even the simple ability to
When young boys arrive at school today they enter a world
dominated by women teachers and administrators as the percentage of
male teachers in the nation's public schools is at the lowest level
in 40 years. The girls around them read faster, control their
emotions better, and are more comfortable with today's educational
emphasis on cooperative study and expressing feelings. Boys favor
visual processing and do not have the hand-motor control that girls
readily achieve in early grades. There's hardly any of the physical
action, competition, or structure boys so often crave. And they'd
rather do just about anything than express their feelings.
For these and other reasons, boys have trouble paying attention
in class. They often ignore instructions and generate sloppy work.
They are three to four times more likely to suffer from
developmental disorders, and twice as likely as girls to be
classified as learning-disabled. Many are punished for physical
outbursts, controlled and medicated simply for behaving like boys (1
in 5 Caucasian boys spends time on Ritalin). They may not even be
allowed to run during recess. This means that boys often get off to
a bad start, fail to catch up, and frequently develop an aversion to
According to a comprehensive report by the Education Department,
elementary school boys are 50 percent more likely than girls to
repeat a grade and they drop out of high school a third more often.
Boys from minority and lower-income families fare the worst. In the
end, America's K-12 educational system turns out legions of young
men ill-prepared or disinterested in advancing their education, even
though its dramatic impact on future earnings is well documented.
This is bad for men, women, the country's economic future, and all
of society. …