Dear Commons Community,
David Brooks, in his New York Times column, comments on the growing disconnect between boys and school. Having just attended the Aspen Ideas Festival, he is full of insights into this problem which has become widespread throughout the Western world.
“The education system has become culturally cohesive, rewarding and encouraging a certain sort of person: one who is nurturing, collaborative, disciplined, neat, studious, industrious and ambitious. People who don’t fit this cultural ideal respond by disengaging and rebelling.
Far from all, but many of the people who don’t fit in are boys. A decade or so ago, people started writing books and articles on the boy crisis. At the time, the evidence was disputable and some experts pushed back. Since then, the evidence that boys are falling behind has mounted. The case is closed. The numbers for boys get worse and worse…
By 12th grade, male reading test scores are far below female test scores. The eminent psychologist Michael Thompson mentioned at the Aspen Ideas Festival a few days ago that 11th-grade boys are now writing at the same level as 8th-grade girls. Boys used to have an advantage in math and science, but that gap is nearly gone.
Boys are much more likely to have discipline problems. An article as far back as 2004 in the magazine Educational Leadership found that boys accounted for nearly three-quarters of the D’s and F’s.
Some colleges are lowering the admissions requirements just so they can admit a decent number of men. Even so, men make up just over 40 percent of college students. Two million fewer men graduated from college over the past decade than women. The performance gap in graduate school is even higher.
Some of the decline in male performance may be genetic. The information age rewards people who mature early, who are verbally and socially sophisticated, who can control their impulses. Girls may, on average, do better at these things. After all, boys are falling behind not just in the U.S., but in all 35 member-nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.”
For those of us in education, the problem has been well-known for a number of years. The concern is even more pronounced for black and Latino boys. Furthermore, there has not been any significant policy initiatives at either the federal, state or local levels to address the problem.