Q&A Friday #106: Are We Failing To Educate Boys?

Q&A Friday #106: Are We Failing To Educate Boys?

Question: A civic organization I belong to recently gave out our annual scholarship to a senior at our local high school. We had 22 applications from females, and one from a male. The high school’s student body government is completely made up of girls. At my daughter’s academic awards ceremony this week, they passed out awards to the top four competitors from the elementary school Chess Club: 3 girls, one boy. Even the youth events at our local town rodeo this year were dominated by young girls.

What the hell is up with the young men in our culture, and what is all this going to mean in 15-20 years? — President Friedman

For a long while now as a society, we’ve put a tremendous amount of emphasis on helping women “catch-up” to men. However, we seem to have failed to notice that in many areas, women have caught up to and surpassed men, and now we need to start dealing that reality instead of ignoring it.

One of those areas is education. There’s an enormous imbalance that’s already showing up in college graduation rates;

In a few weeks, the first of the 2011 college grads will toss their mortarboards in the air and bid adieu to campus life. A healthy majority of those hat-tossers – 57%, actually – will be women.

There are a number of reasons this is happening.

(Thomas Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education) argues that teaching styles and discipline policies cause boys to disengage sooner than girls and drop out at higher rates. Among his findings:

– In 2010, 72.8 percent of children lived with a father, down from 88.8 percent in 1960, when these data were first reported.

– In 2010, 62.8 percent of young men who graduated from high school enrolled in college, up 7.6 percentage points from 1970, but far below the continuation rate for young women–74 percent in 2010, up 25.5 percentage points from 1970. “Each spring, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out its spring study on recent high school graduates, and I’ve been compiling that data since 1959,” Mortenson told me. “The gap between males and females is now greater than 10 percentage points, and it’s never been that wide before” favoring girls during his years of analysis.

– Boys ages 6 to 14 are more than twice as likely as girls to have a developmental disability and three times as likely to be diagnosed with mental retardation.

Mortenson told me he thinks school format is partly to blame, with greater focus on writing and test preparation and fewer opportunities for active projects. As he puts it: “Boys have to be doing something: Things have to be blowing up or being built or going really fast. If you ask them to sit down and write and read, more physically passive activities will turn off boys before they turn off girls.”

…”My perception over the last 40 years is we’ve provided a lot of support and encouragement for girls to try and take on new things,” he said, “but I’ve also seen no special effort to encourage boys to take on different subjects.”

“A growing percentage of boys are not getting the education they need for the industries that are growing, like health and service sectors,” he added. “I’ve tried to say to boys, ‘If you want a good job, think about becoming a nurse’ … but nobody ever introduces boys to entering these traditionally female occupations, and someone needs to do that.”

These days, our education system wastes a lot more human potential on the male side than the female side. That hasn’t always been the case, but it is today, even if many people insist it isn’t so because it conflicts with their liberal feminist political agenda.

As to what it’s going to mean in 20 years, it’ll mean a weaker economy, less eligible men for women who refuse to “marry down,” a lot less educated men than we should have, and an enormous number of wasted lives.

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