The brains of men and women are very different. Last spring, Scientific American summed up the best gender and brain research, including a study demonstrating that women have greater neuron density in the temporal lobe cortex, the region of the brain associated with verbal skills. Now we've reached the heart of the mystery. Girls have genetic advantages that make them better readers, especially early in life. And, now, society is favoring verbal skills. Even in math, the emphasis has shifted away from guy-friendly problems involving quick calculations to word and logic problems.What's the solution? The article offers little other than the importance of acknowledging that there is a problem. Well, there's a suggestion high school textbooks be made into comic books to help boys. If the problem really is as bad as this article makes it sound, shouldn't we consider separating the boys from the girls?
Increasingly, teachers ask students to keep written journals, even as early as kindergarten. What gets written isn't polished prose, but it is important training, say teachers, some of whom rely on the book Kid Writing, which advocates the use of writing to teach children basic skills in a host of subjects. The teachers are only doing their jobs, preparing their students for a work world that has moved rapidly away from manufacturing and agriculture and into information-based work. It's not that schools have changed their ways to favor girls; it's that they haven't changed their ways to help boys adjust to this new world.
Suddenly, the anecdotal evidence becomes obvious. Open the door of any ninth-grade "academy" that some school districts run--the clump of students predicted to sink in high school--and you'll see a potential football team. Nearly all guys. Ninth grade is where boys' verbal deficit becomes an albatross that stymies further male academic achievement. That's the year guys run into the fruits of the school-reform movement that date back to the 1989 governors' summit in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Democrats and Republicans vowed to shake up schools. One outcome of the summit is that, starting in ninth grade, every student now gets a verbally drenched curriculum that is supposed to better prepare them for college. Good goal, but it's leaving boys in the dust.
UPDATE: I wanted to add that I would strongly object to public schools offering only all-boys and all-girls schools. I think instead there could be two schools, one adapted to the set of skills and behaviors that these scientific studies are associating with with boys and the others doing the same with girls, but then each child could choose which one to attend. For example, one school could have frequent sports breaks and the other could have longer classes. One could have high pressure exams and the other a steady flow of homework assignments.