September 14, 2013

"Young men in Great Britain, Australia, and Canada have also fallen behind."

"But in stark contrast to the United States, these countries are energetically, even desperately, looking for ways to help boys improve," writes Christina Hoff Sommers in The Atlantic.

Using evidence and not ideology as their guide, officials in these countries don’t hesitate to recommend sex-specific solutions. The British Parliamentary Boys' Reading Commission urges, “Every teacher should have an up-to-date knowledge of reading material that will appeal to disengaged boys.” A Canadian report on improving boys’ literacy recommends active classrooms “that capitalize on the boys’ spirit of competition”— games, contests, debates. An Australian study found that adolescent males, across racial and socioeconomic lines, shared a common complaint, “School doesn’t offer the courses that most boys want to do, mainly courses and course work that prepare them for employment.”
This tracks the "Gendertopia" hypothetical I use in my Constitutional Law II class when I teach about Equal Protection and classification by sex. And it ties to the topic, raised in the previous post, about schools using nonfiction books to teach reading, an issue I tied to the boys-falling-behind problem here.

Hoff Sommers stresses recognizing the differences between boys and girls and taking steps to help boys (which of course lights a fire under those who've argued that girls have been held back and if anyone's going to get special help, it should be girls). I recommend avoiding all that drama and ideological struggle by embracing what are, after all, the best American values. We don't need to follow Britain and Canada. We should forefront individuality, autonomy, and freedom.

How? Have a variety of schools, built on different learning models that are built on preferences that  relate to things that could be portrayed as stereotypically male and stereotypically female, but don't talk about how the learning styles are male or female, and don't bias the individual children and their parents to match the boys to the boy style and girls to the girl style. Give them choice and freedom. If your son or daughter wants to learn how to read with science books, to experience a teaching method built on games, contests, and debates, and to figure out how things work by taking them apart and putting them back together, he or she could pick the school that works like that. And there's an equivalent school — perhaps with the cooperative projects and long periods of quiet reading — that can be chosen by boys and girls who flourish in that environment.

I realize that I'm being stereotypically feminine in wanting to move forward in a way that makes everyone happy and avoids discord, but I'm sure that the schoolchild version of me would pick the school built on the stereotypically male learning model. Don't dissuade girls like the young me from going to that school by calling attention to it as a solution for the problems of boys. And don't propagate the idea that boys are a problem, that masculinity is a disease! That's all so unnecessary, and it's offensive to the core American values of individuality and freedom.

I know Christina Hoff Sommers is trying to stir us up and we need to rouse ourselves, but once roused, people will fight, so let's have some impressive harmony-enhancing solutions at hand.


Carol said...

You may find we need different schools for different races as well. Just don't call it separate but equal. It all sort of works out that way, as people move around for better schools.

tim maguire said...

We could add a whole bunch of expensive constricting new programs to correct for the problems created by the last round of expensive constricting programs, or we could roll back some of those programs.

Hmmm...what to do, what to do...

Kohath said...

Choice? We have government schools. We can never have choice.

Even as states like Wisconsin and Louisiana finally act to weaken the union stranglehold over education, the government in DC and the courts step in to impose new standards and restrict choice.

Schools will never substantially improve until the government is no longer in charge.

MattL said...

I realize that I'm being stereotypically feminine

I did not see that coming. Libertarian, free market oriented, conservative, yes, but not feminine. It's just smart to realize that top down monolithic solutions do a poorer job of serving millions of families than allowing them some alternatives.

Ann Althouse said...

"I did not see that coming. Libertarian, free market oriented, conservative, yes, but not feminine. It's just smart to realize that top down monolithic solutions do a poorer job of serving millions of families than allowing them some alternatives."

Note the specific thing that I said was stereotypically feminine: wanting harmony and avoidance of conflict.

Michael K said...

Thank god my sons finished their educations before this lunacy took over colleges. I worry about my grandson (and three grand daughters) but maybe it will collapse along with the rest of the leftist fantasy world before they are harmed.

David said...

Dropping wrestling and adding cheerleading to comply with Title 9. Individual combat happy happy.

Stupid stuff like that.

There are a lot of causative threads here, but don't discount conformity. Boys have a harder time conforming, or appearing to conform, to adult norms.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

If boys fail they usually drag a girl down with them, sometimes several girls or scores even over a lifetime of failure.

Exurban Bourbon said...

The article references the fact that male and female brains are wired differently, and notes that this idea is heresy to the education experts in the US, who are beholden to the theory of the blank slate. The author is part of the problem though, for she herself believes in the ideal of equality. If one acknowledges the truth that male and female brains are wired differently, as she does, one can't believe that they are equal, only that they are complementary.

The article says that elites in other countries are now talking about the problem of boys trending downward in terms of educational achievement, where those in the US refuse to acknowledge that such a problem even exists. If those other countries' problem-solvers are also believers in the blank slate theory though, as it seems they are, then they won't find any solutions, even as they concede that the problem exists.

As things currently stand, only a nation's elite class can find the solutions to this problem. The root cause of the problem is a willful blindness that is the result of their adherence to their ideology, where if the elites were to acknowledge that this ideology is based on a lie, their power would likely be challenged. It's too bad these elites would rather continue to see their nations decline than potentially lose their grip on power.

Jane said...

Consider this: we hear far more about the wage differential between men and women (in an exaggerated blind-to-differnces-in-work-patterns way) than about the fact that men's wages have stagnated or declined (depending on how you measure), as Hoff Sommers points out. (I pull some of this data here:

But, of course, the "schools to accommodate all learning styles" is great. One unfortunate roadblock is the current conviction that students need to learn in groups in order to be prepared for the working world.

Andy Freeman said...

> stereotypically feminine: wanting harmony and avoidance of conflict.


Women may try to avoid the appearance of conflict, but they're just as much "my way or else", if not more, if not more so.