Per may last post, I’m venting/ranting about a response to a column I wrote advocating for boys. For context, the author of the response is a mother of three daughters, who essentially turned my advocacy for boys into some sort of patriarchal plan to diss girls.
Here’s what she wrote in response to my statement (which I backed up with statistics) that boys are falling behind girls in school:
Girls do seem to be catching up in math and science. Girls tend to underestimate their abilities in these subjects and boys tend to overstate them.
The result is that girls who end up in STEM classes are the best and the brightest and boys are taking classes above their abilities. This increases test schools for girls and decreases them for boys, making boys appear to be falling behind.
Appear to be falling behind? Huh? Girls are the best and the brightest and boys are in over their heads in STEM? And this is an argument against what I’m saying?
English and language are the opposite situation. Boys tend to say they hate these subjects. They don’t see them as appropriately “masculine,” so they underperform. Girls often love them because they get to discuss thoughts and interpretations, which is encouraged, and test scores reflect this.
Again, huh? This is an argument against what I said? She’s proving my point trying to disprove my point. A girl’s brain is wired to be far more proficient in verbal/emotive skills. If English and Language classes skew to a girl brain—encouraging the discussion of thoughts and interpretations—rather than an action-oriented boy brain, is it any wonder boys think these classes are girly? Shouldn’t we change the system rather than try to reprogram the wiring of a boy’s brain (by the way, there are over 100 differences between a boy's brain and a girl's brain.)?
In the U.S., boys generally regard academic disengagement as a sign of masculinity. Showing little care and effort toward schoolwork is a badge of honor. Academic engagement is considered questionable, “feminine,” and frowned up by their male peers.
This wasn’t always so. Up until 1982 boys were ahead of girls in education. But that changed in 1982 when girls soared past boys and never looked back. What happened? Why did boys begin to believe that school was for girls? Because, for all good reasons, we decided to teach more to verbal/emotive girls to get them caught up. But in the process we forgot that boys learn differently than do girls and we started losing our boys.
So boys have fallen behind.
The problem with academic differences is our rigid definition of what is means to be a “real man.” (Again…huh? How about some statistics or studies to back this up? There are none!) Blaming girls for boys’ problems is unfair and unproductive. (No one is blaming girls for this. We’re saying that the good work we’ve done for our girls has had some unintended consequences for our boys that we can easily address!) This is not a zero sum game: Girls are gaining and boys are losing. This means more resources, not punishing girls. (No one has suggested punishing girls. And I agree, this is not a zero sum game. So why do we keep playing at it by constantly countering the boy crisis with these unhelpful broad generalizations and stereotypes?)
Friends, let’s stick to the studies, the facts, brain-science research, and the statistics. The system—not our girls—is letting our boys down on several levels. Our systems and emphases are the cause of the boy crisis, not girls.
But make no mistake, there is a boy crisis. And no amount of trying to turn this back on boys or suggesting that to fight for boys is to fight against girls will change that fact. Nor will it help our girls, many of whom will marry or work with these undereducated, underskilled men.
I’ve never heard or read any boy advocate even come close to suggesting that we should blame girls for the boy crisis or stop our battle on their behalf.
But I have heard and read over and over again girl advocates, claiming to be passionate about equality for all, continually denigrate boys and the boy crisis with stereotypical generalizations rather than facts.
One more rant to come…Then I’ll try to get back to my warm, fuzzy self!