Are Boys Falling Behind Girls in School Because School is Girly? A Rant--Part 2

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.

Her conclusion:

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!

When a Son "Hates" His Mom

When our son was little, he and mom had a very close, happy relationship.  Mike was a sweet boy who had no problem giving mom hugs and asking her lots of questions.  He was her little boy. 

But then Mike moved into the early stages of puberty and the relationship changed…dramatically.  With tears in her eyes, Jan asked me one day why her son hated her.
What Jan didn’t know at the time was that Mike was at a crucial point in his life—the point where he had to start moving into manhood.  And the movement into manhood meant he had to begin to pull away from his mom.
Most moms I know aren’t prepared for that moment.  They don’t understand it.  So as their boys start moving into manhood moms often feel lost.
What’s a mom to do?
Mom, the good news is that you play a vital role in the kind of man your son will become, even in those years when he seems to pull away from you.  Here are some positive ways you can shape his life:
Pour your mother’s love into your son. Though there will be times when your son seems to resist your love, he will never stop needing or craving it.  How you demonstrate that love will change as your son ages, but keep reaching out to him, keep taking an interest in his life, keep praying for him, and keep hugging him (as much as he will allow).  Remember, when men mug in front of a video camera, 99% of the time they say, “Hi, mom!”  A boy never outgrows his need for mom’s love.
Teach him about women: You will be a primary teacher for your son on how to relate to girls.  Teach him to be the man you want him to be for you, for his future wife should he marry, for a potential future daughter, and for all of the women he will interact with during his life.  Give him insights into a woman’s world so that he can navigate his way through it with honor and goodness.  It takes a mom to instill in her son a deep understanding of women.
Immerse your son in masculine energy: As cultures throughout history have always known, it takes a tribe of men to raise a boy into a man. To become men boys need masculine energy poured into them.  They need positive male role models to follow. The key to building boys into good men is to surround them with great men—their own dad (if possible) and other men—who can model responsibility, love, compassion, fatherhood, and manhood to these men in the making.  Churches, Boy’s Clubs, Big Brother, Scouting programs, and other boy-focused organizations can partner with you in raising your son into manhood.  This is especially crucial for boys being raised by single moms.
Give your son an honorable vision for manhood: Moms, to the best of your ability, paint a picture of manhood for your son built on honor, courage, commitment, sacrifice, love, compassion, forgiveness, wisdom, and grace.  When you see your son acting honorably, affirm him.  When he acts less than nobly, use it as a teaching moment and call the noble out of him.  But remember, mom, a boy ultimately needs men to instill in him a vision for manhood.
Give your son purpose: Your son was created to save the world.  Testosterone is the fuel of super heroes (although at times it may seem like the fuel for driving mom insane!).  As you see his emerging gifts and talents, affirm them in him.  Once in a while look him in the eye and tell him you know that God has created him for something very special.
Let your boy become a man.  At some point, around puberty, your son will need to distance himself from you, as my wife experienced.  He needs to leave behind all of the feminine energy that has been shaping his life (you and the overwhelming majority of his teachers) and enter into the world of men.  This is going to be extremely hard on you.  You will wonder at times what happened to your gentle, loving little boy.  You will wonder at other times why your son hates you.  There will be lots of tears and doubt.  But this is an absolutely crucial time in the life of your son.  Let him go…but let him go into the hands of dad (if dad is around) and other good men.

Learn all you can about boys.  The more you know, the better equipped you will be to raise your son into good, honorable manhood.  (I recommend you look at Michael Thompson’s book, It’s a Boy! and the Michael Gurian trilogy of books: The Wonder of Boys; TheMind of Boys; and The Purpose of Boys.  My book on boys, Searching for Tom Sawyer, is geared to a Christian audience.)