In the current issue of The New Republic
, Richard Whitmire has an article titled "Boy Trouble," which notes that boys are increasingly left behind academically. It's available HERE
. (subscription required, but not hard to acquire.)Ann Althouse
provides the following quotation from the article:
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.
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.
Professor Althouse observes that the New Republic
article does little to explain this "gender gap" or suggest solutions to it. But her readers have some ideas, and have (at last count) provided nearly 100 comments. One mother observes:
I'll point a finger of blame. The blame is with a school system that is designed by women, administrated by women, taught by women and graded by women.
Oh, and look at that -- girls do great in these schools. Wow, what an astonishing coincidence.
I have three boys and a girl. The school (and my kids go to a very good charter school) put far too much emphasis on fine motor skills and sitting still. And how about that reading material -- Charlotte's Web (girl hero.) Island of the Blue Dolphins (girl hero.) Little House on the Prairie (girl hero.) Harry Potter is banned outright, history textbooks are purged of all stories of bloody battles, and hey let's draw some unicorns today for Earth Day!
My sons are readers, but not because of school. My eldest is passing around "Ice Station" by Matthew Reilly, full of action and gunfire and explosions, and it's being smuggled like a Playboy magazine because the teachers would never stand for it.
The only male teachers who make it into high school are neutered liberal sissies who are little Ward Churchill wanna-be's, delighting in teaching anti-capitalism and "peace" activism.
We need vouchers and we need them now. In the meantime, does anyone know how to apply to Hogwarts?
Another reader tut-tutted that the only thing required is parental encouragement and role-modeling to provide feedback and an environment friendly to and respectful of reading in particular and learning in general.
Now, the Gentleman Farmer's three sons (the youngest of whom will be 18 next month) were raised by two lawyers, in a house crowded (according to the Farmer's Wife) with books: history, biography, economics, religion, science fiction, mystery, sports. I could have told the condescending commenter just how full of crap he is.
But another of Ms. Althouse's readers did so:
. . . this is such a simplistic, overstatement that I don't know what to say. Rare for me, I take it personally, find it offensive, and upon reading it initially, was so angry, I left my computer.
I do know that it is DEAD WRONG in our case, with our exceptionally bright child (not just our assessment), being raised in an exceptionally rich environment, by parents who were both academic achievers and are committed life-long learners.
He's struggling in kindergarten, for all the reasons alluded to in this article. In 5 months' time, he's gone from being excited about school to hating it.
(And he actually demonstrated very early gifts in language, by the way--20 words at 11 months, correctly using "ramshackle," for example, at 18 months, etc.)
But he finds it tough to sit still (in all-day kindergarten) and do the fine motor activities. Punishment for that? Removal of recess. How that makes sense to any rational person with any insight into active 5-year-old boys is utterly and completely beyond me.
Exactly correct. Read the article, and (particularly) read the comments. The bottom line is that boys are doing poorly in school because much of the mainstream education system simply doesn't like ordinary, normal, dirty, smelly, active, easily-distracted boys. They’re obnoxious, aggressive, and happy to tell you that they don’t really care if you’re terribly disappointed in them.
When the advanced educator today comes face-to-face with an ordinary boy, he's aghast, confused, offended, and at a loss as to what to do aside from wringing his hands and looking sad.
Think I'm exaggerating? Think again.The Georgetown Day School
is a tony, sophisticated, diverse, sensitive and outrageously expensive private school here in Washington, D.C. It seems that back around Thanksgiving, the email account of a teacher at the school was hacking into, and used to send emails to three students. The message to one student was vulgar and obscene, but not very clever or creative. As the email account that was broken into belonged to a female teacher, it's not too difficult to fill in those blanks. The other two messages were quite good imitations of messages that a teacher might well send to students who were failing academically. Very well done, actually.
Now it's obvious to me, and it's no doubt obvious to you, that the person who hacked into the account was male, between the ages of 13 and 18, a student at the Georgetown Day School, and either a current or former student of the female teacher whose account was busted. The services of Sherlock Holmes not required. Moreover, it's obvious that pulling off this caper required impressive skills and considerable initiative and energy.
It's the quintessential teenaged boy gag. It's the sort of thing one expects teenaged boys to do. As grownups and parents we don't approve, and we don't encourage, but we surely are neither surprised nor shocked.
The perpetrators need to be identified, and appropriately disciplined: Public and personal apologies, a two-week suspension, a year of probation, and some scores of hours performing fitting public service, such as tutoring the faculty regarding computer and internet security.
But that's not what the head of the Georgetown Day School did: He called the cops. And not just the cops, but the FEDERAL cops. The result was an investigation by the Secret Service, including the execution of a federal search warrant.
[If you're wondering how this sort of thing could possibly be taken seriously by federal law enforcement officials (ultimately involving two Secret Service agents as well as other "Department of Justice" investigators), then you don't know anything about Washington. Obviously somebody at the school knows important people in Federal law enforcement. This is no laughing matter. Serious, serious indeed.]
All as reported on The Smoking Gun
So go read the New Republic
article. Read the comments at Althouse. Read the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys
And see if you don't agree with me: The problem is that we hate boys.[UPDATE. 8:00 p.m.]
We have been admonished that the first bogus email sent from the hacked account at Georgetown Day School was not as we described it ("vulgar and obscene, but not very clever or creative"), but is instead racist, sexist, homophobic hate speech, which also shows an obsession with human elimination suggesting mental abnormality.
It is a fact that the message uses "the N word," describes someone as "gay," and refers to human excrement and anal sex.
That's not because the author believes in the inherent inferiority of persons of African heritage, or that homosexuality is evil, or that playing with filth is a good thing, or that aberrant sex is fun.
It is, instead, because those words are naughty. If the adolescent author thought he could shock by using the word "poop," or "bloody," then he would have done so. Instead, he used the naughtiest forbidden words in his vocabulary.
Because he's an obnoxious, vulgar, barbarian: A perfectly normal adolescent boy. And, were he my son, he would over the next few weeks and months acquire a story of parental correction with which he would, in future years, bore my grandchildren by frequent retelling.
Like I said.