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Monday, October 8, 2012

The Bias Against Males in the Education System

I had posted recently concerning a review of Liz Mundy's book, The Richer Sex, and mentioned in passing the bias against men and boys in the education system. This article responds to Mundy's (and another author's similar) thesis on similar grounds:
Where I differ is that both writers leave readers with the impression that vast, immutable economic upheavals are the sole causes of these setbacks for men. My reporting, in contrast, points to a trigger that is reversible. Roughly 20 years ago, national leaders launched education reforms designed to steer more students to college. The first step was pushing stiffer literacy skills into the earlier grades. That made sense. The common denominator of any college class is the ability to read quickly and accurately and write quickly and accurately.

Tuning out

So how's that turning out? At the eighth-grade level, 37% of girls scored proficient or above in writing on a just-released federal test, compared with 18% of boys.

What happened? Educators somehow overlooked the fact that boys pick up literacy skills later than girls. When boys get slammed with early academic demands they can't handle, they tune out. They assume school is for girls, and they move on to more interesting activities, such as video games.

Now we're stuck with an education system where many males end up in their senior year of high school unprepared and unmotivated for college work. And we're surprised about the scarcity of males on the campuses of community colleges and four-year schools? We're surprised that college-educated women are taking over field after field?

Global economic changes truly are huge players. But if educators adjusted their early-grades literacy practices, a lot more boys would arrive in 12th grade ready to compete in the new economy. What educators have done can be un-done.

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