New study says “boy crisis” is a myth

aauwreport.jpgA new report (pictured at right) from the American Association of University Women says that the idea that there’s a “boy crisis” in U.S. education is a myth. (Cough, cough.)

The most important conclusion of “Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education” is that academic success is more closely associated with family income than with gender, its authors said.
“A lot of people think it is the boys that need the help,” co-author Christianne Corbett said. “The point of the report is to highlight the fact that that is not exclusively true. There is no crisis with boys. If there is a crisis, it is with African American and Hispanic students and low-income students, girls and boys.

Of course, the original media frenzy wasn’t exactly focused on kids of color, but instead featured magazine covers with sad looking white boys and complaints about young men having to deal with the horrors of a supposedly feminized education system. Let’s hope this report will set some of that straight, and put the educational focus where it really needs to be.

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153 Comments

  1. SociologicalMom
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    To those who asked about it being more difficult for boys than for girls to do opinion/word test questions: part of the difference may be socially learned. Girls & women are taught to be extremely aware of the moods and feelings of others, and in some cases this is a life-or-death situation (realizing that a baby is sick, keeping oneself safe in a violent relationship, etc.). Women’s interactions and friendships often reinforce the idea that this kind of information about others is extremely important. So it’s as if they’re (we’re) constantly studying up on how to gauge the opinions of others- test questions about the subject aren’t “naturally” easier, we’ve just had a lot of practice. Boys and men are taught to focus on themselves more, or just aren’t taught to pay attention to others. It’s one of the privileges of being in a dominant class in society. I’d be willing to bet that other kinds of minorities (racial etc) are better than White men at this kind of thing as well. This is at least one possible explanation.

  2. qwerty
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    i find it odd that such a claim would come from a woman-based organization; instead of an independent research group.

  3. qwerty
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    /\
    as if women are so inclined to belittle discrimination in order to say “look over here, WE are the victims!”

  4. Jordan Mendelson
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Also, the smartest person in the world is a woman, and many women with mental problems (ADHD, autism) have better intelligence and functionality than their male peers.

    I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring people with learning disabilities into your argument.
    Autism is quite awful and trumpeting that there are more boys with severe disabling autism as some sort of proof of female superiority is abhorrent.
    ADHD is no picnic either and while most people outgrow it, some of us still have to deal with it on a daily basis.
    Thanks.

  5. Cassie
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    My problem with the “boy crisis” is that most of the complaints are about things that seem to be realistic expectations for the real world. Sometimes, people have jobs where they need to listen to their boss, even if they don’t love their boss. Sometimes, people have jobs where they have to work in groups, even if they prefer to work independently. Sometimes, people have jobs they need to understand a client’s emotions, or relationships where they need to understand a SO’s emotions. The fact that this is being taught in school *is a good thing.* If it’s challenging, that’s good. That means that they’re learning something, on both an intellectual and personal level, which is the entire goal of an education. So I can’t really be concerned that boys are being challenged in these ways, because these “discriminatory” areas seem far more pertinent to everyone’s personal and professional life than, say, calculus.

  6. blaisteach
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    “i find it odd that such a claim would come from a woman-based organization; instead of an independent research group.”
    Uh… surely they can do whatever studies they want – it’s their money. If their conclusions are flawed, we should be able to say so on the basis of an analysis of their claims, not just gesticulating wildly and proclaiming “bias!”
    Having said that ::
    “Anyways who cares if their was a boys crisis? Less dudes on campus means less misogyny, less rape, sexual assault, harassment, ect….”
    Personally I’d prepare not to have the degree to which I deserve an education judged based on the fact that I have the same private parts as a group of violent criminals.

  7. Alexandr
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    “Alexandr, yes it was an apocalypse and a travesty how women in education were treated here in the states but does that make what we’re seeing happening now ‘ok’? Again I just read the numbers and the reports and I have to wonder what the hell is going on and what is causing it.”
    Of course not. I wonder, too. Just reacting to the defective, ignorant attention an issue like this tends to get.
    “i find it odd that such a claim would come from a woman-based organization; instead of an independent research group.”
    You know, at first, when I skimmed the page, I thought that this comment below…
    “…as if women are so inclined to belittle discrimination in order to say “look over here, WE are the victims!”
    …was an on-target, sarcastic snipe and putdown of your first comment preceding it.
    Nice one.

  8. michelleb
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    First:

    I might give a shit about the “boy crisis” if it were not blamed on feminism all the time.

    This is a whole group of kids and adolescents who, on average, are not succeeding in the institutions we associate with better life chances. As someone interested in equality, that’s a bit problematic. It bothers me if my society’s institutions appear to be serving any group of people more poorly than another.
    Second:
    The executive summary states that girls have simply made gains at a significantly faster pace than boys. When you look at some studies of the race gap, you could say that same thing about white and asian students as compared to black students. Imagine responding to such information with comments like:
    “it seems to me that just means that [black kids] need to try harder”
    “They are screwups before day 1 of class.”
    “Less [blacks] on campus means less [theft and violence].”
    I apologize in advance if the comparison offends anyone, it’s just that as I read the thread, I was reminded of all the excuses people give when shown evidence that students of color are not thriving in schools.
    I don’t think that feminism is to blame. I don’t think feminism’s job is done – that’s why I read this site.
    I think that an attitude that ascribes blame to students rather than the institutions and the adults that run them is unproductive and unfair. Someone responded to my earlier post regarding the disproportionate numbers of boys in remedial reading and asked about there being a disproportionate number of girls in remedial math. Nope – can’t say that’s the case. If I recall, just about every person in our remedial math course was male.

  9. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    “The gender gap in college attendance is almost
    absent among those entering college directly after graduating from
    high school, however, and both women and men are more likely to
    graduate from college today than ever before.”
    Mina nailed it. Without college degrees, it is far easier for men to make far better money than women, b/c heavy labor/male-dominated blue collar jobs pay more. Every college prof I’ve had has explained the fact of more women going to college than men this way.
    Last time I checked though, men were still predominant graduates in most graduate schools, especially the high-paying and traditionally male-dominated ones.
    Not to mention, most college administrators and college profs are male -it’s hardly like women have control of the upper-educational system, whatever is going on.
    I too have heard the arguments about special ed. I’ve heard that supposedly, students who garner too much attention from peers and act out in class are more likely to be separated and put in special ed, as opposed to those who are quiet but struggling academically. And of course, boys are louder/more active/attract more attention.
    Me? I went to a charter high school where both boys and girls were very smart, and succeeded at nearly everything. I am very glad for that experience, and for the (I think, healthier) perspective it gave me on the emotional and intellectual capabilities of both males and females…

  10. leah
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    It does cause me pause, as a scientist, that there does seem to be a conflict of interest between the group funding the study and the study purpose/conclusions.
    HOWEVER, in the course of my PhD training, I have been taught that a conflict of interest does not necessarily mean that the conclusions are biased. It does mean, however, that the reader/evaluator be more careful in dissecting the study methods and whether the data match the conclusions.
    In other words, one cannot throw a study’s conclusions out of hand just because of a potential or actual conflict of interest. Before doing so, the methods and data must be analyzed. If independent analysis can find no systematic bias in the study design or interpretation, then the conclusion can be trusted.
    A long-winded way of saying, before you reject the conclusions, take a look at the methods *with an open mind*. This is good advice for EVERY study you read, no matter WHO publishes it.

  11. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Also, I /am/ a big believer in the influence of culture. Growing up I happened to attend a couple of schools where girls did seemed to do equally well to better academically. However, I have heard a friend describe a school she went to (also in the US) where boys seemed to dominate everything, including class conversation and honors. If you can have such disparate cultures in two small school cultures in the U.S., then wouldn’t you expect that contemporary U.S. culture also influences how students perform? (Someone mentioned “thug” culture. Especially for lower-income students, where that image has power (as opposed to white suburban males who I think more often view it as simply “play”) I’m sure that has an influence. Has anyone read “In Search of Respect”? It’s about the male-dominated street culture in New York City -fascinating book.

  12. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    “A long-winded way of saying, before you reject the conclusions, take a look at the methods *with an open mind*. This is good advice for EVERY study you read, no matter WHO publishes it.”
    thanks for that leah. I should have said that too.

  13. Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    This report is exclusive and disregarding. If there’s a crisis, then it’s with Black, Latino, and/or poor kids. Ummm…that is a sizable population. I guess there’s only a crisis when it comes to middle class White boys *Rolls eyes*

  14. jessilikewhoa
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    i want to second what Sociologicalmom said re: girls doing better on problems involving analyzing feelings of characters, and add on that due to socialization in american culture its just plain harder for alot of boys to describe feelings PERIOD. they arent taught the language, they are taught a very limited selection of emotions they can express, they arent supposed to express sadness, pain, weakness, gleeful joy, dissapointment, etc. those things are all alien to the way we define masculinity. how do you recognize something you are taught doesnt or cannot exist inside of you?
    as to girls getting better grades and achieving honors more, its again socialization. smart = geek/nerd/loser/teachers pet. boys in our culture are taught to be cool. why be smart if its uncool? sure, girls want to be cool too, but cool for girls is different and you can get straight A’s on everything so long as you still try to look sexy and do your best to keep quiet and let the boys be loud and goof off.
    while overall our education system needs an overhaul, i dont think it needs to be based around gender differences.
    at the same time, if we want boys to achieve we need to change the way we define masculinity so they can express full ranges of emotions and so smart can be cool too.

  15. Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    I have a hard time understanding how this is a “crisis” when men still are overwhelmingly advantaged in our society. If men have more opportunities, get better jobs, and make more money, then how is a slight disparity in boys’ performance in education a cause for deep concern and (elsewhere, not here) anger?
    If you translate this supposed crisis to racial instead of sexist terms, it looks as suspect as it should: if whites were doing poorly in school relative to racial minorities but were still having more opportunities, getting better jobs, and being paid more, claims of a crisis in educating white people would be seen as the absurd special pleading that it is. So why are so many taking the “boy crisis” so seriously? (And it should be well understood that this typical segues into a more general argument about contemporary men and a more recognizeable “mens’ rights” argument.)
    I’ll tell you why it’s taken so seriously: men are still very privileged and they have the influence to make their concerns more important than they otherwise would be.
    The only reason that this doesn’t fly so much with reactionary concerns about white people is because racism is taken a great deal more seriously than sexism is in our society.
    All that said, I’ll probably take the unexpected position that what’s happening with boys, if it’s happening, has a lot to do with feminism. “Blame” isn’t the right word, of course. But the fact is that with regard to anti-sexism, the legalistic and institutional successes of the fight have far outpaced the cultural successes. In particular, feminism has not succeeded in convincing men on a cultural level that sexism against women has been a significant problem. The result is that as laws and institutions have changed, and as women’s roles have changed because they, themselves, have changed them, men have come to feel confused and, sadly, ironically, oppressed. Since they largely don’t see the reality of sexism, the changes that they see taking place seem to be primarily aimed at hurting them. And because they don’t see any reason to change their gender role, they are resistant to adapting to the way in which women’s roles have changed. I think that, collectively, American men are “depressed”.
    Mind you, it’s their own damn fault in many ways. The French Aristocracy was pretty damned depressed after the Revolution, too. The problem is that men are not making peace with the changes that have occurred around them.
    And, per a comment I made here a few months ago, I do think that feminism is at fault a little bit for this. (Or did I actually make that comment? Maybe I just considered writing it.) It seems to me that because of an accident of history (a perfectly normal and understandable one), the anti-sexism movement was born and thrived as a feminist movement which, naturally, has focused on advocacy for women and, consequently, means that it’s not appropriate for men to be full-partners in that activity. That is to say, the primary force for social change with regard to gender roles and the various issues surrounding sexism has been feminism—and men have not been equal partners in this endeavor. And there has been, sadly, no alternative way for men to be involved in this social change. I can testify as a male feminist for the last 25 years, it’s been some difficult terrain to navigate (that’s a mixed metaphor, isn’t it?).
    I do think that men have the primary responsibility to recognize the injustice against women and to involve themselves in the fight against it (and in the process, acclimatize themselves to the changes that result), don’t get me wrong. But I think it’s an unfortunate accident of history that there’s not been any sort of large-scale social movement pushing for anti-sexism and changing gender roles that men could comfortably be a part of. I think that’s been a long-standing problem that we’re seeing the effects of with the ways in which men are, arguably, just sort of becoming perpetual irresponsible, depressed, underachievers.
    Even so, if it’s true, it still seems to me like a crisis that will work itself out. And, anyway, I’m still much more concerned with the way in which women lag behind men in almost every other category.

  16. Jordan Mendelson
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    Given the strong correlation of violent crime and education, I think it is everyone’s best interest if more boys were properly educated regardless of whether there is a “boy crisis”.
    Of course it is in everyone’s best interest if everyone was better educated considering the correlation between income levels (read: tax revenue) and education.

  17. DaveNJ17
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    “Anyways who cares if their was a boys crisis? Less dudes on campus means less misogyny, less rape, sexual assault, harassment, ect….”
    W.T.F.
    Thanks for stereotyping me because of my genitalia.
    As for the “boys crisis”, the issue seems to be achievement rates by gender. Yes, more guys are getting advanced degrees than ever before, but the issue isn’t sheer volume, because population in general, and college pop. in particular, has been on the rise for a while. It’s like saying more people are going to school in China. Sheer population figures from the echo-boom guaranteed this.
    The issue is achievement rates, in which women are besting men 60-40 in some areas. If we’re to believe that intelligence is equal between the genders then we have to infer that something within institutional education is affecting the performance of boys more than girls. I saw it with my younger brother. Diagnosed with ADHD because he was simply a very active kid. Teachers passed notes to each other about him, leaving a paper trail from year to year.
    The end result? He got lucky. We took him off the meds by junior high, and he became himself again. He’s very outspoken, to a fault in fact, but he’s also very smart, something his elementary school teachers didn’t care about. K-6 education seems to be more about order and regimented learning than discovery and creativity, which inherently hinders boys, who mature slower than girls.

  18. GopherII
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    ” Even if you control for income and ethnicity you still come out with girls getting a disproportionate number of degrees or grsduating. What is causing this? I see a lot of articles trying to pin a lot of it on one thing, culture of laziness/apathy for example, but nothing that comes close to explaining the whole issue”
    jamespi,
    Its not as bad as if it were happening to women because then it would be due to misogyny. Being that there is no mass misandry in society then boys crap performance IS do to laziness. Its well-known that boys are less likely to do their homework, and come prepared to class. Maybe all you Sherlocks should start there.
    urm…crotchfire (ewww),
    The worlds highest IQ is held by a woman. My claim is no different than the med student up above claiming that more men are geniuses than women. How do you qualify genius?
    I’m for segregated schools as long as they dont incorporate different styles due to ficticious “gender differences.” This would have disasterous effects upon girls if we were to enforce old, traditional gender stereotypes, especially since its boys who are fucking up. There problems shouldnt effect the girls. Girls need to move around just as much as boys and if anything it should be especially encouraged in girls. Many parents indoctrinate girls into the traditional passive mold and then “experts” (many with MRA biases)claim its female natural inherent differences to men and try to use that as a base for establishing seperate gender learning styles in schools.
    http://www.slate.com/id/2135243/

  19. DaveNJ17
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    Funny how a misandrist is saying there’s no misandry in contemporary schooling.
    Those lazy boys, it’s all laziness, sheer laziness.
    /sarcasm

  20. GopherII
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring people with learning disabilities into your argument.
    Autism is quite awful and trumpeting that there are more boys with severe disabling autism as some sort of proof of female superiority is abhorrent”
    Jordan,
    No. Since I’m not doing anything wrong, and you misunderstood my post, your claims are baseless. My claim was that while both of the genders have the same mental challenges, it is girls who report higher IQs and functionality, in spite of having the same mental challenges. Its a medical fact thats being studied, and deserves to be relevant in this discussion. Its also defendable as a response to med student about his claims that more men are known as “geniuses,” than women. If he can claim that, then I can report my stat too. It is also especially relevant since it acts as a good point that discredits his former claim.

  21. GopherII
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    http://www.slate.com/id/2173028/
    this is also an interesting article

  22. GopherII
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    dave, jordan,
    I just looove you “male” feminists!
    “Those lazy boys, it’s all laziness, sheer laziness”
    dave,
    So then, if your sure its not laziness from male privilege (of course you wouldnt want to admit that, would you) then what is it? And since when am I a misandrist, and since when is that wrong? Isnt this a bit of a spoiled opinion by the gender that doesnt have to experience the misogyny on a daily basis dont’cha think?

  23. GopherII
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    So Dave am i right in inferring taht your a boys crisis believer?
    “He’s very outspoken, to a fault in fact, but he’s also very smart, something his elementary school teachers didn’t care about. K-6 education seems to be more about order and regimented LEARNING THAN DISCOVERY AND CREATIVITY, which inherently hinders boys, who mature slower than girls.”
    I like how you tried to cover for your sexism torwards the end of that post. Since when is maturity opposed to discovery and creativity. I bet if boys were fucking up because school was too much about creativity and discover (which of course would be attributed to girls flighty effect) you would then claim boys need structure and order which favors boys because theyre too active, or because they like rules and hierarchy. Full o’ shit.

  24. Tofurific
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    I often hear comments (from parents, educators and people who work with children) that yes, boys are more active in classrooms, need more time to move around, use their hands, etc. They can’t sit still as long; they can’t pay attention as long.
    And often times, this is seen as some sort of de facto evidence for a difference between the nature of boys and girls. But seeing as we’re heavily socialized form birth onward, it would be remiss to disregard the role of society in creating (or at least exacerbating) the disparity between young girls’ and boys’ abilities to sit still and pay attention in a situation like school.
    Girls are taught from a very young age to be quiet, ladylike, not fight, pay attention to others and be obedient. And although boys are also taught these things to varying extents, they are often given much more leeway in what constitutes an acceptable level of say, obedience or quietude. “Boys will be boys” is still largely ingrained in many parents and care-taking adults’ minds, and boys learn from a very young age that they can get away with more acting up/acting out. Girls on the other hand, have been socialized against this, so is it really any wonder that they’re typically less disruptive in school? That they actually sit still, even if they want to be running around just as much as the boys?
    I’m not saying that educators shouldn’t accommodate for these types of differences. In fact, I think all educators should be using differentiated instruction techniques, because it would address more than this issue, it would address the fact that every student is an individual with their own learning style (beyond where their “category” falls on a particular statistical analysis scale). However, I do think it’s a little silly to say that it’s the structure of school per se, that’s hurting boys’ ability to achieve. It’s a combination of factors that includes the way boys are socialized.

  25. EhSteve
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure that the study really shows that there isn’t a ‘boy crisis’ – imaging if over the next ten years males improve their performance by 20%, and females improve by only 5% – would anyone here not believe that was aresult of a system that favoured males in education? Would anyone here accept “well – girls have improved too, it’s not that boys improvement has come at the expense of girls education”?
    I know a few people here have pointed out that womens rising educational levels compared to men is not helping women earn more… which given that in NY and some other big cities where a lot of jobs require degree education men earn significantly less than women seem a bit of a big claim to make
    (source http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/03/nyregion/03women.html)
    I’m in the UK where a similar phenomenon is happening, with females outperforming males at almost all levels of education and in almost all subjects. While things might be different in the US a number of issues here are:
    Media: Every year for well over a decade whenever results come outthe media goes into a frenzy about how well girls are performing, but the thing is – they do this even for subjects where boys are still doing better. You’ll have a headline like “Girls Outpace Boys Again” which *sounds* like girls did better, but means that girls improved more. This media reaction though – I find it hard to believe that telling boys through their entire education that they won’t perform as well as their female peers does not discourage a fair few.
    Encouragement – At my school there were a huge number of programs active aimed at encouraging female students, ad similar programs exist for getting onto degrees and the like “Women into Engineering”, “Women into Science”, “Women into Medicine” – the last is odd as at the time IIRC more women were doing medicine than men anyway…
    Example – For the first 18 years of a child life the vast majority of their teachers will be female, with the probable exception of the gym teacher. The example this sets is “women are good at academia, men are good at physical work”.
    Pressure – with all this there is a large impression on boys that education is a feminised (not feminist) field, and social pressures tell boys that they are supposed to be masculine. which I suspect leads to many young boys rejecting education as a ‘girls’ activity.

  26. Posted May 22, 2008 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    I know I’ve said this before more than once in previous related threads, but isn’t it interesting that when girls and women outperform boys and men it’s a “crisis”, and when it’s the other way around it’s just “nature”?

  27. EhSteve
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    I think the term ‘crisis’ is used now because with (slowly) improving society view on equality people are increasingly recognising that nature is not the reason one gender does better than the other.
    In times gone by women did not do as well at school, people believed this was because women were naturally not so smart and therefore assigned it to nature.
    Now those beliefs are not widely held (unless anyone here is stating that males are naturally not as smart as females) and so when one gender/group proforms worse than others, or improves much more slowly we have to ask why that group is not doing so well? What is there that is either harming the underperforming group or helping the group striding ahead?

  28. tinagrrl
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    Come on, boys look down on “brains” — the smart boys are often the most teased.
    Many fathers want their sons to be jocks — not students.
    Many dads describe their success as due to “common sense”. They speak of “manly pursuits” — few extol the quest for academic excellence.
    In our past, many of the sons of immigrants saw the classroom as a way out of poverty. Now, fathers train their boys to be jocks — that’s the ticket for college.
    We have always had an anti-intellectual streak. We also do not want our sons to “stray” — after all, all this philosophy, and stuff, might give those boys “swelled heads”, lead them down “dangerous paths”.
    We appear to be anti-science as a nation. Evolution and other “new” ideas will weaken our “moral fibre”.
    There’s no “crisis” among boys — we just don’t want them to be too smart.
    Or, we want them to be smart — but be quiet about it. Don’t make it obvious.

  29. DallasSuz
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    There used to be a saying about 40 years ago, actually there were two sayings:
    “Ginger Rodgers did everything Fred Astaire did, backwards and in high heels”
    “Women have to be twice as good and work twice as hard to be considered half as good.”
    Take those two things then look at other cultural groups of high achievers from oppressed groups. Asians and Jews. There is a lot of commonality among those groups but the main one is that being a grind is important, belief that if you out study and out work you will over come the discrimination be that discrimination racist, cultural or misogynistic.
    Then look at boy culture. Book worm boys are considered sissies and girlish, definitely uncool. Perhaps it is the misogynistic nature of the patriarchy that is damaging the boys.
    Now a funny thing happened on the way to equality. When I was growing up girls were taught to not show they were smarter than boys, girls were taught they should always lose to boys in games even when they were better.
    On the road to equality we stopped pretending to know less and we stopped feeling we always had to lose to boys.
    Now it is like when affirmative action opened jobs and schools to minorities white men lost what had been their white male affirmative action that closed out any competition and it often turned out the best person for the job was opf color or female.
    Perhaps the boy crisis is that culture is teaching them that stupid and inarticulate is cool and being smart is for nerds and losers.

  30. Posted May 22, 2008 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    I think the term ‘crisis’ is used now because with (slowly) improving society view on equality people are increasingly recognising that nature is not the reason one gender does better than the other.
    The timing is interesting, though.
    Back before some progress had been made towards eliminating the systemic obstacles to the participation of girls and women in education, we were told that it was just women’s nature to perform worse academically and that women just didn’t feel naturally inclined to pursue intellectually challenging courses of study.
    Now that things have improved somewhat, to the extent that female students are outperforming male students even in some traditionally male-dominated areas, it becomes permissible to look at systemic factors as having something to do with performance differentials between male and female students.
    The fact is that we still hear (see e.g., the work of Steven Pinker) claims that girls and women are naturally incapable of high performance in certain fields. The “crisis” seems conveniently to have come about when actual performance statistics stopped confirming this view of “nature”.

  31. EhSteve
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    Thing is, the two things are not unconnected – female students started getting more help and encouragement *because* people started to recognise that a persons gender does not render them dumb. The reason we use the term ‘crisis’ is also the reason a lot of work has gone into opening up educational opportunities for female studets that were previously closed. A large part of the driving force behind girls improvement is also the reason we recognise that ‘nature’ is not the reason that boys are not performing as well as girls.
    (I( should be clear – I don’t think that feminism is to blame, indeed, if (depending on your view of what feminism is) feminism succeeds in eliminating gender roles completely, many of these problems will cease to exist – boys won’t feel they have to reject education to appear more masculine, they will no longer resist identifying with their female teacher – instead identifying themselves and the teacher as people, we won’t be raising boys and girls with different views of education, respect, dilligence, responsibility, etc. Much of the cause of this is society (IMO) and patriarchial systems still in place.

  32. EhSteve
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    Thing is, the two things are not unconnected – female students started getting more help and encouragement *because* people started to recognise that a persons gender does not render them dumb. The reason we use the term ‘crisis’ is also the reason a lot of work has gone into opening up educational opportunities for female studets that were previously closed. A large part of the driving force behind girls improvement is also the reason we recognise that ‘nature’ is not the reason that boys are not performing as well as girls.
    (I( should be clear – I don’t think that feminism is to blame, indeed, if (depending on your view of what feminism is) feminism succeeds in eliminating gender roles completely, many of these problems will cease to exist – boys won’t feel they have to reject education to appear more masculine, they will no longer resist identifying with their female teacher – instead identifying themselves and the teacher as people, we won’t be raising boys and girls with different views of education, respect, dilligence, responsibility, etc. Much of the cause of this is society (IMO) and patriarchial systems still in place.

  33. EhSteve
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    How could the timing have been any different?
    The reason (or part of) why girls are improving is because many people now recognise that peoples mental capacity is not limited by their gender – and so a lot of effort has gone into improving educational opportunities for girls and women. That same recognition is why we realise that when boys are performing much worse than girls that there must be a non-nature cause.
    The improvement of womens educational opportunities and the recognition that ‘nature’ is not why boys are underperforming are both tied to the same cause.
    (I should be clear – I don’t blame feminism for this – when feminisms goals are achieved regarding gender roles(depening on your view of feminism) and we live in a society where boys don’t need to reject activities girls are doing in order to be masculine, or won’t find it harder to identify with a female teacher as they will view their teacher as a person, rather than a woman or man then most of the causes of boys doign worse will vanish. Really many of the causes are due to patriarchial systems still clinging on about what boys *should* be in order to be *men*.

  34. Posted May 22, 2008 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    The reason (or part of) why girls are improving is because many people now recognise that peoples mental capacity is not limited by their gender – and so a lot of effort has gone into improving educational opportunities for girls and women.
    Except that a lot of the people who expend the most wind on the “war against boys” or some such rot are the same ones who still think that girls and women are biologically predestined to do worse at male-dominated fields.
    So it isn’t that people have suddenly all agreed that it isn’t biology. It’s just that it’s not assumed to be biology when the reality is contrary to the stereotypes; when the reality doesn’t match the stereotypes, it’s a “crisis”

  35. EhSteve
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    Yeah – there are those people, and really we (the world) could do with a lot fewer of them.
    I suppose I’m more speaking from my own views and of people I know – who recognise that a persons brain is not in their penis or vagina and that therefore if one group is performing better than the other then it’s due to factors other then their gender, and girls/women are increasingly outperforming boys/men in almost all cademic subjects. While apparently men have still improved, they have improved by much much less than women over the same time – so unless it is nature then there is a cause, and IMO it is one that people who are aware that gender does not make a person smart/dumb should be concerned about.
    But agreed – a lot of noise is made by those longing for a return of the glory days of patriarchy, but just ebcause some idiots are diving on this issue does not make it any less of an issue.
    p.s. sorry about the double post/triple post… erm…

  36. Posted May 22, 2008 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    RE: tinagrrl and dallassuz,
    I so completely agree. Boys have been so socialized to be stupid, lazy, and disruptive that now that it’s a bit harder to discriminate against girls, boys are getting their asses handed to them. And yes, Gopher II, it’s laziness due to male privilege.
    Yes, there could be institutional issues causing this, but I would guess most of this problem comes from poor parenting. Allowing your children to become well-developed, emotionally capable, and able to be true to themselves doesn’t happen often here.

  37. K
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    I have a son and a daughter both in primary school and I think that this whole boy crisis thing is bunk. For several years my kids attended public school in Cambridge, Ma where they shared the classroom with people from every race and practically every culture. My daughter’s 4th grade class included kids from nine countries my son’s included kids from six. Italy, Israel, China, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Thailand, Nepal…the list goes on. The school was majority African American and included everything from kids on welfare to the kids of Harvard professors. An amazing mix. Success was not determined by gender or race but by parental expectation… regardless of country. The boys and girls whose parents didn’t give a hoot floundered. The kids whose parents were involved thrived. Those families that valued education had children who valued education and those that did not had kids that thought school made you a fool.
    This boys movement nonsense has created an atmosphere of lowered expectation for boys and excuses their poor behavior. Walk around the campus of MIT and you’ll find a ton of Asians, Indians, Pakistanis, etc who can’t believe how lazy and permissive our schools are compared to the ones they attended. They sat in classes and went to extra tutoring and did a ton of homework and if you mention the boy crisis to them they get a good laugh.

  38. EhSteve
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    If you’re saying what I think you are I fully agree – the media constantly tells boys they aren’t as good at school, parents buy into it and reduce their expectations and also the idea that ‘boys will be boys’ and so don’t push their sons as much academically as they should. (Amoung other things – like being good as school often being *bad* for boys who get labeled nerds for not being ‘manly’ enough.) But this is not really the fault of the boys (which some seem to be implying) but the parents and society.
    I also agree completely with the comments on people from other cultures, I went to a state school in the UK in a poor area where about 90% of the students were from the Indian subcontinent region. The school was great, with a strong academic record and about 10% of my class went to Oxford/Cambridge, another 20% went to top ten universities in the country – to study Medicine, Law, Engineering, Accountancy,Economics etc. Which is no small part was due to many of the parents/grandparents coming from extreme poverty where there was little educational opportunity, and so understood the value of education and made sure their kids did to. I only wish the rest of the UK held education in the same regard.

  39. EhSteve
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Sorry to keep beating my drum on this one, but re-reading the executive summary I realised what was bugging me – it’s that is pretty much totally dismisses why males are not only performing less well than females but also improving at a slower rate. It almost seems to be saying ‘well… Girls are doing better than boys, and improving faster, but that’s to be expected.’
    Thinking about it – to paraphrase the logic they use in the summary you get:
    “Wage improvemnts are not a zero sum game, in which gain for one group results in a cossosponding loss for the other. If mens’ success came at the expense of womens’, one would expect to see womens’ wages decline as men’s wages rise. But this has not been the caase. Geographical patterns further demonstrate the positive connection between mens’ and womens’ wages. In states where men earn good wages, women also tend to earn good wages, and states with low wages for men tend to also have low wages for women.
    This puts to rest fears of a ‘wage crisis’ demonstrating that mens’ gains have not come at womens’ expense. Overall wage outcomes for men and women have both generally improved. men do tend to earn more, however women are also gaining ground on most indicators.”
    Would anyone here accept that logic as dismissing the gender gap in wages? Then why are we accepting the same logic in dismissing that male students are falling further and further behind their female peers? The study even says that girls are performing better than boys – surely we should be interested in why, and how this should be fixed rather than simply saying “It’s a myth that there’s an issue with education of young males”

  40. Jordan Mendelson
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    My claim was that while both of the genders have the same mental challenges, it is girls who report higher IQs and functionality, in spite of having the same mental challenges. Its a medical fact thats being studied, and deserves to be relevant in this discussion. Its also defendable as a response to med student about his claims that more men are known as “geniuses,” than women. If he can claim that, then I can report my stat too. It is also especially relevant since it acts as a good point that discredits his former claim.

    Sigh. Fine. Care to provide a reference?
    I’m a bit surprised you didn’t bring up the fact that learning disorders strike males significantly more than females (about 5:1). This includes disorders such as Autism (4.3:1), Aspergers (8:1), dyslexia (2:1) and ADHD (between 6:1 and 9:1 depending on the study).
    None of this changes the fact that we should strive to improve education regardless of gender.

  41. sepra
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    “it seems to me that just means that [black kids] need to try harder”
    “They are screwups before day 1 of class.”
    “Less [blacks] on campus means less [theft and violence].”
    I apologize in advance if the comparison offends anyone, it’s just that as I read the thread, I was reminded of all the excuses people give when shown evidence that students of color are not thriving in schools.

    There are a couple reasons why I strongly disagree with this comparison:
    1. You can not compare a priveleged class to a non-priveleged class like this. We are talking about white, middle class boys who are treated much differently than any other group in this country. It’s not reverse racism.
    2. One of the best lessons I ever learned teaching is that kids are only in school to make friends and get the best grade possible (for them) with the least amount of work.
    Given that white, middle class boys have more privelege and get away with more in the classroom, it would in fact make them lazier because they can do less work to get the grade they want. Except… now they actually have some competition, and their parents aren’t pushing them the way parents push girls. So they aren’t doing as well as girls. It’s not a crisis.
    As for recess saving boys, or that they need to discover something, that is the biggest load of crap that ever crapped.
    As has been pointed out, there are schools around the world with much tougher schedules and requirements than anywhere in the US and those boys aren’t having a crisis. You want recess? Try having kids go to school 6 days a week like they do in so many other countries, or taking twice as many classes, plus tutoring afterwards.
    These kids aren’t lazy, they are just living up to expectations, and clearly we expect less from that group. We adults need to raise the bar.

  42. Posted May 22, 2008 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    @Jordan Mendelson
    Autism is not awful. Stop listening to Autism Speaks propaganda and start listening to those of us on the spectrum, m’key?

  43. A male
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I am happy to see that some people can identify the (ethnic) cultural and socioeconomic reasons for this disparity, instead of limiting it to gender (in either gender’s favor). Though it is probably a component, it is not as simple as male privilege or boys as lazy or fuck ups. Nor is it true that “boys and girls have the same mental challenges. From one article by Sara Mead, which DENIES a boy crisis:
    http://www.educationsector.org/analysis/analysis_show.htm?doc_id=378705
    Boys make up two-thirds of students in special education—including 80 percent of those diagnosed with emotional disturbances or autism—and boys are two and a half times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).11 The number of boys diagnosed with disabilities or ADHD has exploded in the past 30 years, presenting a challenge for schools and causing concern for parents. But the reasons for this growth are complicated, a mix of educational, social, and biological factors. Evidence suggests that school and family factors—such as poor reading instruction, increased awareness of and testing for disabilities, or over-diagnosis—may play a role in the increased rates of boys diagnosed with learning disabilities or emotional disturbance. But boys also have a higher incidence of organic disabilities, such as autism and orthopedic impairments, for which scientists don’t currently have a completely satisfactory explanation. Further, while girls are less likely than boys to be diagnosed with most disabilities, the number of girls with disabilities has also grown rapidly in recent decades, meaning that this is not just a boy issue.
    [end quote]
    Sounds like a variety of serious problems with boys to me, not a myth.
    As the OP and later posters point out, the real crisis is in improving education for minorities and low income people. While poverty mainly falls upon women and their children (i.e. single mothers), the gender differences between male and female are mainly among minorities or the low income. For example, for high schools:
    “In Boston public schools, for example, for every 100 white males who graduate, 104 white females do; a tiny gap. But for every 100 black males who graduate, 139 black females do; a whopping difference.”
    womensenews dot org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2671
    There are also nationwide differences. Even if one assumes comparable academic ability or family income between men and women, guess what these figures mean for representation on college campuses, graduation, and in later careers, particularly among African-Americans? That’s right.
    As with income, this academic achievement or student ratio disparity needs to be broken down for analysis. A simple 60:40 student body ratio nationwide, for a range of schools is not the whole story. How are their grades? What are they studying? How many graduate? What are people’s reasons for not attending college, or dropping out? What are they doing now instead? And on and on.
    singlesexschools dot org is a very interesting read, with points both for and against views expressed here. While it recognizes the benefits for both boys and girls in single sex education, they also recognize the differences between boys and girls in learning. There is also a physical component as when Dr. Leonard Sax, MD, PhD claims he has uncovered research the environmental estrogen bishenol A and other endocrine disruptors “may disrupt or delay the onset of puberty in boys; more importantly, these chemicals may actually effect the developing brain in juvenile males differently than they do in females, specifically with regard to curiosity and motivation. In some studies, juvenile males exposed to these substances lost their motivation and/or their curiosity; no such negative effect was seen in the females.”
    [Interestingly enough, environmental hormones (as found in dioxins and plastics, for example) was considered quite a concern in Japan during the 90s. Some obvious physical effects were seen in underdeveloped testes in (male only of course) river carp. Japanese media and people wondered about effects on humans, with no followup or clear results. Perhaps researchers cited by Dr. Sax have found something.]
    According to Sax, though more recently updated, “I haven’t seen any media reports which have even mentioned this research.” (also at boysadrift dot com)
    Sax is one who does believe something is wrong with boys and young men today. From his site:
    “In Boys Adrift, family physician and research psychologist Leonard Sax tackles the problem head on, drawing on the very latest research and his vast experience with boys and their families. He argues that a combination of social and biological factors is creating an environment that is literally toxic to boys. Misguided overemphasis on reading and math as early as kindergarten, too much time spent playing video games, over-reliance on medication for attention deficit disorders (much more common in boys than in girls), and overlooked endocrine disturbances are actually causing damage to boys’ brains”
    Sax also reports “young men today (age 30 to 35 years of age) will be the first generation of American men to earn significantly less than their fathers did at the same age. They are also the first generation of American men ever to be less well-educated than their sisters. In this age group, 32% of women have earned a 4-year college degree, compared with only 23% of men.” Yes, more men AND women are entering university, but fewer men graduate. “Only 30% of men who enroll at a four-year college or university will earn a degree within four years, compared with 39.7% of women.”
    It is important to note that these sources, at least, deny any conspiracy against boys. I won’t read his book, but apparently he doesn’t blame feminists or girls, either.
    Re: gender distribution and IQ. One of your own sources points out how there are more males at the high and low ends of the spectrum, for test taking. The same holds true of tests which are intended to measure cognitive ability or “intelligence.”* This would mean based on IQ, there are more male geniuses, and more males developmentally disabled, than females.
    Tellingly, Binet himself “did not believe that IQ test scales qualified to measure intelligence. He neither invented the term ‘intelligence quotient’ nor supported its numerical expression.” Also, “Binet had designed the Binet-Simon intelligence scale in order to identify students who needed special help in coping with the school curriculum. He argued that with proper remedial education programs, most students regardless of background could catch up and perform quite well in school. He did not believe that intelligence was a measurable fixed entity.” (“Intelligence Quotient,” Wikipedia). Interesting. Binet’s test was NOT to measure intelligence, but on the contrary, to identify students who needed help. (Did he consider school marks and teacher evaluations?)
    Regarding which individual has the highest IQ, other than it being completely anecdotal, perhaps you should read about different methods used for measuring IQ, and when (i.e., age) and how they should be applied or interpreted. A 1937 edition of a test meant for CHILDREN ONLY taken by vos Savant at the age of ten in 1956 is not appropriate for measuring IQ in an adult today. (According to Wikipedia, another IQ test taken by vos Savant as an adult resulted in “186 IQ in the 99.999997 percentile, with a rarity of 1 in 30 million.” It is possible there are 22 people on earth comparable to her, and an unknown number (you do the math) who might score better.) Also according to Wikipedia, “It is possible she was administered the [children's] test twice, as there were two forms of the Stanford-Binet at the time . . . ” Interestingly enough, according to her school records this 1957 testing yielded a score of 167+. In the course of a few months, her IQ went down maybe 60 points, on two (or possibly one taken twice) versions of the same damn test? This is reason enough to question the validity of testing, or high end results.
    A list for the living might go something like this (from The Massive List of Genius):
    Physicist / Engineer Kim Ung-yong has a verified IQ of 210
    Bouncer Christopher Michael Langan has a verified IQ of 195
    Engineer Philip Emeagwali is alleged to have an IQ of 190
    World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov is alleged to have an IQ of 190
    Author Marilyn Vos Savant has a verified IQ of 186
    Who are the “other” twenty odd people who should be at this level? No idea.
    Also read about how IQ tests need to be reconfigured to keep the mean at 100 by definition (or re-weight aspects claimed to be gender biased such as language or spatial ability), and the Flynn effect. These people took different tests at different times, at different ages. See speculation on IQ of historical figures (I have seen Jesus claimed to have an IQ of 300 ha ha). See contrary claims by researchers that average IQ has not significantly increased in known human history.
    [I for one, do not believe modern humans are "smarter" than in ancient times. Human progress is based upon what came before. Try surviving and spending the rest of your life in the wild without any modern conveniences or prefabricated materials, tools and weapons. You wouldn't do as well as a "caveman." Try building a cellular phone from scratch without a handbook, with only the tools and materials available in 1979. It's easier to go get one from the store for free, assembled in China by someone in rural Hunan province who didn't graduate from high school, is it not?]
    Vos Savant wrote for Parade (7/17/05), according to some critics, her most notable (but not most important) achievement as self promoted person with world’s highest IQ (Guinness and Mensa have stepped back): “I think intelligence is like this. So many factors are involved that attempts to measure it are useless. Not that IQ tests are useless. Far from it. Good tests work: They measure a variety of mental abilities, and the best tests do it well. But they don’t measure intelligence itself.”
    One example of how intelligence means more than IQ or test taking: please read (or watch the videos) about Christopher Langan, IQ either 195 or off the scale, a largely self taught man whose career was made up of labor intensive jobs such as “bouncer” after dropping out of college. His social or political views brand him as a freak.
    Example:
    Langan: People who wanted to have children would apply to make sure they have no diseases. Why do we have to do it through genetic engineering? Well, we have to let only the fit breed…. Freedom is not necessarily a right. It is a privilege that you have to earn. A lot of people abuse their freedom and that is something that people have to be trained not to do.
    Interviewer: But who? Who does this training?
    Chris Langan: Well, I’d be perfectly willing to do it myself. Just put me in charge.
    [I am immediately reminded of the archived writings of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) by this "fit to breed" concept, as when she explicitly favored forced segregation or forced sterilization of the "unfit" (ethnic, immigrant, unhealthy, feebleminded, insane, criminal, sexworker, poor, etc.) according to the pre WWII German model.* Allegedly coming from the "verified," "smartest man in America/the world" gives me no more comfort to read it.]
    *See: “Sanger’s Legacy Is Reproductive Freedom and Racism” by Julianne Malveaux at womensenews. Also: “A Plan For Peace” from Birth Control Review, April 1932, pp. 107-108; and “Human Conservation And Birth Control,” speech, March 3, 1938.
    As onemansblog writes, “If you actually watched all the parts of this, did you come out wondering how someone who scores so high on tests that measure problem solving ability could score so low on ability to relate to humanity in general?”
    P.S. Allegedly, I am a high functioning autistic (Asperger’s).

  44. EhSteve
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Another thing that is bothering me is where some people seem to attributing blame. Many people talkng about why boys are doing worse are talking in a way that suggests they they thing they boys themselves are responsible for the male privilage and because they are a part of a privilaged class…
    When a grown woman makes shitty choices as a result of social systems that affect her judgement we tend to recognise that the responsibility lies in part with society, when young women make shitty choices – again we recognise that social systems are affecting their ability to make the right choice. But from the way some people are talking here it seems that when a male *child* makes a shitty choice…. the blame rests with them :S

  45. K
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    “Misguided overemphasis on reading and math as early as kindergarten, too much time spent playing video games…”
    I guess that’s why boys are floundering in Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea…er wait…They have more rigorous kindergarten (as does India) and I don’t think they are any less involved in video gaming and yet they are very successful.
    Interestingly, India has adopted the former Japanese model (learning more at an earlier age, an emphasis on memorization and cramming, and a focus on the basics, particularly in math and science)while Japan has begun abandoning it. Now Japan has fallen from first to tenth in Math and from second to sixth in science. India is on the upswing.
    Dr. Sax says that some of the things holding boys back are, “There’s less music, less art, less physical education, and more reading drills, writing drills, and arithmetic exercises.”
    Now first of all I don’t see how these things have a more negative effect boys than girls. Girls, too are affected by these factors and yet manage to succeed. Why?
    Secondly, several generations in the US were raised with “reading drills, writing drills, and arithmetic exercises” and managed to do great. That is still the paradigm in countries with the highest academic success.

  46. iqonefiftynine
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    How do some people sleep at night? I could not and would not release a report that says academic success is more closely associated with family INCOME than with gender all th e while working for an org whose charter is all about gender. This report is not to be taken seriously.

  47. Alexandr
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Yes. It is horrible when an organization dedicated to studying, and who are therefore knowledgable of, the role of gender in society, releases a report saying that in this case, gender isn’t the main problem (not that it isn’t *a* problem).
    Should we give more credence to reports regarding gender put forward by corporate interests? Sensationalist tabloid journalists? Anti-feminist, fundie segregationalists?

  48. emneal
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    The problem is that it doesn’t matter whether (white) girls outperform (white) boys in school. Once they are grown-up and out of school, men get preferential treatment over women ALL THE DAMN TIME!
    It doesn’t matter that girls do better on quizzes and tests because better grades does not mean she’s going to get a better job. All one need do is look at the disparity between men and women in terms of who is holding the top positions in both private sector and public sector jobs.
    The NYT had a series on this so-called crisis. One of the things they noted was that women have to work twice as hard as men to be given 1/2 the recognition. So perhaps it is true that (white) girls are doing better than (white) boys in school. But what does it matter if, when those girls grow up, they are still impeded by sexism?
    So boo fucking hoo to all of you who are so worked up about how supposedly badly our poor white boys are doing in school.

  49. tinagrrl
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    If the facts point you to income, rather than gender, are you supposed to ignore the facts because of who you are?
    Perhaps the attitudes shown, the lack of a willingness to follow the data, is one of the reasons for our decline.
    When ideology trumps the facts, reality, we are lost.

  50. Tersa
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    i want to know where the boys are going if they aren’t going to college? Could it be that they are enlisting? Military recruitment efforts I think are at an all time high. Has that been factored into these studies as well?

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