Sunday, March 22, 2009

Oh Boy

"Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood..."
- The Animals

I'm probably going to make someone angry with this one, but it needs to be said. So hang on.

I received the following e-mail from my daughter's middle school today:

This is a message for the parents and guardians of *** Middle School girls. All girls are invited to attend Girls Night Out! Wellness Fair this Thursday, March 26th from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m. at *** Middle School. SIS stands for Sisters in Success, which is a program aimed at middle school girls in the *** School District. The goal is to empower young women to believe in themselves and to build healthy relationships with peers, family, and strong women in the community. Thursday we will have several local women who will be providing opportunities for our girls to learn about yoga, self defense, nutrition, skin care with Mary Kay cosmetics, organic cooking, and more!

All girls are welcome to attend and may sign up with their school counselor or Mrs. ***. Each girl is encouraged to bring a special adult female with them or we can pair them up with one of the female adults from *** who will attend. Girls need to sign up by Wednesday morning.

On the surface, this seems fairly innocuous (despite the weird emphasis on "cosmetics" and "organic cooking"). But it got me wondering: why don't I ever see anything like this for the boys in the school?

It seems to be a trend. President Obama recently established the "Council on Women and Girls", and stated the following: "So now it's up to us to ... ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements — and that they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers never dreamed of," Obama said. "That's the purpose of this council; those are the priorities of my presidency."

Again, good goals, all. But will someone please tell me how our daughters and granddaughters currently have "limits on their dreams"? It seems to me that there has been no better time in history to be a girl in America. I'm serious. I know I'm sure to catch some flack for this, but the world is wide open to my daughters in a way that it never has been, and in a very real way, they're better off than my son.

Because our schools are, by in large, failing our boys.

To wit—the following article from Richard Whitmire, President of the National Education Writers Association:

Hardly a month goes by without another major foundation or education advocacy group reminding us of the peril our country faces if we don't send more students to college. The International Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that the United States is slipping fast in international rankings. Among 25- to 34-year-olds, we rank no better than 10th in higher education attainment. Most striking among the measures is the "survival rate," the measurement of enrolled students who actually earn diplomas. Our students rank at the bottom of the developed world.

Visit the Web sites of the prominent foundations -- Gates, Lumina, Broad -- and you will see the same message that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporate leaders such as Intel's Craig Barrett have been warning about for years: We need to broaden the college pipeline, and do it quickly. The latest study pointing out our educational weaknesses – and offering solutions – arrived earlier this month from the respected MDRC, which offered the Obama administration a 15-point plan for turning things around.

Interestingly, however, there's something all these groups studiously avoid talking about. These U.S. education numbers look bad primarily because the schools are failing boys. For the most part, those awful high school graduation numbers are driven by boys, not girls (32 percent of boys drop out, compared to 25 percent of girls). And the lackluster college graduation rates are due primarily to men floundering in college (men earn about 42 percent of four-year degrees). Given that men are far more likely to major in math and science – a special worry for the technical industries -- the chamber should be particularly concerned about men falling behind.

But the gender angle never gets mentioned.
Consider it mentioned here...for all the good it's going to do. Believe me, I have nothing against empowering girls and women. I want all our kids to succeed, male and female. All I'm saying is that our boys are falling behind, and it's a tragedy that they're not being given more (or, dare I say it, equal) attention. It's not an either/or situation. We can do both.

Related: "Bring The Boys Along"


  1. I've been wondering why they have programs for everyone but white males my entire life. Apparently the system assumes we already have all the breaks and don't need anything further.

  2. Get back to me when there is genuine gender equality in all facets of life, then I'll listen.

  3. Grant/DS: It's called an "overcorrection".

  4. ds: "Get back to me when there is genuine gender equality in all facets of life"

    Ain't never gonna happen, sorry. Men and women are different, not "equal". Men have advantages/disadvantages, and women have advantages/disadvantages. My point in this rant is to point out that schools are failing our boys at an alarmingly high rate, at least here in the States. If what I'm reading is true, you seem to be doing better in Australia. According to the article I linked to, "Interestingly, only in the United States is the boys issue considered so controversial. Countries such as Britain and Australia have been openly confronting the problem for years. There, the boy troubles are an issue to be studied and remedied, not something to squabble about."

    That's exactly my point, but it gets lost when people react reflexively rather than thoughtfully. It's not about an agenda, it's about our kids.

  5. grant: "I've been wondering why they have programs for everyone but white males my entire life."

    Did I mention race? ^^checking^^ Nope. *whew* Just making sure.

  6. Actually you're right. The issue of boys not concentrating in class has been an issue in Australian schools for quite a while but I don't know how successfully they've dealt with it. Its when people leave school that my concerns start.

  7. I don't see how failing to properly educate boys helps further the cause of equality.

  8. I don't think for a moment that our schools are failing our boys. I think our families are failing our boys.

    There are too many broken families, and single moms (doing a darn fine job, in many cases) raising our kids. But boys need father figures. They need a dad in their lives. It's no wonder they're failing in school without proper male role models. Education, first and foremost, begins at home.

    -Just Tim

  9. jt: Wow, that's great! We'll just absolve the schools of their duty to educate our children by adapting their pedagogical methods to suit changing societal conditions! They'll save so much money when we all home-school!

    By the way, do you know what the word "but" does? It negates everything that came in the phrase before it.

    Yes, in an ideal world, there would be two parents at home. I'm sure one would work outside the home, while the other worked to maintain the home, cook, clean and garden. Perhaps everyone would have a picket fence, a puppy, and a fish.

    Wishing it won't make it so, and the schools have to react and respond accordingly to the conditions with which they are presented. That's what we, as a society (including many non-parents), pay the public school system to do. We've made a decision as a country to invest in public education for that very reason. Clearly, THEY are failing US.

  10. I really hate to bring race into the mix, but I have a feeling that Grant was right on. And I'd be curious to know what the numbers are.