Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why Are Boys Failing at School?

Somewhere, somehow, someone got the bright idea that the American school system was stacked against girls. If girls were not performing as well as boys, then the system must have been conspiring to lower their self-esteem.

As we were all told, schooling was not about learning, but about enhancing one’s self-esteem.

As you know, some people believe that there is no fundamental difference between boys and girls. They take it to be a dogmatic truth.

Applying that truth to the school system yielded this chain of reasoning: if boys excel at math and science, then that only mean that teachers are creating an environment where boys are called on more often, are allowed to speak out more often, and are judged according to criteria that diminished the intelligence of girls: like objective fact and right and wrong answers.

If boys are better at math and science, if they want to learn historical facts, or if they want to read about heroic generals and great political leaders… well, this must prove that the school system is acculturating them in patriarchal values.

Following this chain to its logical conclusion, these educators decided that the only way they could set things right and enhance girls’ self-esteem would be to liberate everyone from the shackles of right and wrong answers, of fact and information, by introducing notions like fuzzy math, where each answer can have merit. They also decided that it was bad to teach the great male heroes of American history or of world civilization because their successes occurred at the expense of more intelligent women. They also concluded that when it was time to speak up in class or write an essay, the topics should not involve the real world, but should be geared toward the expression of feelings.

Finally, they wanted to do everything in their power to eliminate competitive striving in the classroom or even the playground. Some schools banned dodge ball and spelling bees, lest children learn how to compete with each others.

Girls, they told us, tend to cooperate. Boys tend to compete. Thus, schools prescribed more cooperative circles of love and fewer competitive activities.

To right the perceived wrongs of patriarchy, these pedagogues decided that they needed to reorganize the classroom by making it into a conspiracy against boys.

You may think that this is something of a joke, a strange theoretical brew cooked up by a bunch of radical feminists for their own delectation. The problem is that it has become the norm in far too many American schools, and has been hurting boys.

Of course, it is not news. Christina Hoff Sommers identified the problem ten years ago in her book: The WAR AGAINST BOYS: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men. And here is another article that offers a summary of the salient issues. Link here.

But what are the consequences of this systematic pedagogical malpractice. As Lisa Wolfe wrote in The Daily Beast yesterday, boys around America are underperforming in school, are disinterested in classroom work, and are suffering from a severe self-esteem deficit. Link here.

Is this another victory for feminism?

As it happens, boys are compensating for the way the school are treating them by throwing themselves into areas of competitive striving that are beyond the control of their oppressive schoolteachers: video games and sports.

Wolfe summarizes the successes of this war against boys:
“The rise of girls in academia, from elementary school to college, has been well-documented. Girls are outperforming boys in all subjects except math and science, and even there, they’re closing the gap. There has been a steady 25-year decline in boys’ participation in extracurricular activities as girls take over clubs, newspapers, and yearbooks. For every 100 girls with learning disabilities there are 276 boys. For every 100 women graduating college, there are 77 men.

“But how this shift is affecting boys psychologically is less well-known, perhaps partly because parents and teachers are reluctant to raise the question for fear it will be perceived as taking attention away from girls. But talk to them privately, and many teachers and parents say they worry that the sea change occurring in America’s classrooms is leaving boys feeling helpless and sapping them of their motivation.”

She reports that similar rules apply to behavior. If a boy taunts or teases a girl he is punished for sexual harassment. It is not allowed or tolerated. If a girl calls a boy stupid or hits him, he has no right to fight back or defend himself.

So you are creating a situation where, as Wolfe says: “Advocates for boys say it will do girls no good to come of age alongside a generation of males that feel unheard and unsuccessful.”

Someone might notice that as soon as sex enters the picture, boys find an arena where they can, regrettably, avenge the accumulated insults that they have suffered through their childhood.

The deviant attitudes of schoolteachers seems to lead directly to sexual practices that disadvantage girls… like hooking up. Is hooking up therefore a type of revenge: does it mean that the empire is striking back.

Many of the experts Wolfe cites-- she does not cite Christina Hoff Sommers-- are at pains to say that the problem cannot be solved by rolling back the gains made by girls.

They also note that school should not be a zero-sum game  where the success of one group can only occur at the expense of the other group.

Yet, zero-sum thinking is precisely what created the problem in the first place. Feminist educators decided that if boys were more successful than girls, in school as in any area of life, their success must have been purchased at the expense of girls.

It’s easy enough to propose quick fixes for the problem-- single-sex schools are one solution-- but the educational system right now seems to be infected with an ideology that was promoted and promulgated by feminists, that was enacted in a fundamentally gynocratic world, and that now has the imprimatur of being politically correct.

The first step in changing it is to notice that it represents a systematic oppression of boys. These brave new educators, in their thorough-going and willful ignorance of reality, have been indulging in a form of institutionalized child abuse.


Anonymous said...

I checked out the Wiki link about Christina Hoff Sommers. If one looks past her ideas, as presented by Wikipedia, the comments tend to give a beat down to the lady and seem to discredit her writing. Do you have any comments or ideas on this?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Clearly, her ideas have been controversial. And yet, when the Daily Beast runs a report that strongly confirms Sommers' analysis... while ignoring her work completely... that seems to me to be relevant.

Surely, her opponents will do everything in their power to discredit her ideas. Yet, the evidence of the experience of boys in the educational system today seems to point in her favor.

Anonymous said...

I've followed Christina for a while, and thank God for her and people like her. To get good credible information on someone or something controversial, Wiki is a poor choice. A few years ago, Ms. Sommers was part of a panel where she was cautioning that the data did not support increasing gender specific drug and alcohol programs, and after a few attempts to prevent Christina from making her case, Professor Jay Wade (professor of psychology at Fordham University) delighted the crowd with "Shut the f*** up, b****." He reportedly is an expert in "listening skills."

I've raised a boy and a girl, and it matches my experience that sending your boy to a public school (or even private) is a form of child abuse.

In his book "How I accidently joined the Conservative Conspiracy", the author Harry Stein confesses to have been a liberal before becoming a parent, and has a chapter on the difference of his boy and girl in school.

I am a woman, and I think the war against boys and men has gone on for too long.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Actually, I had thought that the Wiki link would at least seem to be objective. Apparently, it was not the case.

I do hope that more parents join you in becoming aware of what schools are doing to boys. I have spoken with quite a few who are more likely to blame their sons than the school system.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: Wiki? 'Objective'???!?!?!

Actually, I had thought that the Wiki link would at least seem to be objective. Apparently, it was not the case. -- Stuart Schneiderman



[What they are telling you can be important. What they are NOT telling you can be VITAL. -- CBPelto]

site said...

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Anonymous said...

The problem is more complex than school curriculum or boy chemistry. The problem involves two entirely different treatments of Males and Females beginning as early as one year of age and increases in differential treatment through adulthood. This is creating the growing Male Crisis in the information age. The belief Males should be strong allows more aggressive treatment of Males beginning as early as one year. This is coupled with much "less" kind, stable, verbal interaction and less mental/emotional/social support, knowledge, and skills for fear of coddling. This increases over time and continued by society from peers and teachers to others in society. This creates more social/emotional distance from parents and other authority figures who have knowledge; higher average stress that hurts learning and motivation to learn; more activity due to need for stress relief; more defensiveness and wariness of others further hindering emotional and social growth; and higher muscle tension (creating more pressure on pencil and tighter grip) that hurts writing and motivation to write. It creates much lag in development creating a learned sense of helplessness in school. This differential treatment continues on through adulthood, almost fixing many Males onto roads of failure and more escape into more short-term areas of enjoyment. Also the giving of love based on achievement that many Males thus falling behind academics then turns their attention toward video games and sports, risk taking to receive small measures of love/honor not received in the classroom.

Since girls by differential treatment are given more positive, continual, and close mental/emotional/social/ support verbal interaction and care from an early age onward this creates quite the opposite outcome for girls compared with boys. The lower the socioeconomic bracket and time in that bracket the more amplified the differential treatment from a young age and increased in more differentiated over time.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, Ann for an excellent analysis of the problem.