A front-page piece in the Washington Post (“Study Casts Doubt of the ‘Boy Crisis'”) reports on a new study debunking the notion that boys have begun to lag behind girls in school. Interestingly enough, the study cited, a federally-funded project, arrives at pretty much the same conclusions a similar study by two feminist scholars reached. That being the case, I can do no better than cite The Other Charlotte’s response to the earlier, more overtly rad fem study.
Before we move to TOC, however, I want to call your attention to a tell-tale point raised dismissively in the Post story. Here:
“Black and Hispanic boys test far below white boys, the report notes. The difference between white and black boys in fourth-grade reading last year was 10 times as great as the improvement for all boys on that test since 1992. Still, the report notes, the performance of black and Hispanic boys is not getting worse. The average fourth-grade reading scores for black boys improved more than those of whites and Hispanics of both sexes.
“Craig Jerald, an educational consultant who has analyzed trends for the federal government and the newspaper Education Week, said that ‘Ed Sector is right to call foul on all the crisis rhetoric, and we should stop using that word, though there are a few troubling statistics and trends that deserve further investigation.’ He noted a huge gap in writing skills between girls and boys, bad results in reading among older boys, and a sharp drop in high school seniors’ positive feelings toward school that is worse among girls than boys.”
TOC’s prescient response to the previous study works for this one, too. So here it is in full:
Naturally the elitoes are pooh-poohing the “boy crisis”–because it interferes with their victimologist view that the real “crisis” facing boys is that they’re not enough like girls. So now, with study after study showing that boys are dropping out of school and skipping college at alarming rates, and that feminized, girl-friendly classes in grade-school and high-school might have something to do with it, we have Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Chase Burnett asking in the Washington Post: “What boy crisis?”
Here they go:
“The alarming statistics on which the notion of a crisis is based are rarely broken out by race or class. When they are, the whole picture changes. It becomes clear that if there is a crisis, it’s among inner-city and rural boys. White suburban boys aren’t significantly touched by it. On average, they are not dropping out of school, avoiding college or lacking in verbal skills. Although we have been hearing that boys are virtually disappearing from college classrooms, the truth is that among whites, the gender composition of colleges is pretty balanced: 51 percent female and 49 percent male, according to the National Education Association. In Ivy League colleges, men still outnumber women.
“One group of studies found that although poor and working-class boys lag behind girls in reading when they get to middle school, boys in the wealthiest schools do not fall behind, either in middle school or in high school. University of Michigan education professor Valerie Lee reports that gender differences in academic performance are “small to moderate.”
“When it comes to academic achievement, race and class completely swamp gender. The Urban Institute reports that 76 percent of students who live in middle- to higher-income areas are likely to graduate from high school, while only 56 percent of students who live in lower-income areas are likely to do so. Among whites in Boston public schools, for every 100 males who graduate, 104 females do. A tiny gap. ‘
But among blacks, for every 100 males who graduate, 139 females do.”
Yes, that’s exactly the problem. Boys from “the wealthiest schools” seldom need help (unless it’s buying that expensive shrink later on down the line)–because wealth can cushion a lot of upheaval in one’s home life. Rich boys can weather single motherhood, divorced parents, drug-using siblings, lack of role models, and yes, feminized classrooms in which the typical assignment is to write a poem about world peace. Boys who don’t have the benefit of Andover need a dad at home–and maybe a class or two that appeals to their natural competitiveness and fascination with things mechanical. Yes, it’s working-class African-American and Hispanic school kids we’re talking about, not the Harvard-bound. Then we have this cliche de cliches from Rivers and Chait:
“Boys, in fact, are as — or more — different from one another as they are from girls.”
Does anyone actually believe this? Do Rivers or Chait have kids? The main thrust of the Rivers-Chait argument, of course, is that we cannot have that feminist bugaboo, single-sex schools. And we cannot have that bugaboo of the education establishment: classrooms in which kids are actually obliged to learn something: to memorize a poem instead of write one. Here go Rivers and Chait again:
“Many, perhaps most, boys would be bored to tears in the kind of classroom that is now being described as ‘boy-friendly’ — a classroom that would de-emphasize reading and verbal skills and would rely on rote learning and discipline — because it is really a remedial program in disguise. That’s great for boys who need it, but most boys, especially those in affluent suburban schools, don’t.”
Uh, we’re actually talking about boys who need it. But as with all elite academics, the attitude of Rivers and Chait is: Who cares about them?