It is well-known that boys today are underperforming in school, and that young men are increasingly underperforming in life as well. Many conservatives and moderates, and increasing numbers of liberals, understand that the ideas and policies being taught in universities’ schools of education and implemented by the activists that lead teachers unions are particularly detrimental to many males.

On average, boys are more aggressive and less agreeable than girls. Therefore, many male students tend to require greater discipline and respond well to academics that are measurable and competitive. Increasing adherence to anti-educational trends like so-called restorative justice, a lack of emphasis on memorization, a lionization of pseudo-creativity, and a deemphasis of objective test scores (and of objective standards more broadly) are making many schools unsuitable environments for normative boys.

Additionally, many schools lack the physical play time that a large percentage of boys require. Time for recess and unstructured play has been continually reduced in attempts to meet educational standards that continue to fall. Meanwhile, many boys with no true neurological issues wind up on medications for ADHD because they are developmentally normative in their inability to sit still without ample opportunities for exercise. Everyone, across the ideological spectrum, now favors more recess and more strenuous play.

But the zeitgeist in elite educational discourse (which runs from far left to very far left, and on which reason has zero purchase) remains ideologically beholden to the other aforementioned failed policies. This results in the devolution of discipline and academic standards regardless of whether students have more recess. In other words, unstructured play has to be a departure from structure in order to achieve anything. If recess is merely a “break” from class time in which order, authority, and objective standards are lacking anyway, no one learns anything—not in the classroom, and not at recess. Increasingly, this is the state of public education, which is enormously problematic for boys.

One common misconception, though, is that this environment of blurred boundaries and creeping chaos is good for girls because it has resulted in female-dominated academics and extracurriculars. There is a widespread notion that imposing order and objectivity in the classroom while emphasizing and encouraging strenuous free play at recess would return us to the male-dominated educational environment from before we implemented, in the 1970s through the 2000s, a host of initiatives designed to improve girls’ academic and athletic prospects. There is, however, no reason to believe this.

As Dr. Leonard Sax, a family physician of 35 years, argues in Boys Adrift (2016), the academic achievement gap between the sexes is mostly the result of boys doing worse, not of girls doing better. For example, girls today are reading far more than boys; but both boys and girls are reading less than they did 30 years ago. It’s just that the drop-off among boys has been steeper. That is, males have been disproportionately negatively impacted by educational trends that also negatively impact females.

Hence, the same reforms that would benefit a majority of boys would also directly benefit a sizable minority of girls. Although sex differences are real, they are correlative and exist on overlapping bell curves; a not insignificant number of girls are as physically active, competitive, and disagreeable as the average boy. Measures that disproportionately benefit boys and thereby bring back some academic parity between the sexes in our elementary and secondary schools would also benefit large numbers of girls, as well as American culture overall.

A society in which men consistently underachieve is ultimately a society that disserves women. Young males’ disaffection from achievement contributes to broad decreases in societal stability, from rising rates of crime and drug use to declining rates of marriage and married child-rearing.

So, not only can we improve school for boys without hurting girls, but in fact, making school more functionally formative for more boys would profoundly benefit girls—along with the rest of us.