In an Op-Ed in today's Philadephia Inquirer, veteran education reporter Richard Whitmire calls on presidential candidates to take on the under-appreciated plight of today's school boys.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Boys, Whitmire reminds us, have long been earning lower grades than girls, and graduating from high school and college at lower rates. He cites the 23-campus, 450,000-student California State University system as typical: 2/3 of its graduates are female.
Whitmire doesn't speculate on causes, but others haven't hesitated. Typical culprits: reduced recess and the resulting restlessness of high-energy children (purportedly disproportionately male); video game addiction (ditto); learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders (ditto).
Less obvious culprits are the various contemporary practices that shortchange left-brainers (again, purportedly disproportionately male). In The War Against Boys, Christina Hoff Sommers cites one: the shift from competitive classrooms to cooperative ones. Boys in particular, she argues, perform better when competing with classmates than when required instead to cooperate with them.
Another problem that may afflict more boys than girls, I propose, is the intrusion of language arts into math. Many boys I know, especially in the early grades, dislike writing (often struggling with spelling and penmanship) and far prefer doing math problems to communicating about them.
Finally, as I'll discuss in later posts, more and more schools are reserving their top grades for those with the kind of attentive, diligent, eager-beaver attitude that many boys fail to display--particularly in the growing number of classrooms that discourage competition and "mere calculation."