American Boys Are Falling Behind

September 20, 2013

American boys across the ability spectrum are struggling in the nation's schools, with teachers and administrators failing to engage their specific interests and needs. This neglect has ominous implications not only for the boys' social and intellectual development but for the national economy, as policy analysts are just beginning to calculate, says Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

  • As the United States moves toward a knowledge-based economy, school achievement has become the cornerstone of lifelong success.
  • Women are adapting; men are not.
  • Yet the education establishment and federal government are, with some notable exceptions, looking the other way.
  • Women in the United States now earn 62 percent of associate's degrees, 57 percent of bachelor's degrees, 60 percent of master's degrees, and 52 percent of doctorates.

Young men in Great Britain, Australia and Canada have also fallen behind. But in stark contrast to the United States, these countries are energetically, even desperately, looking for ways to help boys improve. Why?

  • They view widespread male underachievement as a national threat: A country with too many languishing males risks losing its economic edge.
  • So these nations have established dozens of boy-focused commissions, taskforces and working groups.

In the United States, a powerful network of women's groups works ceaselessly to protect and promote what it sees as female interest. But there is no counterpart working for boys -- they are on their own.

It was wrong to ignore women's educational needs for so long and cause for celebration when we turned our attention to meeting those needs. But turning the tables and neglecting boys is not the answer. Why not be fair to both? Great Britain, Australia and Canada are Western democracies just as committed to gender equality as we are. Yet they are seriously addressing their boy gap. If they can do it, so can we.

Source: Christina Hoff Sommers, "How to Make School Better for Boys," The Atlantic, September 13, 2013.

 

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