25 September 2005

Oh, boy!

Gender differences aren't a new topic on this blog. I've mused about the Harvard President's comments earlier this year, the lack of male classroom teachers, and even the gap in our test scores. But is there really a reason for concern?

USA Today has printed two editorials about current gender gaps at the college level. The first, "Big (lack of) Men on Campus" points to a crisis. Fewer boys in college mean that more young men choosing something else, but what? It isn't the military. It appears that some are competing for jobs as general laborers, an area where there aren't enough jobs for them. Others are in prison: "Nearly as many men are behind bars or on probation and parole (5 million) as are in college (7.3 million)." And still more are "lost," meaning that they're just hanging out in their parents' basement after leaving school. The article goes on to point out some possible causes for the drop in male enrollment at college campuses.

Kim Gandy from the National Organization of Women has (surprise!) a different view of this situation. She argues that "dominant groups find ways to protect their members," meaning that if there are fewer pale males with college degrees, employers will find other ways to judge employees. Meanwhile, women are still doing the vast majority of "women's work" at home, which means that they can't put as much time into the workplace outside of the home. That doesn't look to change at any point in the near future. And finally, the glass ceiling still exists. "Women make up less than 15% of Congress and law-firm partners, 12% of big-city mayors, 9% of state judges, and 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs. Women and men have had equal levels of post-high school education for 30 years, but the gender (and color) of those in power hasn't changed much."

Who is more convincing?

I don't know if I see cause for alarm, but I can say that I am concerned about the classroom performance of boys. (And if I weren't, NCLB would certainly make sure that I took notice.) I don't know about your school, but I can look at the data and see that males and females are not performing similarly in math, reading, writing, and science. I don't know why---if it is how we're teaching, societal expectations, differences in cognitive "readiness," or what. There probably is not a single reason we can point to. I don't believe that much will change unless we have the same expectations for all students.

1 comment:

Rob said...

It seems to me that the differences in male/female performance these days have to be societal in their root cause. If they were developmental or inherent, then we should have been seeing them all along, not just in a recent trend.

It's just not cool for boys to be educated or smart right now. A friend of my wife is having this problem with her son. He's going to grow up and be a famous rapper, so there is really no point in school. His mother is smart and educated, but she's really having a problem bucking the social trend. This is exacerbated to a great degree by the fact that she is a single mother and there is no man around to slap the boy up side the head or provide a role model of the successful male.

For way to many boys out there, the only role models they have are entertainment figures.