Boys are doing better in school than in the past, says an Education Sector report, so the fact that they’re falling far behind girls in school is no big deal. Judith Warner echoes the report in a New York Times column, “What boy crisis?” that ignores the plight of low-income, black and Hispanic boys, who do much worse than comparable girls. For Warner, it’s all about the anxious affluent, who are pressuring their boys and girls to succeed.
The notion that boys are in crisis rings true to many middle- and upper- middle-class parents because it feels true to them. And that’s because these parents are sick of being told that their preschool sons need occupational therapy because they can’t apply stickers with the right fine-motor finesse. These parents are sick of seeing their kindergarten boys referred to reading specialists. They’re sick of suggestions that their 9-year-olds have A.D.H.D. if they can’t sit still through school days from which recess has been cut, gym has been eliminated and even lunch, sometimes, has been all but eradicated to cram in more hours of test prep.
Many dads recall that when they were in school, they were restless, sometimes turbulent, sometimes aggressive, sometimes disruptive in class. When they channeled their energy into the workplace, they thrived — and they don’t want their sons pathologized, or girlified, for the sake of big-size classroom control.
Schools aren’t eliminating recess, gym or lunch for test prep or any other reason, though students often have less opportunity to play freely. Class sizes are smaller than ever. Schools where many students score poorly in reading and math are spending much more time teaching reading and math, sometimes sacrificing art and music.
At Kitchen Table Math, Catherine Johnson rips into the subject with a lot of links to evidence boys are struggling in school and out. Males may outnumber females slightly at Ivy League schools — most of which used to be all male — but the college gender gap is large and growing: Women now earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees. It’s impossible to look at the huge gap in academic achievement between black males and females and the large gap between Hispanic males and females without thinking the problem isn’t just a matter of race or class.
Among the many links is one to Diane Ravitch’s textbook guidelines which call for a war on stereotypes. Thus girls may not be portrayed as peaceful, emotional, warm, neat or short; men and boys may not be portrayed as strong, brave, silent, rough, competitive, curious, ingenious, able to overcome obstacles, intelligent, logical, mechanical, quiet or easygoing. It doesn’t leave a heck of a lot.
Banned foods, by the way, include honey and salt. No clue why but it seems symbolic of the bland world we’re presenting to our children.