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Making school better for boys.
September 13, 2013 9:33 PM   Subscribe


 
Where are the parents in all of this? At some you have to recognize that progressive social engineering will not work if families are dysfunctional. And yes, I read the article.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:41 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nearly half of young men of color age 15 to 24 who graduate from high school will end up unemployed, incarcerated or dead.

This is a national disgrace.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:43 PM on September 13, 2013 [54 favorites]


It's weird how girls are doing better than boys by every measure (and have been for a long time) and yet their employment and income outcomes remain worse as adults. I wish we could find some explanation for how this is happening but I suppose it will always be a mystery.
posted by gerryblog at 9:45 PM on September 13, 2013 [69 favorites]


Even As the United States moves toward a knowledge-based economy, school achievement has become gender and race have and continue to be the cornerstone of lifelong success.

Although it could be argued that as women have passed men in educational achievement, men have increased the intensity of asshole achievement.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:52 PM on September 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure how long that will remain an advantage. The knowledge-based economy is kind of filling up.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:52 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


What ever you do don't read the comments. First one starts right in with the MRA bullshit.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:53 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Make more work for those of us who only really feel good when we can make or fix things with our hands. You need us to keep all your shit running, and you can't outsource this shit forever.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:54 PM on September 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


Having irresponsible parents should not doom a child to lack of education. Responsible and involved parents are great and very helpful, but we can't just pass this social issue off to parents who might not themselves have come out of the school systems able to be supportive of this sort of thing.
posted by Sequence at 9:59 PM on September 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


I wish we could find some explanation for how this is happening but I suppose it will always be a mystery.

You've been on the internet too long when you can no longer tell whether someone is being earnest or sarcastic.
posted by Justinian at 10:00 PM on September 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


teakettle: While I totally appreciate your sentiment, I also have to think there's something more to it than that, but yeah, at the base of the problem, the male role does lend itself to being especially assy.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:01 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't even have to click on this to know it was written by Christina "But what about teh menz?" Hoff Summers.
posted by emjaybee at 10:08 PM on September 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


why does everything have to be an endless series of proxy wars between different internet-people factions between whom no resolution is possible or desired
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:11 PM on September 13, 2013 [36 favorites]


There is literally so much wrong with this article I don't even know where to begin.

If male enrollment falls to 40 percent or below, female students begin to flee. Officials at schools at or near the tipping point (American University, Boston University, Brandeis University, New York University, the University of Georgia, and the University of North Carolina, to name only a few) are helplessly watching as their campuses become like retirement villages, with a surfeit of women competing for a handful of surviving men. Henry Broaddus, dean of admissions at William and Mary, explains the new anxiety: “[W]omen who enroll … expect to see men on campus. It’s not the College of Mary and Mary; it’s the College of William and Mary.”

So, right off the bat, in the fourth paragraph or so, we have this bit of folk wisdom cleverly disguised as an unassailable fact. Women naturally go to college -- not to learn things of course -- but to find mates. We need more men in college so that these women can know the pleasure of a man's touch and choose to continue the human race, as God and Nature intended.

Really? Do you not see the assumption already present in this article? Women are getting too educated to procreate properly. What woman in her right mind would choose to have children if it were not arranged for them by society somehow?!? Something must be done. Was this written in 2013 or 1913?

The College Board delivered this disturbing message in a 2011 report about Hispanic and African-American boys and young adults: “Nearly half of young men of color age 15 to 24 who graduate from high school will end up unemployed, incarcerated or dead.”

This is a problem, for sure, but it probably has more to do with America's legacy of racism rather than, say, an inexplicable preference for girls in higher education.

What the hell is the point of this artic-

What can we do to improve the prospects of boys? For one thing, we must acknowledge the fact that boys and girls are different.

Oh, ok. Here it is. Gender essentialism. Gotcha.

Many gender scholars insist that the sexes are cognitively interchangeable and argue that any talk of difference only encourages sexism and stereotyping.

See, this is such a shitty and disingenuous thing to say. "Gender scholars" say that the sexes are cognitively interchangeable. You know ... "gender scholars". You know the kind. *wink wink*. Colleges are full of 'em. Teaching kids homosexuality and atheism. "Gender scholars", yeah, no. If you could actually come up with some kind of facet of human life (brain structure, cultural trait, emotional state) that was perfectly feminine or perfectly masculine and could define both categories without much disagreement, your Nobel Prize would literally be in the mail.

Women have XX chromosomes, men have XY, sure. But there are lots of people with XYY, XXY and so forth. What about them? Women make babies, you say? What about women who don't make babies. Are they still women? This gender stuff gets awfully fuzzy the more you think about it. Smart people have spent a lot of time thinking about it, actually, and come up with more questions than answers. Smart people who aren't just anonymous "gender scholars" in some far off ivory tower.

Rajogopalan’s insight is supported by a large body of research showing that taken as a group, men prefer working with things and women prefer working with people.

Is this nature or nurture? Is it true across all times and places? If not, why not? Why does the author not ask these questions?

Instead of spending millions of dollars attempting to transform aspiring cosmetologists into welders, education officials should concentrate on helping young people, male and female, enter careers that interest them. And right now, boys are the underserved population requiring attention.

Clearly there are two issues here:

1) The Federal Gubmint wants to turn women (cosmetologists) into hairy-legged lesbian welders.
2) I, the author, refuse to ask why women are traditionally drawn to fields like cosmetology and why men are traditionally drawn to fields like welding. I'm just going to point to these vague studies over here that suggest men like working with their hands, and just go with that. Yeah.

Honestly, I'd be really happy if people could write popular articles without failing to address the last 80 years of anthropology, the last 50 years of medicine and the last 30 years of political philosophy. It's almost as if some people find ancient messages in bottles and decide to write breathless articles for the atlantic about how things people stopped believing decades ago are, in fact, really good ideas!
posted by Avenger at 10:12 PM on September 13, 2013 [113 favorites]


Is this nature or nurture? Is it true across all times and places?

Well I have lived and worked in some cultures where the men mostly sit around doing nothing while the women do everything that needs doing. This includes things like cooking, cleaning, building shelters, arranging camel caravans, saddling the camels (not fun), loading the camels, doing the farming, tending the flocks, and much much more. Most of this work involved their hands.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:18 PM on September 13, 2013 [19 favorites]


Oh did I mention that the men controlled this hand using female work force by genitally mutilating them.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:19 PM on September 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm boiling over with commentary, but I will try to sum up:

This article is awful, full of crap statistics or falsely used statistics, anecdotal 'data' and crappy question-begging rhetoric.

The 'patriarchy,' as its put, is in no danger because it isn't a gender thing, it's a class thing. People need to stop assuming that the 'patriarchy' is led by Jim down the street who thinks wimmenfolk are too uppity (or whatever). Jim is a dupe for rich people who want to keep poor people squabbling and fighting for the same rights over and over again.

One - the education system isn't failing boys. Politicians are intentionally marginalizing boys and especially minority boys. Marginalized minority boys kill each other or fuel the murder industry (either by making white people afraid so they will say 'spend my tax money on keeping them minority boys down!' (aka the DEA, local militarized law enforcement, etc). Politicians and the wealthy are sabotaging boys.

Two - If you want to end the marginalization of the nonrich (boys or girls), do the following:

De-stigmatize poverty
De-stigmatize mental illness
De-stigmatize hyperactivity
De-stigmatize 'nerdy' hobbies
De-stigmatize sexual expression (i.e. quit slut shaming girls and making them feel inferior)
Re-stigmatize violence against other humans
And yet, as a complete contradiction - every time a man (or woman) holds some woman (or anyone else) down with a glass ceiling or some sexist bullshit - get behind her and quit - en masse.

Three - as with almost every other time education comes up here - I will point this out: I'm here to make sure your precious people larva learns science - not to be a backup mommy. I have 30 larvae at a time - it would be difficult for me to do this on a good day.

All of the real solutions to these problems are social and political - not educational.
posted by Fuka at 10:23 PM on September 13, 2013 [38 favorites]


Yeah, clicked through, saw Christina Hoff Sommers, closed tab. She writes this same article every so often and it never gets any better or less wrong.
posted by immlass at 10:25 PM on September 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


This meshes nicely with Hanna Rosin's Slate piece about why The Patriarchy Is Dead. And by nicely I mean similarly infuriating.
posted by katemonster at 10:47 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


We also need to raise boys to feel like it's okay for them to care about traditionally "feminine" things like emotions and nurturing and sitting still and being "good" and pleasing authority figures (like teachers). This is one of the ways that the patriarchy hurts men. Once these things are seen as the female domain, then they are devalued and boys who do them are harrassed.
posted by lollusc at 10:51 PM on September 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Sitting still isn't an obvious good like being nurturing---being able to learn by hearing instructions isn't inherently better than being able to learn by doing activities, it simply happens to be what our school system privileges. And that inclination has a very bad effect on (some, not all) boys' ability to learn. For more on the subject from someone who isn't the sneakily ideological Summers, here's an interesting piece by Jessica Lahey.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:59 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nearly half of young men of color age 15 to 24 who graduate from high school will end up unemployed, incarcerated or dead.

As said before, this is a national disgrace. But I also can not comprehend the statistic - well over half of those young men will end up dead. What is the time period?
posted by one_bean at 11:08 PM on September 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


The 'patriarchy,' as its put, is in no danger because it isn't a gender thing, it's a class thing.

You might think that, comrade, but I would urge you to look more deeply. The patriarchy is a state thing.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:17 PM on September 13, 2013


well over half of those young men will end up dead.

I'm pretty sure they will all end up dead, if you wait long enough.
posted by marble at 11:18 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sitting still isn't an obvious good like being nurturing---being able to learn by hearing instructions isn't inherently better than being able to learn by doing activities, it simply happens to be what our school system privileges.

It's what our school system has been privileging for centuries, dating back to the time when boys were the primary or sole recipients of formal education. If anything, public education has become much more hands-on in recent decades compared to the days when students in all-boy environments were expected to sit for hours on hard benches listening to lectures and engaging in rote memorization.
posted by northernish at 11:20 PM on September 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


So, where are the better articles on this subject?
posted by tychotesla at 11:23 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


As said before, this is a national disgrace. But I also can not comprehend the statistic

Yes, I raised an eyebrow at this one, too. Firstly, obviously young men who graduate from high school are not 15-24. Secondly, neither unemployment nor incarceration is a permanent state - for how long? Thirdly, what is the split here between these three things? Fourthly, 'nearly half' is not a number, what is the actual percentage? Fifthly, how does this compare to young men of all races, young POC of both genders, and young people of all races and genders?

This is _absolutely_ not to minimise the horrific racism and issues that face young men of colour, not at all.

However, the weaselly way that statistic is phrased, when there are so many other ways it could have been phrased more lucidly (for example: "Of black and hispanic high school graduates between 15-24, x% are unemployed, x% are incarcerated, and x% are dead, x% higher than the national average") make me wonder about its basis.
posted by smoke at 11:30 PM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


You can, if you go and independently review the data, find that on almost every thing we know how to measure, educational systems in Western nations now strongly favor women and girls, and as a result women and girls out-achieve men and boys, often by large, sometimes by small but growing gaps, within those systems. You can, if you go and independently review the studies that have been done on this, find suggestions of the causes -- everything from teacher biases which create grading gaps to inculcated "girls are better" attitudes which create effort gaps.

And you will find, in the end, that when girls do not succeed in school our attitude is overwhelmingly that the schools have failed them, while when boys do not succeed our attitude is that boys have failed. The pull quote in this very post has that attitude embedded in it, in fact. And you will find this attitude coming from people who have it because they believe men and boys are better and so should succeed, and you will find it coming from people who have it because they believe men and boys are privileged, so the only way they could fail is through their own faults.

You can do all of that. And, upon being exposed to this information, you can if you like proceed to jump up and down and stamp your feet and scream and yell that it's really just those pesky MRAs who keep bringing it up, and that Christina Hoff Summers and Hannah Rosin are witches who ought to be burned. Lord knows there's a lot of that going on in this thread.

But all the jumping and foot-stamping and screaming and yelling will not have changed the facts you discovered. This is the time to step up. This is the time to take all that rhetoric about how feminism is about equality, and feminism wants to solve all the problems, and feminism wants to smash the partriarchy that's the real source of these issues, and back up that rhetoric with activism and action. Because this is not an ordinary internet kerfuffle. This is the literal future of our society at stake.

In other words: class, it's time to put away the snark and the sniping, and step the fuck up.
posted by ubernostrum at 11:33 PM on September 13, 2013 [28 favorites]


Look, I am all in favor of doing everything we can to help young men do better in school — both for the sake of equality, and because frankly I think just about everyone should be getting a better education than they are now.

But that doesn't change the fact that Christina Hoff Summers is a gender essentialist idiot. A few of the points she makes here are good ones. A lot of the points she makes along the way are deeply moronic. All this "Women can't find a good husband on campus" and "Zomg turning cosmetologists into welders" is facile crap.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 11:41 PM on September 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


But all the jumping and foot-stamping and screaming and yelling will not have changed the facts you discovered

But I didn't find any facts? I just found a whole lot of opinion referencing data and studies without linking to a single example, and using it to prop up a kinda patronising, hyperbolic argument?
posted by smoke at 11:41 PM on September 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


You can, if you go and independently review the data...

Maybe you should make an argument instead of pleading with others to do your work for you.

Your comment here is long-winded and lazy.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:48 PM on September 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


emjaybee: I didn't even have to click on this to know it was written by Christina "But what about teh menz?" Hoff Summers.

Why don't you just call her gender traitor or sister punisher?

Half of these responses are like an anti-capitalist parroting Mao's Little Red Book. Thought Terminating Cliches dressed up with soy latte, retro campus politic chic.
posted by felch at 11:56 PM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just found a whole lot of opinion referencing data and studies without linking to a single example, and using it to prop up a kinda patronising argument?

I'm about to go to bed and have a busy day tomorrow and will be travelling on Sunday. But if you would like a bibliography I can certainly do my best to assemble one, provided you're actually willing to look at the information and not merely reject out of preconceived notions.

I mention that because the last time I waded seriously into a gender issue on MeFi, people seemed to think things like the US Violence Against Women survey was somehow a poisoned MRA data source simply because it wasn't agreeing with what they wanted to believe about partner violence.

For starters, here's the US Department of Education on gender equity. What does it say? More women than men go to college. More girls than boys are enrolled into programs for gifted/talented students. More boys than girls are held back and made to repeat a grade. Girls start taking algebra at a younger age than boys, and pass it at a higher rate when they do. The only subject of the "big three" sciences (biology, chemistry, physics) in which boys still outnumber girls is physics, and the gap there isn't huge -- it's 54/46 (compared to, for example, the 52/48 girls-outnumber-boys in chemistry). And on and on and on we go. You can still find some areas where gaps are in favor of boys, though mostly they tend to be on standardized tests.

Why are standardized tests important, by the way? Because there's a grading gap in favor of girls. The source of the gap also seems to be an essentialist belief that things traditionally associated with feminine gender role deserve to be rewarded in the classroom. But regardless of the reason, throw a grading gap around a boy's neck, and he's going to need some pretty serious test scores to overcome it and catch up; that probably plays a role, for example, in the fact that girls now outnumber boys in many of the AP subjects, including the sciences, despite boys doing slightly better overall on the exams.

Meanwhile, over in the UK research (conducted, no less, by a woman -- who, so far as I know, does not wear a fedora or sport a neckbeard, nor frequent MRA forums) into boys' and girls' attitudes has found that by age four the girls believe they're better than the boys, and by age eight the boys agree.

Of course, that probably gives us some ideas about the postsecondary gap -- men are less likely to enroll in college/university, less likely to earn any sort of degree (even the Ph.D. gap appears to've reversed recently), etc.

If you'd like me to go on when I have the time to do it properly and in detail, just let me know. Or feel free to ignore and remain comfortable, because after all I'm just patronizing, long-winded and lazy.
posted by ubernostrum at 11:58 PM on September 13, 2013 [37 favorites]


This is one of those issues that is very legitimate and serious but that the MRA approach is utterly incapable of handling. It's not a movement capable of doing anything but complaining about and blaming feminism which is of course not the source of this problem. You can't fix a problem if you are only interested in blaming the wrong parties because you hate them with a fiery passion.

This is the time to take all that rhetoric about how feminism is about equality, and feminism wants to solve all the problems, and feminism wants to smash the partriarchy that's the real source of these issues, and back up that rhetoric with activism and action. Because this is not an ordinary internet kerfuffle. This is the literal future of our society at stake.


Unless you have some reason to believe feminists might be opposed to equal education for boys, why demand they prove themselves by acting on it? There are still serious issues with education women face and they will prioritize that. When they talk about sharing goals what they are saying is that their work is not in opposition to work for men, not that every step they take will directly solve all issues men face.

Men will find plenty of allies and leaders among women in taking action to help make education better because it's a mutual interest and not a competition. The problem is men are not organizing themselves to begin the activism and to help fund even more research on the problem. Girl hating clubs on Reddit are not going to attract allies.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:00 AM on September 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's getting to the point where I don't want to read the comments...here.

And we've been over this so many times in metatalk there's absolutely no point in flagging anymore.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:00 AM on September 14, 2013 [20 favorites]


One of the great books about having difficult conversations is entitled exactly that: Difficult Conversations. They talk about difficult conversations being difficult and invariant in scope: the tough negotiations between Israel and Palestine are essentially the same in structure as the tough negotiations that go on in a difficult point in a marriage. So it should be in an internet discussion. The authors of that book reaffirm that difficult talk will always be difficult, but what they promise is that you can try to lessen the chance that such talk will boil over into an argument, because nobody on either side ever wins an argument.

To that end, I want to describe their central point: the problem in a difficult conversation is not necessarily just the content of our arguments. It is our disagreement in three conversations:

1. A conversation about what happened: the facts of the matter, the intentions that everybody has, who is responsible.
2. A conversation about our feelings, their validity, the feelings of the other person, the other people.
3. A conversation about our fundamental identity, our ontological status.

Unlike the normal conversations we usually have, it is obvious that this topic touches profoundly upon all three of those points. It would be nice to listen to everybody in good faith and try to avoid characterizing our fellow MeFite in a negative light, to reduce the amount of reactance felt in this discussion.

You are free to completely ignore me, of course, but I always try to listen to every side. That doesn't mean I think that both sides are right, but it means I always try to listen to every side.
posted by curuinor at 12:01 AM on September 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thanks for those links, Ubernostrum, I appreciate you taking the time to come back with some links. That one from Georgia is especially interesting. What I find most interesting, is that the traits which they say are driving the gap:
It includes six items that rate the child's attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organization.
Are ironically exactly the same things that I would say the world of work generally regards far more highly than raw talent or skill in most cases - except the broader chauvinism of society is such that the gap hasn't emerged there, yet.

Interesting quote from one of the researchers:
""My argument is that this has always been true about boys and girls. Girls didn't all of a sudden become more engaged and boys didn't suddenly become more rambunctious," Cornwell said. "Their attitudes toward learning were always this way. But it didn't show up in educational attainment like it does today because of all the factors that previously discouraged women's participation in the labor force, such as a lack of access to reliable birth control."

What remains unclear, however, is how to combat this discrepancy

posted by smoke at 12:20 AM on September 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I totally believe that there's a problem with educating boys. I don't believe that there's a reason why the problem here is that we're doing too much for girls, or that girls are achieving too much, or that any of this needs to be framed in terms of girls at all. What do the boys need to be able to succeed academically, and how can that be provided where it currently isn't? That's a legitimate question. It's not a question anybody's going to believe you're asking in good faith when you phrase the whole thing in terms of how girls do better, how girls need men to do better so they can have good men to marry, how you don't understand why feminists are not on board with this, whatever.

Once you put it into that context, it starts to read like your expected solution is something where girls achieve less in order to create parity, not where, say, we put more programs into place to help struggling students to catch up. "We" being society, not feminists in particular who are somehow held responsible for this state of affairs.
posted by Sequence at 12:21 AM on September 14, 2013 [21 favorites]


Sitting still isn't an obvious good like being nurturing---being able to learn by hearing instructions isn't inherently better than being able to learn by doing activities, it simply happens to be what our school system privileges.

It's what our school system has been privileging for centuries, dating back to the time when boys were the primary or sole recipients of formal education.


...and could be beaten into compliance. The same methods may not work in modern classrooms where it's harder to force obedience. The bullying thread had a lot of teachers lamenting what an effort it could be just to get a kid to turn off a cell phone or something.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:26 AM on September 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


The other thing about that researcher quote is that even they subscribe to essentialism, they've always been this way, rather than we have systems that encourage and reinforce these traits in girls but not in boys.
posted by smoke at 12:42 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


smoke: The other thing about that researcher quote is that even they subscribe to essentialism, they've always been this way, rather than we have systems that encourage and reinforce these traits in girls but not in boys.

Glad I'm not the only one who caught that. I read that quote and I was like "So, what you're saying is that women have always been better, but now that superiority is allowed to shine through? WTF?" If nothing else a researcher should know better than to say something so blatantly unproven and unprovable.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:47 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


sitting still and being "good" and pleasing authority figures

No.
posted by yonega at 1:02 AM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Interesting study.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:57 AM on September 14, 2013


Lack of male teachers/role models for young kids seems like something that should be considered. Although it might be a bit of a tragedy if that actually was the answer.
posted by tychotesla at 2:07 AM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


In not saying that sitting still or god forbid, pleasing authority figures is always a good thing. It wouldn't hurt if we taught our girls to do less of that either. What I'm saying is that boys who WANT to do this, in situations like school where it's appropriate, get treated by their peers as though they are "sissies" for caring about this stuff. same for things like being neat and tidy and colouring between the lines and other things that get you ahead at school, whether or not they are inherently good or useful traits.
posted by lollusc at 2:33 AM on September 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Here's the paper: Leaving Boys Behind: Gender Disparities in High Academic Achievement [PDF]

I'm not necessarily seeing the same conclusions as the Atlantic article. I'm interested to see what others make of the paper, but here's an excerpt from their conclusions section:
Our findings show that the predominance of girls at the top of the GPA distribution is rooted in their higher educational expectations, themselves linked to career plans that include a graduate degree (such a law or medical degree). More precisely, in the 2000s, “Plans for the Future” is the most important set of explanatory factors accounting for the girls’ higher share of A’s at the three grade levels (12th, 10th, and 8th graders).This set of factors is important enough to account for all of the increase of 2.3%, from the 1980s to 2000s, in the gender difference in the percentage of students earnings A’s. A more minor, but still interesting finding is that high achieving girls are “swimming upstream,” since they are more likely from a disadvantaged family environment.

By comparison with girls, more boys think that they are likely to enter military service or to attend a vocational school. Because the career plans of boys include more predominantly male occupations (craftsmen, protective service and military service occupations, engineers and architects) that do not require advanced degrees, their lower share of high grades is consistent with the “threshold” model that we propose. In an era where much emphasis for improving students’ achievement is placed on schools and teachers, this paper offers a long term view, which highlights the role of students’ motivation and gender differences therein. Clearly, among 8th and 10th graders, the second dominant factor accounting for the lower grades of boys is a measure of the frequency of having been set to the office or to detention over the previous year. This suggests that motivation and misbehavior may go hand-in-hand. We note that there are ongoing field experiments such as SDRC’s “Future to Discover”, whose preliminary results indeed seem to suggest that boys’ plans for the future are more moveable than girls.
Anyway, it's not addressed at all in the study, but doesn't it seem like the whole digital revolution thing might also play a part in exacerbating some problems with attentiveness and task persistence at least (and possibly more from the items smoke quoted above)? The timeline seems to match up, and these may be problems traditionally more evident in boys that have now exploded in an atmosphere that provides nonstop instant stimuli and constant reinforcement of short-attention-span effort with hyper-payoffs in terms of gaming and social media (I'm thinking more "Reddit" than "Facebook" here)... and even porn.

I'm not a tech-hating grumbling pessimist and I do believe that pastimes like gaming can also help build certain skills, but it seems odd to me that this question hasn't been addressed at all in the conversation (at least in the linked article and the study). At any rate, I suspect that, as usual, whatever is happening is due to a confluence of a number of factors rather than some simple "if A then B" formulation of "schools/teachers are paying too much attention to girls."
posted by taz at 2:54 AM on September 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


Sorry, I should have been specific; the paper I linked is the one mentioned in the fifth paragraph of the article, where it says "A recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research documents a remarkable trend..."
posted by taz at 3:01 AM on September 14, 2013


As several have pointed out, the idea that modern schools and teaching methods are somehow more hostile to some stereotypical/archetypal boys than in the past seems very silly. When my parents graduated from high school in the 1960, all teaching was in lecture format. Nobody had ever heard of "active learning" or "kinesthetic learning styles". Sitting still for hours and not disrupting class was simply how school was done.

And yet, under these conditions which should have been hostile to our stereotypical/archetypal male students by the modern understanding of boys, boys and men flourished. The salutatorians and valedictorians of high school classes were almost always male. Most colleges were male dominated, and many of the "best" colleges did not admit women at all. "Everyone knew" that men were smarter than women. The classified ads were separated into jobs for men, which required you to be a smart, hard-working leader, and jobs for women, which required you to take care of men or children or to clean things.

How is that the educational system of the past that lead to this bascially all-male world could have been so rigid and so contrary to what Christina Hoff Summers says should help boys, and yet boys succeeded like crazy?

My suggestion is simple: In the past, our culture taught little boys that they were by definition smart and little girls that they were by definition not as smart as boys. Now that women are acknowledged to be smart and capable, our culture teaches little boys that the most important thing for them to be is "not a girl". When girls and women succeed academically, our culture teaches boys that succeeding academically is for girls, and in order to successfully be "not a girl", they must not be seen to value academics. The patriarchy is still to blame; it's just that in response to feminism, it changed it's definitions.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:16 AM on September 14, 2013 [73 favorites]


Actually, I just figured out an easier way to say it. In the past, boys showed that they were "not a girl" by being smart. Now, boys show that they are "not a girl" by avoiding academics. The most important thing is still to be "not a girl", but the definition of "girl" and therefore "not a girl" has changed.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:52 AM on September 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


our culture teaches little boys that the most important thing for them to be is "not a girl".

This "most important thing"-thing doesn't ring true to me as the father of two boys, one of whom is really fond of sparkly nail polish. I asked my 9-year-old what the "most important thing to be" is and he was quite confused by by the question, but eventually came up with 1) Alive, 2) An American*, and 3) Not a mutated person. I have a problem with a couple of those answers which I will discuss with him (I was hoping for "honest" or "not mean"), but I'm pretty sure "not a girl" would be quite far down the list if it came up at all.

* I really hope this one came up because they've been doing a of 9/11 anniversary stuff at school and that it will be less on his mind soon.

posted by 0 at 4:57 AM on September 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I remember how nerdy heroes like John Wayne epitomized masculinity with their math skills.

When my parents graduated from high school in the 1960, all teaching was in lecture format. Nobody had ever heard of "active learning" or "kinesthetic learning styles". Sitting still for hours and not disrupting class was simply how school was done.

Students in 1960 had heard of corporal punishment and getting your ass beat at home when you don't behave. We can't really map our expectations on how students behaved under a much more harsh form of discipline.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:57 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unless you have some reason to believe feminists might be opposed to equal education for boys, why demand they prove themselves by acting on it?

not prove themselves - PROTECT themselves

if you don't think that having a generation of young men that are under or un employed is a danger to our society, you might take a look at how they were manipulated and recruited by political factions during weimar germany - look at who the terrorists and activists from islamic and other movements recruit their agents from

there are those in our society who have a very easy solution for this problem - fill them up with their propaganda and agenda and give them uniforms and weapons and have them do their bidding

many of you seem to have a blind spot on this issue, one large enough to drive a mack truck through, and the name of that truck is called history

this isn't just an economic problem, it's a political problem

come to think of it, i wonder about all these MRA people - could it be that many of them are the under and un employed people i'm talking about?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:13 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Umm, okay, yes it's bad to have underemployed men or women. What I'm saying there is that handling it is a universal task for all of us, not a burden to be placed on feminism. As for the MRA demographics there are certainly younger men among them but the vibe I get from the sites is a lot of men very angry at family court issues so probably a bit on the older, conservative side. If I had to make a prediction as a political observer I think the discontent with the economy among young people is going to lead them to swing left, not right.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:20 AM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


it certainly represents an opportunity for the left as well as the right - as far as a burden on feminism goes, it's always going to be an issue that one needs to explain to men why feminism will result in a better world for them as well as women
posted by pyramid termite at 5:25 AM on September 14, 2013


Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement
Thomas S. Dee - National Bureau of Economic Research - 2007
In this study, I present new empirical evidence on whether assignment to a same-gender teacher influences student achievement, teacher perceptions of student performance, and student engagement.
This Educationnext article seems to be a less technical treatment of the same material (frankly I read this and skimmed the research paper, which isn't actually that hard to read but I found this first so meh).
My results indicate that learning from a teacher of the opposite gender has a detrimental effect on students’ academic progress and their engagement in school. My best estimate is that it lowers test scores for both boys and girls by approximately 4 percent of a standard deviation and has even larger effects on various measures of student engagement.

Adverse gender effects have an impact on both boys and girls, but that effect falls more heavily on the male half of the population in middle school, simply because most middle-school teachers are female. My estimates suggest that, if half of the English teachers in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades were male and their effects on learning were additive, the achievement gap in reading would fall by approximately a third by the end of middle school. Similarly, these results suggest that part of boys’ relative propensity to be seen as disruptive in these grades is due to the gender interactions resulting from the preponderance of female teachers.
posted by tychotesla at 5:51 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Something that needs to be included in any sort of discussion in education is the comparative need or women to complete post secondary ed to close gender salary gaps. Female employment more likely to be in the public sector, which is more heavily weighted toward credentials, and stereotypically female-and-low-education jobs do not pay. For an example: In order for the average woman to compete, salary-wise with a male college drop out, she needs to have a completed degree. Academic success has a much more necessary pay off.

Gender outcomes also don't replicate perfectly globally- Canada has a lower in incarceration rate but similar educational outcomes, where as the Netherlands sees less score variance.

The pattern we are examining here is where the average girl seems to start off with a better reading ability than the average boy, and you have a male population that is more likely to have language handicaps. This follows children into high school, at which point for some reason male students get a later years math boost. (Which translates into a just-in-time transition into incidentally more lucrative majors like Comp Sci and Engineering, funny that!).

Let's not minimize female achievement by scoffing that they're "better at sitting still"- co-operation and ability to follow instructions are two things that make make metafilter bearable and fun. If what boys are doing is, at that age, less valuable than what girls are doing, what, precisely, are they doing with their time anyway? A girl baby growing up having a knack for her primary language and good social behaviour has been benefiting from the fact that she's been more socialized from birth (and bathed in compliments based on how pleasing and charming she is). So what have boy children been packed with? We know that caretakers encourage and expose boy babies to more risks. Is it possible that the problem is not that boys are inherently twitchy but they're being subjected to a different sort of competition?

As hydropsyche observed though, this sorting of a small pool of men into lucrative PSE path smacks of the same sort of patriarchy in polygyny practicing cultures where a small number of men do really well at the expense of a pool of ones that don't and the achievements of the women just translate to how useful they will be to their male superiors. Which oops, actually is a highly simplified way at looking at career options or me as a woman.


i wonder about all these MRA people - could it be that many of them are the under and un employed people I'm talking about?


Honestly, given that MRA appear to want to claw back social progress through to being awarded one female thrall each like back in the good old days of traditional marriage. Since I have zero interest in being a female thrall and they have not interest in being 'feminized' (while valuing stereotypical masculinity is, at its apex, precisely the paternalistic fascism you're warning against) this basically makes it impossible to solve their problem the way that by and large they seem to want.

More paternity leave and less social pressure on men to be aggressive leaders, I'm on board with, but if boys are supposed to be so bad at being women, this is a social problem and frankly after a certain point: "it's always going to be an issue that one need to explain to men why feminism will result in a better world for them as well as women"

The answer is that it won't make the world a better place for all men. Overall, should alleviate some human misery, but if it worked it would put a lot of patriarchs out of work to the detriment of those men and their supporters. There's just no reason on gods green earth to subject me to men or that I should have to justify myself as person just because I got a cis-female body. Part of the reason why I have rights is because they were finally facilitated by labour saving devices and birth control- and while negotiation is part of this, it's also like asking slaves why they deserve to be free.
posted by Phalene at 5:52 AM on September 14, 2013 [15 favorites]


This is one of those issues that is very legitimate and serious but that the MRA approach is utterly incapable of handling.

If some of the comments in this thread are any indication, the snarky Jezebel feminist approach isn't too great at handling it either.
posted by downing street memo at 5:55 AM on September 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


for them to care about traditionally "feminine" things like emotions and nurturing and sitting still and being "good" and pleasing authority figures

This is the last thing our society needs more of.
posted by spaltavian at 6:02 AM on September 14, 2013


I think the point about responding to incentives is key. There are good jobs for men without education. Women without education have few good employment options and are not attractive wives for men of the income potential to support their being stay at home moms.

Beyond that it seems like it's not an inequality but a difference in standard deviation on the curve. More women with BAs, but more men who have PhDs from Cal Tech. More women with white collar jobs but more men who are hedge fund managers.
posted by MattD at 6:03 AM on September 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


One thing I don't see included in these discussions as often as I would like: Learning disability, ADHD and autism spectrum diagnoses are on the rise. Some of that increase in diagnoses is of course almost certainly due to better testing and increased detection, but many studies seem to show that the actual incidence of these issues is rising, too, for reasons currently unknown. Boys are SIGNIFICANTLY more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities, ADHD, or autism. According to the CDC, for example, autism spectrum disorder diagnoses are FIVE TIMES MORE COMMON among boys than girls.

I worked as a volunteer for two years at a school for children with special educational needs, and the student population of that school was 70% male.

I don't think we can have a good conversation about the recent reversal in the academic achievement gap between girls and boys without also considering the fact that many, many more boys than girls are now facing school with a special educational needs diagnosis.
posted by BlueJae at 6:28 AM on September 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's what our school system has been privileging for centuries, dating back to the time when boys were the primary or sole recipients of formal education.

Because for a long time, "boys" weren't the primary recipients, "upper-class and urban boys" were. For most of the history of education, lecture-style teaching was available only to a very small number of boys– the ones who would go on to become clerks and administrators– while the rest were in hands-on apprenticeships. Even after schooling became compulsory in America, there was a wink-and-nod approach to boys who didn't really take to it being allowed to drop out and go back to the farm/the factory/the army, or perhaps trade school. It was only after WW2 that schooling became truly universal, and only around the 80s that trade schools and vocational education became so stigmatized that it was no longer a real option.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:48 AM on September 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Students in 1960 had heard of corporal punishment and getting your ass beat at home when you don't behave. We can't really map our expectations on how students behaved under a much more harsh form of discipline.

This reads as if boys can't learn unless someone is willing to beat them. Which is somewhat insulting to men and boys.
posted by winna at 6:49 AM on September 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


> and only around the 80s that trade schools and vocational education became so stigmatized that it was no longer a real option.

I was in grade and high school throughout the '80s and the vocational school in my home town was (among kids, anyway) roundly mocked as for losers and morons. I bet a sizable chunk of the kids who went there are earning more than those of us who went to university, but back then the trades weren't really promoted as a viable option for anyone except those who weren't, for whatever reason, into academics.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:09 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


These boys in Japan and S. Korea with a school system built primarily with their success in mind, and where performance is notoriously high, also have a tautological foundation of rote memorization and schools that reward students who know how to sit still and be quiet for hours on end. These standards for student conduct aren't new, the suggestion that they should be modified is. Boys' schools across the world for decades, if not centuries, have held to them. I'm not saying that it's great - at these schools it was also common to dish out corporal punishment to boys who did not behave - but this is a style of classroom etiquette and teaching that predates widespread female enrollment in formal schools, made for males explicitly. This wasn't cooked up at a love in in 1964 to trip up the phallocracy.

Additionally, I do think that it's overlooked that women with high school diplomas generally have sales and sex work as the available options for them if they want high wages, while men with lower education levels have had many more opportunities available, and in some cases (dwindling though they may be) still do. This is the reason behind increased female enrollment in post secondary school.
posted by Selena777 at 7:14 AM on September 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


To the folks asking about the statistics about young African Americans I found this with a cursory google search:

Young African American Men in the United States

I don't have time right now to look into it more, but later if I get a chance I will try and provide something more recent.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:10 AM on September 14, 2013


It's an interesting and complicated topic, interwoven with many other interesting and complicated topics. There's a lot going on here. I don't have the time to more fully respond to anything here, but until such a time, I just wanted to say hi.

I am always disappointed when the topic of boys in education gets reduced to some silly "NOW THE FEMINISMS ARE DEAD" type of argument.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:59 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because for a long time, "boys" weren't the primary recipients, "upper-class and urban boys" were. For most of the history of education, lecture-style teaching was available only to a very small number of boys– the ones who would go on to become clerks and administrators– while the rest were in hands-on apprenticeships.

Absolutely, not in dispute. However, my point was that the current education system is not the result of some sort of feminist reform predicated on the idea that girls are naturally better at sitting still and listening. It is gender expectations that have changed more than schools.
posted by northernish at 10:12 AM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't see anyone here in metafilter argue that, though. The fact remains that our schools are not suited to serving a large number of boys and men whose other options are drying up fast.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:16 AM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


emjaybee: I didn't even have to click on this to know it was written by Christina "But what about teh menz?" Hoff Summers.

Why don't you just call her gender traitor or sister punisher?

Half of these responses are like an anti-capitalist parroting Mao's Little Red Book. Thought Terminating Cliches dressed up with soy latte, retro campus politic chic.


Oh, do come on.

I mistrust Summers because she is a supremely privileged white woman, with a lot of connections and ambition, who uses that power to tell other women that feminism hurts men, that they are betraying their essential gender calling, and in general solidifies her own position by pleasing the powerful sexist elite and scolding all those other, non-Christina Hoff Summers-women.

It's a very old dynamic, and I find it tiresome for that reason, not because of some Betrayal of a fictional Sisterhood.

She's been discussed many times here on the Blue, so feel free to read other, more eloquent and thorough discussions of the holes in her arguments by doing that search. Don't take my word for it.

But, in terms of the "Boy Crisis" in education, you can find very good posts, with stats, from Alas, A Blog: Part I and Part II.

Anecdote time!
And, for the record: In my family, I was an oddball in that I loved reading...a tendency I shared only with my father. My mother disliked it and never did so for pleasure. Nor was she good at sitting still or a particularly good student, although she was very good at math and in general nobody's fool. My other siblings, male and female, are very like her in that respect.

I am also a parent to a young boy who likes reading, but not in the way I did at his age. Like his father, he reads slowly and not all the time. I love him and want him to do well. I just don't think that dumbing things down or holding girls back or blaming "feminism" for something I'm pretty sure he was born with (unlike his paternal grandfather, the voracious reader) will actually help him. Because in my own family, within a three-generation span, I see reading and scholastic aptitudes that owe nothing whatsoever to gender roles. And not because my mom was some sort of early super feminist. She was as girly and traditional as they come, except that she was unable to pretend to be stupider than she was to please others (a fact which cost her sometimes. I also know that she was passed over more than once in favor of a man with less experience).
posted by emjaybee at 10:24 AM on September 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Where is all this post-secondary education getting girls?

As the United States moves toward a knowledge-based economy, school achievement has become the cornerstone of lifelong success.


Men are outdoing women on every measure of "lifelong success" including income, career achievement, poverty levels. Women get the degrees but then it's like some kind of black hole; where can the degrees take you? Why don't they take you to the top? Who runs the schools and the school boards? The universities? Who runs the corporations? The hospitals? The governments? We all know the answers. Even a high school diploma goes farther for men than for women. So is the prediction that in the years to come women are going to start seeing real dividends? Because right now I don't see the men being dislodged from their positions. What I see are a lot of people now proclaiming degrees and higher education to be not worth it, and just in time for women to get all the degrees too.
posted by Danila at 10:28 AM on September 14, 2013 [24 favorites]


for them to care about traditionally "feminine" things like emotions and nurturing and sitting still and being "good" and pleasing authority figures
This is the last thing our society needs more of.


I would argue that our society needs a good deal more facility with emotional intelligence and nurturing.
posted by KathrynT at 10:41 AM on September 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


Speaking as a teacher, I'm having one of those brief precognitive flashes: in two or three years, I'll be legally required to offer male-specific dynamic/kinesthetic/active curriculum on top of the existing one, track the results with quantitative data (that may or may not actually measure anything, and certainly won't involve any controls), and put together an analysis/evidence packet that will be filed away and never looked at by anybody with the power to enact any real changes.

Whether it works or not, one year later there will be an initiative to address the horrific imbalance in gender-targeted curriculum that is neglecting the girls.

Both will certainly involve training on a method, booklet, and/or software provided by a private company at significant expense.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 11:07 AM on September 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


And, upon being exposed to this information, you can if you like proceed to jump up and down and stamp your feet and scream and yell that it's really just those pesky MRAs who keep bringing it up, and that Christina Hoff Summers and Hannah Rosin are witches who ought to be burned.

Way to put away the snark and the sniping.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:10 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think we as a society will deal with this problem the same way we've dealt with other, similar situations that have advantaged women.

We'll simply denigrate college educations as "Women's Work". After all, who needsa college degree when an AI program will make your trades for you? And it's not like you need a college education to be a rap star. Enter the age of "self made men".
posted by happyroach at 11:13 AM on September 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


You can, if you go and independently review the data, find that on almost every thing we know how to measure, educational systems in Western nations now strongly favor women and girls, and as a result women and girls out-achieve men and boys, often by large, sometimes by small but growing gaps, within those systems. You can, if you go and independently review the studies that have been done on this, find suggestions of the causes -- everything from teacher biases which create grading gaps to inculcated "girls are better" attitudes which create effort gaps.

I just talk with my friend who did his PhD in Education (specifically focusing on masculinity and schooling) when he tells me that this is bullshit. It works for me.
posted by jokeefe at 11:57 AM on September 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not convinced that "sitting still and paying attention" is as inborn in girls as seems to be assumed. I do know that it's HEAVILY conditioned into us from birth on a scale that just is nowhere near as present in the lives of most boys. I'm not that old, and I still, spent my entire childhood in the shadow of "Boys will be boys, but little ladies don't do that sort of thing." I see it in modern parents, too: when my little cousins play together, the boys have to cause an injury requireing professional medical intervention before their parents do more than shake their heads, but the girls are severely lectured for things like laughing too loud. And this is before they reach school. So working on that as a society will help with any gaps that exist when they get there.

In the early grades, anyway, the structure of school hasn't undergone some kind of sea change. The difference is, girls have been given, and have internalized, the message that it's OK for them, it's even expected of them, to succeed. Even as short a time ago as the early 1980's when I was in the primary grades, there was a lot of, "Are you going to be a nurse or a teacher or a secretary, or just get married?" Probably a lot of that came from the fact that most of us had mothers for whom those had been the default option. By the time I got to middle school that was gone, but there were still niggling doubts in the backs of our minds. Mine was the first class where boys and girls were allowed to choose shop or Home Ec instead of being automatically assigned. But still, even some of the teachers seemed to talk about "girls" and "smart girls" as two separate groups of students. By high school, the world had changed. Doctors who happened to be female were common enough that they weren't called "lady doctors" anymore.

Since it's not a change in schools that helped girls achieve, a change in schools won't help boys achieve now. Giving them the message that the skills they need to achieve are valuable, and giving them the message that they can and should achieve, is the way to help them.

It's not that schools are designed for girls, and it's not that boys are lazy. Girls started doing better because they started getting more encouragement and support. Boys will probably start doing better if they start getting an increased amount o encouragement and support.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:17 PM on September 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


Students in 1960 had heard of corporal punishment and getting your ass beat at home when you don't behave. We can't really map our expectations on how students behaved under a much more harsh form of discipline.

This reads as if boys can't learn unless someone is willing to beat them. Which is somewhat insulting to men and boys.


Uhh, only if you drastically misread the context. I am suggesting we can't assume boys should be well suited for our current sit still educational style because of a comparison to a past when it was enforced with violence. We need a newer, compassionate method that will fulfill the needs of both genders. Getting out of balance in either direction is not good for us.

In order for the average woman to compete, salary-wise with a male college drop out, she needs to have a completed degree.

There are good jobs for men without education. Women without education have few good employment options

I don't get it, which jobs aren't women allowed in if they drop out that men are?
posted by Drinky Die at 12:22 PM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Who runs the schools and the school boards? The universities? Who runs the corporations? The hospitals? The governments? We all know the answers.

Yes, the 1%.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:25 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a difference between wanting an even slice of pie and wanting a bigger pie for everyone. What many folks who agree with this are saying is they want to see some acknowledgement that boy's educational needs are not being met. They are not saying 'Stop catering to women.'

Ideally, we move to an equilibrium where power between the sexes is shared evenly - or at least proportional to the desire. But to say boys are not being disenfranchised because there are more male CEOs and male pay is higher than female pay is... disingenuous and counterproductive. Current state is not future state.

To understand how things will change, you do need to understand what the future drivers are. Boys who aren't engaged in education today will not have the opportunity later. If that's fine by you, understand - it's not been fine for many of us Gen-X men that women weren't given the same opportunities. Many of us have worked hard for equality across our education, for equality across our home lives, and for the betterment of everyone regardless of their gender. When the canary in the coal mine is starting to indicate that the system is starting to fail another segment, understand we want to make sure everyone is on-board with the concept of success for all. We aren't finished making sure that gender is removed from a predictor of success, but let's not forget the undercurrents of change and strive to make educational success incentivized for all.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:28 PM on September 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Both will certainly involve training on a method, booklet, and/or software provided by a private company at significant expense.

Excuse me, I have a business plan to write!
posted by alasdair at 1:40 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a difference between wanting an even slice of pie and wanting a bigger pie for everyone. What many folks who agree with this are saying is they want to see some acknowledgement that boy's educational needs are not being met. They are not saying 'Stop catering to women.'

I have no doubt of that, and I would personally like to see all students better served by our educational system for a variety of definitions of "better served". On the other hand, a Christina Hoff Sommers article, unless she's suddenly and radically changed her tune, is only going to advocate for solutions that put a larger slice of the existing pie in the hands of boys without worrying about the size of the pie at all.
posted by immlass at 2:05 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


One thing I don't see included in these discussions as often as I would like: Learning disability, ADHD and autism spectrum diagnoses are on the rise. Some of that increase in diagnoses is of course almost certainly due to better testing and increased detection, but many studies seem to show that the actual incidence of these issues is rising, too, for reasons currently unknown. Boys are SIGNIFICANTLY more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities, ADHD, or autism. According to the CDC, for example, autism spectrum disorder diagnoses are FIVE TIMES MORE COMMON among boys than girls.

I worked as a volunteer for two years at a school for children with special educational needs, and the student population of that school was 70% male.

I don't think we can have a good conversation about the recent reversal in the academic achievement gap between girls and boys without also considering the fact that many, many more boys than girls are now facing school with a special educational needs diagnosis.


I think BlueJae has handed us the key to what's happening here: the generation which is in college right now is sicker than before, and the illnesses are hitting boys harder than they are girls.

And it will get worse. Autism rates increase year by year as you look at younger kids, and autism appears to be typical of a number of conditions in this regard.
posted by jamjam at 2:20 PM on September 14, 2013


It's weird how girls are doing better than boys by every measure (and have been for a long time) and yet their employment and income outcomes remain worse as adults. I wish we could find some explanation for how this is happening but I suppose it will always be a mystery.


Except not really.
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/08/gender_pay_gap_the_familiar_line_that_women_make_77_cents_to_every_man_s.html

The other thing that usually goes unmentioned is that while men may be more successful at the higher ends of employment, they're also dominating at the bottom where failure is concerned and in vastly disproportionate numbers.
posted by cuomofied at 2:27 PM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just talk with my friend who did his PhD in Education (specifically focusing on masculinity and schooling) when he tells me that this is bullshit. It works for me.

Well, this is provocative. It might invalidate this entire thread. Could you link to the appropriate research?
posted by tychotesla at 2:38 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


" The problem is men are not organizing themselves to begin the activism and to help fund even more research on the problem."

No, the problem is the arrogant and dismissive attitudes that happen whenever any organization takes place, falling back on tired "male privilege" assertions and calls for them to "man up".
posted by cuomofied at 3:30 PM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not really, no. That isn't the problem. For each issue MRA groups bring up, there are plenty of people organizing without being mocked. There are many groups, for example, working to reform the absurd prison sentencing that breaks up so many families and robs young people of close male role models that can be crucial to their development. The barrier to passing that reform is entrenched conservative tough on crime values that make both parties afraid the idea of compassion could lose them an election. The problem is not dismissive attitudes towards the idea that men face problems.

Now, you could organize many of those groups under one Male Issues umbrella where appropriate. But if you then stop the lobbying and instead just whine about feminism all day then yes the group will be mocked and ignored.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:50 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, this is provocative. It might invalidate this entire thread. Could you link to the appropriate research?

Sure. Note: This was not written by my friend, but by a colleague.
Statistics are often used to draw comparisons and to highlight the plight of boys. For example, we know that boys have higher suspension and expulsion rates, as well as higher dropout rates. We also know that boys’ literacy scores on standardized tests are lower than those of girls. ... However, statistics and perspectives such as these do not provide an accurate representation of the problem and, in fact, detract from deepening our understanding of which boys and which girls are actually at risk. (Italics in original.) In a report entitled: The Truth About Boys and Girls, for example, Sarah Mead states that: “the current boy crisis hype and debate around it are based more on hopes and fears than evidence. The debate benefits neither boys nor girls, while distracting attention from more serious educational problems – such as large racial and economic gaps – and practical ways to help both boys and girls succeed in schools.”

Mead further claims that “the so-called boy crisis” also feeds on “a lack of solid research evidence” or rather on a research base that is “internally contradictory, making it easy to find superficial support for a wide variety of explanations but difficult for the media and the public to evaluate the quality of evidence cited.” This problem relates directly to the tendency to justify certain explanations about boys’ and girls’ different learning styles in light of selectively chosen literature about brain-sex differences.
posted by jokeefe at 4:22 PM on September 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, the problem is the arrogant and dismissive attitudes that happen whenever any organization takes place, falling back on tired "male privilege" assertions and calls for them to "man up".

Or a roll of the eyes and utterance of the turn-off-your-brain command acronym "MRA."
posted by codswallop at 6:25 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hum. I was kind of expecting something that addressed the gap.

Both that link and emjaybee's links above seem to be in the business of emphasizing that this is not a simple problem, and that having a moral panic about gender misses a lot of different other factors such as assumptions about gender essentialism that are also worrisome. All true. But neither actually talks about the gap.

I can't help but feel, based on those articles and on this thread itself, that the conversation is being shaped by the conclusion that we want to make sure we reach (that is, that patriarchy is a problem, that gender isn't binary [which are true!], that my pet argument about patriarchy is relevant here [which it may not be!]) at the expense of allowing data the space to say anything that might be interpreted the wrong way. I understand that, but it also seems like it is in effect dampening any chance to talk about the issue.

I highly recommend the two NBER research papers in the comments above to anyone reading this. They are, frankly, just about the only things in this thread with substance. Comments: 1. 2.
posted by tychotesla at 6:36 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Men are outdoing women on every measure of "lifelong success" including income, career achievement, poverty levels. Women get the degrees but then it's like some kind of black hole; where can the degrees take you? Why don't they take you to the top? Who runs the schools and the school boards? The universities? Who runs the corporations? The hospitals? The governments? We all know the answers. Even a high school diploma goes farther for men than for women. So is the prediction that in the years to come women are going to start seeing real dividends? Because right now I don't see the men being dislodged from their positions.

Exactly. As the road gets tougher for those in privileged positions (note, I am a grown ass man with those privileges), it seems like the privileged increasingly want to turn everyone's focus to "the real plight!", like they aren't privileged as shit in general.

Guess what. Males are on top of the world in general. We are massively privileged in ways documented all across metafilter in hundreds of posts across the almost 15 years this place has existed. If you're a male in America and having a tough time, guess what, all the people under you have it just as bad and worse. We will get to this problem, but damnit don't jump up outraged and demanding everybody stop what they're doing like now that you have issues to deal with it's important. Get in line. It starts way, way, way back there. Down the street and around the corner.
posted by cashman at 6:56 PM on September 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Kids, calm down. We only ever needed about 10% of the entire populace to succeed in order to keep the machine running. And the general preference of the white male capitalist patriarchy will ensure that young white men get hired for 50% or more of available jobs in high-income fields.

The numbers have sucked for young males of color for years and no one ran around shouting that the sky was falling. And, even compared to young white men and their sucky gpas, young males of color (to use very loose terminology) are still doing mind-bogglingly worse.

Remember in the 60s when white men held, I dunno, over 90% of the executive positions in Fortune 500 companies; and now, they hold, I dunno, 80% -- after 50 years of civil rights, feminism, and all manner of effort by smart and caring people to make things more fair?

I'll worry about white boys when I see them occupying a percentage of the well-paid workforce that is proportionate to their percentage in the general population.

And I'll be dead before that happens.

/these bitter comments brought to you by a white female academic at the end of a soul-murdering week in which white men, young and old, continue to flop about the place as if they owned it, regardless of their ability. Peace out!/
posted by allthinky at 6:58 PM on September 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


Remember in the 60s when white men held, I dunno, over 90% of the executive positions in Fortune 500 companies

Well as long as those six year olds have that memory they should be okay.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:05 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, Drinky Die, that was my point exactly! Their memories of that Golden Age will keep all the little boy children warm as they enter their Dark Ages.

Or, you know, you could read the rest of my (still snarky) comment.
posted by allthinky at 7:29 PM on September 14, 2013


Not worrying about a broad group of children because of the economic status of a minority of the highest achievers among previous generations is just nonsense. Look at the children in their own reality.

We could throw out worrying about progress for women in the economy on the basis of "Well, upper middle class white women are doing great!" but that wouldn't make much sense.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Actually I'm being dumb and missing the point I think, sorry.)
posted by Drinky Die at 7:51 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


not prove themselves - PROTECT themselves

... us women should not go out in public with so much brain showing, 'cause that's just asking for fascist revolution from jobless, hopeless, disenchanted young males?!

No.
posted by eviemath at 9:12 PM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the point about responding to incentives is key. There are good jobs for men without education. Women without education have few good employment options and are not attractive wives for men of the income potential to support their being stay at home moms.

This is something I've just begun to realize lately. Recently my boyfriend and I have been out of work and looking for minimum-wage type hourly jobs. The range of jobs he was expected to look into-- bus driver, cargo at the airport, operating machinery-- paid MUCH better than the jobs I was told to look into-- barista, waitress, retail. It's not that I couldn't be a bus driver or a forklift operator, and lots of women do those things, but lots of women also feel very incapable of doing so for reasons of upbringing and the attendant self-concept they've shaped for themselves, and getting a college degree seems like a much surer, safer, identity-aligned way to get out of poverty. (Is it? No, obviously not always.)

not prove themselves - PROTECT themselves

God this line of reasoning is so disgusting. Fuck these craven, stupid threats. Men, try to find a solution that doesn't rely on a predictable, leering sense of menace-- maybe someone will even try to help you one day.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:46 PM on September 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Additionally, I do think that it's overlooked that women with high school diplomas generally have sales and sex work as the available options for them if they want high wages, while men with lower education levels have had many more opportunities available, and in some cases (dwindling though they may be) still do. This is the reason behind increased female enrollment in post secondary school.

Yeah. I was sort of a tomboy when I was in grade school, and I still didn't pick up on a lot of the skills and information that those who were socialized more "male" than me did. The guys I knew then who didn't go to college now work in factories for a lot more than I make at Starbucks, or they work on cars, or operate machinery. Higher paying jobs than most of the jobs I've had to pay the rent. Women can do those things, but it absolutely conflicts with being socialized as feminine in certain ways that can make a woman feel less appealing and even confused about her identity when she pursues these paths. (For those of you who were socialized male, imagine having to pursue a career in cosmetology because careers in male-oriented areas were drying up and cosmetologists made much more money. Imagine how awkward and out-of-place and even depersonalized you would feel about pursuing a hands-on job in an area that totally clashes with your gender socialization. Obviously some people get around this and don't feel as comfortable as others; some people are born with different talents and socialization has a different or lessened or differently inflected effect; I'm just saying that a woman without a college degree gets mixed messages, or gets routed toward "sales or sex work," and getting a degree can seem like a life-saving necessity.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:56 PM on September 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


It has been a very long day and isn't over yet and I've got some thoughts that need to be worded, but...

All I'm going to say for now about some of the replies I got is this: I worded my original comment the way I did because, unfortunately, this is what a feminist looks like.

I would love nothing more than to build actual meaningful action on issues like this one. But I have to live and work in a world in which that brand of feminism exists and has huge freakin' soapboxes with which to shout its message to the world. And that message is, overwhelmingly, knee-jerk reactionary denial of real issues, followed by grudging admission that yes, perhaps, some problems might actually exist, followed by an assertion that, while busy denying the issues feminism was nonetheless somehow magically working to solve them, followed by essentially asking everyone to be content with the extreme act of charity that is admitting the possibility of problems which affect men and boys, and won't you all just finally shut up about it now?

Yes, you're not one of those feminists. Yes, that's not the kind of feminism you mean when you talk about feminism. But if you want to know why the people you deride so often seem to have an anti-feminism agenda, it is because that's the kind of feminism they run into over and over and over again.

So: put some real activism and action out there. Demonstrate that you really are willing to listen when people who have real issues try to communicate them. Demonstrate that you are not just going to roll your eyes and call them names. Though the rhetoric of Lindy West's brand of feminism is disgusting, demonstrate that you want and are willing to live up to the part where she claims feminists are willing to help work on these issues. And I do mean "help work", not "commandeer and control"; you've got enough experience trying to teach others how to be your allies without appropriating or trampling on your issues, so put that experience to work on being someone else's ally.
posted by ubernostrum at 11:11 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a little weird if you're framing your remarks to avoid the criticism of a hypothetical feminist stereotype who you acknowledge isn't having her views represented in this thread.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:16 PM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have in the past encountered responses of "no feminist I've ever heard of says or does the sorts of things you mention, so you must be one of those loony MRA types who just has an axe to grind because we want to take all your privileges away". I point to the actual in-the-wild specimen -- in this case retweeted round the internet, no less -- to give an idea of where I am coming from and what I deal with on a too-frequent basis.
posted by ubernostrum at 11:27 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Both that link and emjaybee's links above seem to be in the business of emphasizing that this is not a simple problem, and that having a moral panic about gender misses a lot of different other factors such as assumptions about gender essentialism that are also worrisome. All true. But neither actually talks about the gap.

You see, I am largely unconvinced that "the gap" actually exists, so there's that.
posted by jokeefe at 11:41 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


So so far we've had the "Why don't feminists care about these problems affecting men in some unique way?" and "It's because of your combative tone that men aren't on your side" and are well on our way to bingo.

The underlying logic of the first one doesn't even make sense. Complaining that feminist groups aren't active enough on this issue is like saying that the NAACP ought to stop working on that stupid voting rights stuff and get on the important issue that it's hard for Anglos to get hired by Chinese restaurants.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:48 PM on September 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


But if you want to know why the people you deride so often seem to have an anti-feminism agenda, it is because that's the kind of feminism they run into over and over and over again.

This smells strongly of confirmation bias to me, but I admit I'm not really sure how you could demonstrate otherwise? (And it's tough to own up to this sort of confirmation bias because it threatens to say something about one's prima facie gut reaction to feminism, and, if feeling less charitable about it, women in general.)
posted by nobody at 4:11 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have no doubt of that, and I would personally like to see all students better served by our educational system for a variety of definitions of "better served". On the other hand, a Christina Hoff Sommers article, unless she's suddenly and radically changed her tune, is only going to advocate for solutions that put a larger slice of the existing pie in the hands of boys without worrying about the size of the pie at all.
posted by immlass at 5:05 PM on September 14


If you are truly concerned about making the pie bigger and seeing all students better served by the educational system - quit talking about the messenger that you disagree with and start talking about how to make the pie bigger and better. Give the messenger no quarter; if you are unwilling to make the message yours and proselytize the message as such, her voice will be the only female one speaking for the boys. Don't waste a thread by shitting on an article when there is actually something that many of us hopefully can show you is as worthwhile a cause as any feminist cause.

Doctors succeed with the see one - do one - teach one philosophy. Adapt that here. If feminism has helped women succeed in education without bringing down men, teach men to help masculinism(?) succeed in education without bringing down women.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:20 AM on September 15, 2013


I should note:
The men here generally aren't advocating for themselves. The men here are advocating for their bullies, for the good kids who found trouble, for those that got some girl pregnant early, for the dyslexic kid, for the socially awkward kid that didn't have the grades for teachers to give them a hand up through school, for the comic book kid who could have been a neurosurgeon, for the boy that just stopped caring about their future because - hey - who cares about them (and eh 'parents just don't understand' rules apply). Some of those folks will succeed just enough to be thorns in our side later in life, but the hope is - that by helping someone do better and be more engaged in their educational experience - that maybe they'll learn how to be nice and help others too.

That's right, you want to end misogyny? You've got to find a better message than a stick. Education is a better message.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:33 AM on September 15, 2013


So so far we've had the "Why don't feminists care about these problems affecting men in some unique way?" and "It's because of your combative tone that men aren't on your side" and are well on our way to bingo.

The underlying logic of the first one doesn't even make sense. Complaining that feminist groups aren't active enough on this issue is like saying that the NAACP ought to stop working on that stupid voting rights stuff and get on the important issue that it's hard for Anglos to get hired by Chinese restaurants.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:48 AM on September 15


The false analogy in your argument is as follows: the voting rights issue benefits everyone because it is fair treatment of all classes, races and sexes. Special programs for women in science, take your daughter to work day, and a multitude of specific 'this is how you succeed as a woman' coaching sessions are things that directly help women (and very indirectly help men acclimatize to women around them). Instead the men in this thread are stating 'we think we might learn differently and engagement in education may need to be re-examined for success'.

There isn't some 'hey let's improve our numbers by disenfranchising feminists' agenda. There isn't some 'stop doing good things for women' sentiment being expressed. The sentiment is 'Hey! You've been successful providing young girls catalysts for success through their educational journey. Might we bother you for some advice and critique that helps keep boys engaged in the same manner? Just as a warning though, there are some cultural differences which may mean that the implementation may need to be stylistically different.'

Look as kind of a last note before I step out of this conversation, since I feel like I just thread-sat for a little too long, It is an economic tautaulogy that as the tables are flipped further and further to the point where men stay home to raise kids, real wages will go up as men exit the workforce and the labor pool is shrunk. That's not avocation for that level of lunacy, but just understand that the choice of treating men and women as equals intrinsically encourages competition of resources (pay). I'm all for equal pay and opportunity, recognizing the unintended consequence of stagnant wages. Are you?
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:04 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"When my parents graduated from high school in the 1960, all teaching was in lecture format. Nobody had ever heard of "active learning" or "kinesthetic learning styles". Sitting still for hours and not disrupting class was simply how school was done."

"Students in 1960 had heard of corporal punishment and getting your ass beat at home when you don't behave. We can't really map our expectations on how students behaved under a much more harsh form of discipline."

I think the point they were trying to make is that the 'sit still and listen'/lecture education format wasn't created to benefit girls over boys. It's been the model all along - 'feminists' didn't demand it as an anodyne to male privilege. So the whole 'boys are being disadvantaged by classrooms set up to benefit girls' argument is flawed from the start.
Maybe all children would benefit from active learning.
posted by AnnElk at 6:46 AM on September 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


That's right, you want to end misogyny? You've got to find a better message than a stick.

It's tempting to answer with a parallel phrase: "You want to end misandry? You've got to find a better message than a [fill in the blank]."

Nobody's saying that the white patriarchy serves all and every white man. But (and this is just a feeling; the actual argument for it would be too involved and too heartbreaking for me to get into now -- and the benefit is likely not worth the cost) white men who complain that they are not being served by the white patriarchy sort of need to get in line behind every other individual who is excluded and degraded just on account of their most immediately visible identity, and who have to perform, yes, twice or three times as hard as white men to profit from their "easy" K-12 success on down the line.

The girls who succeed at school have yet to conquer the "real" world, because white men with mediocre performance in school still get a pass there. And, forgive me, but part of comic book guy's dissatisfaction seems to me to come from a sense that, despite his lackluster performance in school, he is still entitled to more. Not even just fairness, but more.
posted by allthinky at 7:07 AM on September 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The girls who succeed at school have yet to conquer the "real" world, because white men with mediocre performance in school still get a pass there. And, forgive me, but part of comic book guy's dissatisfaction seems to me to come from a sense that, despite his lackluster performance in school, he is still entitled to more. Not even just fairness, but more.
posted by allthinky at 10:07 AM on September 15


Despite your opinion, I will not give up on ensuring women have every opportunity for success through their educational and professional portions of their life. I someday hope that you can extend this courtesy to comic book guy.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:13 AM on September 15, 2013


Also it wasn't feminists who instituted the current standardized test based curriculum - it was the conservatives. And it probably was an unintentional by-product of 'teaching to the test' that girls are performing better than boys
posted by AnnElk at 9:34 AM on September 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've discussed this topic with a few dyed-in-the-wool gender essentialists, the sort who believe that 99% of boys come out of the womb with personality characteristics 1-10 and 99% of girls come out of the womb with personality characteristics 11-20; and that boys can only be successfully educated by male teachers using educational technique A.

I usually end up asking, “Doesn’t that mean that the only answer is sex-segregated education? You’d have to have all-male classes led by male teachers using Technique A, and all-female classrooms led by female teachers using Technique B. If neither male nor female students can adapt, then any mixture means that one group or the other is irrevocably doomed to an inferior education.”

It’s weird. I’m not a gender essentialist, but I have no problem with sex-segregated classrooms if they could show me that boys and girls really can’t learn using the same techniques. But their answer usually sounds like it’s some kind of competition where one group or the other has to win or lose or suffer more or suffer less or something. Even their idea of a tie is one where nobody really gets everything they need, but at least they get the satisfaction of knowing that nobody else is really getting everything they need, either.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:17 AM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Interestingly, myself and most of the other proponents and practitioners of active learning whom I've actually encountered in real life are almost universally feminists ourselves.
posted by eviemath at 1:33 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the point they were trying to make is that the 'sit still and listen'/lecture education format wasn't created to benefit girls over boys.

I don't disagree in the least that blaming girls or feminism is silly but that wasn't really what I was responding to. The question was if schools are more or less hostile to boys than in the past.

As several have pointed out, the idea that modern schools and teaching methods are somehow more hostile to some stereotypical/archetypal boys than in the past seems very silly.

posted by Drinky Die at 3:57 PM on September 15, 2013


I am not a gender determinist. I don't believe it can ever be as simple as "schools are hostile to boys" because the properties of "boys" as a group changes over time. I would even propose that the stereotypical/archetypal boy has changed over time.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:01 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


School definitely can be hostile to broad based groups, if it is or is not compared to the past for boys is a tough question but it's really easy to be hostile to a group of students.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:08 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, schools are frequently hostile to groups by saying "Your group is not capable of learning this because you are genetically inferior." That has happened a lot. It has nothing to do with the actual properties of the groups, and everything to do with the properties of the people in power. Is there some evidence that boys are subject to this sort of bias?
posted by hydropsyche at 5:25 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It has nothing to do with the actual properties of the groups, and everything to do with the properties of the people in power.

Yeah, you phrased my point better than I could. I personally think hostile is the wrong word for any disadvantages boys may currently be facing, what I was pointing out with my original reply is that conditions in 1960 aren't good evidence one way or the other.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:28 PM on September 15, 2013


And actually the more I think about it, it actually does seem like boys are now subject to that kind of bias. Many folks seem to be convinced that boys are just genetically inferior and not as capable of being educated in a classroom setting as girls are, so I'm sure that there are teachers and principals who think so, too. Christina Hoff Summers ultimately may be to blame for this thing that she's railing against, by setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy. I personally would still prefer an educational system (and a society) which treated all students as equals, regardless of gender.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:57 PM on September 15, 2013


No, they think they may be genetically different and different teaching styles may reach them better on average. There is nothing inferior or superior about learning better with lectures or with hands on lessons.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:06 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Women naturally go to college -- not to learn things of course -- but to find mates. We need more men in college so that these women can know the pleasure of a man's touch and choose to continue the human race, as God and Nature intended.

This is from way upthread and far from the most significant element of the whole debate, but I'm curious whether there is evidence that schools have a harder time attracting young women as the gender ratio becomes more lopsided?

I could see this being the case not because women are looking for husbands, but just because the college social life is a strong draw for kids, and most girls are going to be looking to socialize with guys.

My 15yo daughter attends Bard High School Early College in Queens, and she complains about the relatively small number of boys (I think the ratio is 62:38). This has nothing to do with her thinking of herself as a "mate" rather than a scholar; her ambitions right now (short term, obviously, but also long) have nothing to do with settling down and having kids.

She's always had a strong academic drive and would certainly laugh at the idea of going to college to find a husband. But even so--when it comes time to weigh colleges--all other things being roughly equal, I have no doubt she'd choose a school with more balanced numbers of men and women.
posted by torticat at 7:02 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even if I assume that this article is right, that school are failing boys because they want to work with their hands and girls want to work with people.... then I remember that, if we follow that logic, then boys must be worth more than girls because we pay jobs where you work with your hands more than jobs where you work with people. Car mechanic, meet early-childhood daycare worker. Electrician, meet social worker. Engineer, meet elementary school teacher. And then I don't care so much about it because each one of those "guy" jobs requires the same, OR FAR LESS, education than the "girl" job yet gets paid much more. Problem solved.
posted by Foam Pants at 7:43 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Foam Pants, that is a conundrum to me as well. I know that doesn't actually solve the problem, but it does leave me perplexed. I think I'm also very tired of hearing this idea that as education becomes more "professionalized," it's also become more feminized, because women are good at following directions and being good. I am good at following directions and being good, but I would much rather have an academic education than a professionalized one, no matter what my post-college aspirations were.

Boys don't need to be socialized to "be good" and "listen to authority" (these are loaded phrases) but they do need to be socialized to stick with what they start, to cooperate with others, and to communicate well. All three of those behaviors can be defined as not cool by current standards of masculinity-- that is a shame. They are good, social, community-building behaviors. Good men have them, as do good women. I think women on the whole would rather be with men who were cooperative, good communicators, and had follow-through, and vice versa. It's not that mysterious.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:00 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


And yeah, jobs "working with people" are notoriously feminized and underappreciated and underpaid. Feminine labor is not respected. Which is ridiculous if you've ever had a job "working with people"-- it's not just showing up with a smile, there's a lot to learn, a lot of planning, organizing, understanding dynamics, &c. In it's own way, it's a technical job. We assume watching children comes naturally to women, thus why would we pay an early childhood daycare worker very much? When, of course, many women take an interest in children because they've been socialized to do so and have learned a lot about caregiving (as a skill) over the course of their lives. Just as a young car mechanic has picked up skills and knowledge throughout his life, through socialiation.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:03 PM on September 15, 2013


Last comment, but it's really pro-social behavior vs. anti-social behavior. If pro-social behavior helps people succeed in society, that should not be a surprise. Girls are pressured to be pro-social people pleasers throughout their lives. Many of the men I'm still friends with from high school have never really figured out how to be pro-social in a truly pro-active way-- it's a lot of work, and without external pressure, it's not easy to learn. For some reason the labor and skills that women are pressured to learn throughout their lives (how to communicate, how to empathize, how to be there for others, how to care for the sick, how to nurture, how to care for children, how to beautify) are basically invisible. We assume they're innate, but I have the scars to prove they're not.

I don't quite understand why boys are not discouraged from being anti-social, on the whole-- people want their favor? Don't want to offend those in power? Want the freedom to think about themselves first? "Boys will be boys." Rape culture is anti-social. There are a lot of poisonous things we tell our sons are OK. It alleviates the burden of responsibility, but does so much harm.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:09 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Car mechanic, meet early-childhood daycare worker. Electrician, meet social worker. Engineer, meet elementary school teacher. And then I don't care so much about it because each one of those "guy" jobs requires the same, OR FAR LESS, education than the "girl" job yet gets paid much more. Problem solved.

Male dominated fields where you work with your hands also tend to be more dangerous than people jobs. It's not an ideal outcome that men dominate them out of default. We need to better prepare the interested women for them too.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:21 PM on September 15, 2013


they do need to be socialized to stick with what they start, to cooperate with others, and to communicate well. All three of those behaviors can be defined as not cool by current standards of masculinity-- that is a shame.

They can also be defined as the essence of team sports.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:22 PM on September 15, 2013


Car mechanic, meet early-childhood daycare worker. Electrician, meet social worker. Engineer, meet elementary school teacher. And then I don't care so much about it because each one of those "guy" jobs requires the same, OR FAR LESS, education than the "girl" job yet gets paid much more. Problem solved.

Also women in these jobs tend to make exactly the same as the men doing them, at least in my experience. The highest paid engineer I work with is a woman, and she earns it. I haven't met any women electricians, but the female plumber that my regular plumber sent over did a fine job and I paid exactly the same per hour as I would have for the owner of the company (who showed up for the first job i needed them for). And if you think engineer or plumber or electrician or mechanic doesn't require some schooling and YEARS of on the job experience feel free to fix your car without that experience and education or design that retaining wall behind your house or the flaps on the plane for the next trip you take...

I will say I would like to see each individual be allowed by the norms of society to do whatever job they want to and are good at, and technical ability and mechanical sympathy are NOT coded on the X or Y chromosone (so far as I know). Along those lines, my niece actually shows a greater aptitude for working on a car than my nephew who seems to be better at crafting stuff...
posted by bartonlong at 8:51 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh fer cryin' out loud. A huge amount of the difference between boys and girls cited in the article is socialization. Girls are socialized to be nice, boys are socialized to be tough, etc. ”Boys are born tinkerers,” she said. “They have a deep-seated need to rip things apart, decode their inner workings, create stuff.” As a girl, I wanted to tinker, rip things apart, decode their inner workings, create stuff, but it was considered weird for me to do that. Shop was for boys, typing was for girls. and so on. If, as the article states, girls are better with people, why aren't there more female managers?

But some of the numbers are real and important. Boys who are able to be calm and quiet or academic do really well in school, but a lot of boys and girls can't sit still, don't like to read, and can't cope with the classroom. Visit a school. Many classrooms are open, noisy, distracting. A lot of kids, and especially boys, can't focus in that environment. I'm biased - my son didn't excel academically, despite testing high in intelligence. He finally got diagnosed with ADHD. The Individualized Education Plan boiled down to He should try harder. He should be more organized. My son has excellent manners, is polite, and most teachers failed to notice the missing homework until it was too late to recover the couse grade. As a parent, just asking teachers to contact me regularly with progress was met with total opposition. I could go on, but it would just be a rant. My son has done well academically in the Army, where the response to a lackluster grade on a course segment is You need to improve this grade. You will be at pre-class study every morning for the next 2 weeks, and longer if you don't improve this score.

My kid needed a more organized, quieter classroom. He did well with teachers who supplied structure, followup and discipline. By high school, he got shunted aside by our Maine school, because it's harder to teach a difficult kid. As a working parent, trying to deal with the school, work, be a single parent, blah, blah, exhausting and impossible. Many schools still don't accommodate working parents very well. There's a failure, but it needs less bullshit, and more rigorous study. The academic field of education hasn't impressed me with rigorous research.

Men's Rights: I received no child support. My ex- did not even pay his half of my son's heath and other bills, as required by the court and he's judgement-proof. As a feminist, I believe in equality.

The article itself is mostly crap, but the issue is real, and deserves better treatment.
posted by Mom at 8:06 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


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