January 20, 2006

RICHARD WHITMIRE writes in The New Republic on boys and education:

What’s most worrisome are not long-standing gender differences but recent plunges in boys’ relative performance. Between 1992 and 2002, the gap by which high school girls outperformed boys on tests in both reading and writing–especially writing–widened significantly. Given the reading and writing demands of today’s college curriculum, that means a lot of boys out there are falling well short of being considered “college material.” Which is why women now significantly outnumber men on college campuses, a phenomenon familiar enough to any sorority sister seeking a date to the next formal. This June, nearly six out of ten bachelor’s degrees awarded will go to women. If the Department of Education’s report is any indication, in coming years, this gender gap will grow even larger.

The report illustrates a dramatic and unsolved mystery: At some point in the early ’80s, boys’ relative academic records and aspirations took a downward turn. So far, no one has come up with a good explanation for this trend, but it’s a story that affects millions of boys and their families. And yet, according to LexisNexis, the report was cited by name in only five newspaper and magazine articles. . . . Not only has there been little media attention to this crisis in boys’ education, but there has been surprisingly little research. And the conventional wisdom offered up to explain the problem–boys play too many video games and listen to too much hip-hop music–can’t explain a gender slide that’s affecting not just the United States but much of the developed West.

Read the whole thing. (Via Ann Althouse, who notes that the article is short on solutions). Read this, too.

UPDATE: Still more on this subject, here.

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