04 February 2013

Educating our youth

You may remember how my roommate currently takes a subscription to the NY Times and how I enjoy reading it everyday (in fact, today I even did the crossword. It was only the Monday puzzle, but I'm still proud that I nearly finished it--my sports knowledge was less than adequate today).

Yesterday there was a fascinating article about the gender gap in education. For many, many years men have out-shined women in education but in recent years women have not only caught up to men but have surpassed them. According to the article women now account for about 60% of college degrees (excluding PhDs--though they are getting close to out-striping them there too). This is an interesting phenomenon. The author of the article (Christina Sommers) explores one of the contributing factors to why men are no longer top performers.

Sommers looked at test scores from a variety of ages of boys and girls and noted that in elementary school boys and girls test scores are very comparable, but despite that boys often received lower grades overall. What happens is that elementary school teachers (and others) take more than just test scores into account when assigning grades. They also take into account things like behavior. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that boys are typically more rambunctious than girls.

While some would say that it's "too bad for the boys. If they are inattentive, obstreperous and distracting to their teachers and peers, that’s their problem," Sommers suggests that we should make a "concerted effort to give them more support." That's what we did decades ago when girls were languishing in schools and it worked marvelously. She proposes that we follow the example of Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, who have all decided to focus on reigning in boys' "tendency to be inattentive" through more structure in schools and more boy-friendly curricula.

It's a very fascinating article. One thing in particular that stunned me was a quote from Judith Kleinfeld a professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks who said that "almost one in four boys who have college-educated parents cannot read a newspaper with understanding." The boys she is talking about here are high school graduates. I definitely think that these kinds of issues in our education system need to be addressed. It seems like there are many solutions out there that can help close the gender gap. I agree with what Sommers said at the end that "the rise of women, however long overdue, does not require the fall of men." It is fabulous that women are performing to their full potential, but that shouldn't be any reason for men not to reach their full potential too.

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