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January 27, 2006

Boy Crisis?

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Nearly 60% of the kids graduating from college these days are girls. Do we have ourselves a genuine Boy Crisis? Steve Burton links to a Newsweek story about the development, and ventures some down-to-earth opinions of his own.

Long ago, FvB interviewed a big-city math teacher about what it's like to teach today's kids (Part One, Part Two). My own semi-mischievously-intended contribution: Sure, PC upbringings have done a number on boys. I see evidence of this nearly every day. But loving school and doing well in school was always a chick thing anyway ...



posted by Michael at January 27, 2006


"But loving school and doing well in school was always a chick thing anyway ..." Well, Michael, throwing gasoline on the fire is one way of starting a conversation. The comments on this blog entry should be quite interesting.
Personally, I have a problem with that "Nearly 60% of the kids graduating from college these days are girls" quote. I haven;t read the article, so I don;t know if there's a breakdown by degree in the article. What were the percentages of women/men graduating with Chemistry, Math, English, Bus Admin degrees? What was the percentage going on into grad school for Law, Medicine, MBA?

The public charter high school that both of my kids (son & daughter) attended had a higher percentage of boys. The % of all of the kids going on to college was over 95%. Most of the kids were high-achieving, bright, and knowledge-hungry; there was a minimal differentiation amongst the sexes. If anything, the boys tended to be more concerned with the grades and their effect on their college admissions than the girls. Parents were fairly involved and the public school teaching staff was highly motivated and rewarded at the end of each year when the state-wide test scores for high school kids were released. Was this high school exceptional and different than the other state high schools? Absolutely. The kids were ambitious and the school's staff fed into that; the administration expected this attitude and discouraged children to leave who weren't self-motivated about their education future.

For us, the parents, ignorance of other school's problems with un-motivated kids and poor attitudes toward education was bliss.

Posted by: DarkoV on January 27, 2006 1:11 PM

You mean you weren't always the teacher's pet?

Posted by: Neil on January 27, 2006 1:29 PM

DarkoV -- That's an interesting tale and perspective, thanks. You might enjoy a posting Steve Burton just put up, about a boy-kid in Boston who's actually suing his school district for being biased against boys. Nutty days, eh?

Neil -- Where I come from, smart boys knew not to become teacher's pets -- teacher's pets got beaten up. I imagine that wasn't true where you grew up ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 27, 2006 1:42 PM

At the same time we ask if boys are doing worse (an important question, absolutely) we might also ask if it's simply the case that girls are beginning to live up to the potential that was always there. For most of history, boys had significant social benefits (e.g., expectation of excellence and encouragement from teachers, exclusive admission to the best schools, etc.) that now are disappearing. Anyone who teaches--especially middle school--is perfectly aware that the average girl is, first of all, verbally light years ahead of the average male her age and, secondly, harder working and more compliant with teacher expectations. In teaching middle school classes, (I'm male) I often wished for sex-segregated classes because the girls were soooooo in advance of the boys intellectually; and this discrepancy was still obvious in high school, if not as glaringly. (Frankly I don't think boys catch up--if they ever do--until about junior year of college). Getting through school with high marks and assembling the proper resume to get into college require specific personal characteristics (discipline, obedience to expectations, verbal facility, et alia) that may simply suit the average abilities of the average girl more than those of the average boy. Possible?

Kai in NYC

Posted by: Kai in NYC on January 27, 2006 2:00 PM

DarkoV -
Only in a relatively few fields are a majority of the bachelor's-level graduates male. IIRC, engineering is the most extreme case, being about 75% male, with computer science slightly behind. Natural sciences (not further broken down) and agriculture are both around 60% male and mathematics about 52%. Business is close to a 50/50 split, and everything else is female-majority.

Posted by: Peter on January 27, 2006 2:04 PM

I read the Newsweek article, and I agree somewhat w/ the point about fatherless households. My parents divorced when I was 5; though I saw my dad regularly, I lived w/ mom. I wasn't a hellraiser but didn't take school seriously either: it took until 10th grade to turn my act around when I had a basketball coach type as my journalism teacher, who I worked w/ for three years on the school paper, the college bowl team he coached, and the SAT prep class he ran by invitation. I wouldn't have gone to a top tier school w/o having met him. I'm naturally rebellious, but he helped channel that toward productive ends. So one aspect is more fatherless households and fewer authoritative teachers.

That said, it's hopeless to equalize boy to girl ratios at all levels. The male bell curve is more spread out, so while they'll dominate the high end, they'll also have the dubious distinction of dominating the mentally retarded end. So we expect more boys than girls to drop out, end up in special ed, etc. -- the question is, are there even more there than we expect, due to Harvard goofballs like Gilligan conning those w/ real power into taking their flapdoodle seriously?

Posted by: Agnostic on January 27, 2006 2:34 PM

Subject close to me as a sophomore-age boy's parent.

Darko, let me add a personal anecdote to your, also personal, account.
When my son was choosing between 5 colleges who accepted his application for engineering school, he rejected Georgia-Tech, even though they were offering the biggest financial aid. Why? He checked their male/female ratio of student body and concluded the competition will be too high. "Not enough chicks", that's what he told me.

I think in all those colleges that try "women outreach" programs should research first existing world examples of this policy - and question the wisdom of it. From own experience, being thru both systems of high education, in US and USSR, I can attest to few things.
* On the female-to-male scale the extreme left belongs to linguistics/literature/pedagogy colleges: in Russia became 98% female domain, churning staff for schools and publishing houses which in their turn are female-dominated. (this situation became standard since sometime in the 50's)
* Then enter all other "liberal arts" majors: a bit more men in Sociology, still more in History. Can't attest for sure (never had to experience personally), but I think Music and Representational Medias have equal amount (an interesting topic in itself), although I'd expect Monumental Arts (sculpture, f.ex) attracts more boys than girls.
* There are more women in medical schools than men - and more female than male Doctors, especially in academic/research institutions and on Family Doctor/Pediatrician level. Specialty where physical strength/assertive leadership is mandatory, like surgery, though, have bigger percentage of males though.
* In my engineering college distribution looked such: mechanical/Industrial Engineering - more males; Chemical: roughly equal; Electronics/Radio/Computers- more females. More females dropped out during 5yrs of school than males.

Industries like Textiles are largely female-filled, on all levels, while Oil/Gas/Geology/Mining are largely male.

My conclusions: why not let the nature work itself? What's the point in giving insentives to become an HVAC engineer to a girl if she'll drop out in the 3rd year - or change to a Musical Theater major as soon as she'll escape HS guidance councellor's sell pitch?

Posted by: Tatyana on January 27, 2006 2:47 PM

I agree with Darko; the aggregate 60% statistic is at best misleading, at worst meaningless. If you limited the survey to elite schools and certain majors you could easily cook up a “White Student Crisis” and stupidly bemoan Asian American educational dominance on some campuses. Also, in light of recent studies suggesting that large numbers of college graduates still end up lacking basic reading, comprehension and computational skills, those boys and girls who miss out on college might count themselves lucky in at least saving themselves the wasted time and expense.

There is also the continuing sense that Americans love a crisis, despite still having one of the most productive and vibrant societies that has ever existed. I still marvel over the phony “obesity crisis” and the escalating “second hand smoke crisis.” And wasn’t it just a few years ago that there was a Girl Crisis in Education?

I’m still going through the various links, but have to say that the Newsweek sidebar featuring feminist scholar by “feminist scholar” Carol Gilligan (“Mommy, I Know You”) was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read, and not because the writer is a feminist, but because even when she is trying to be understanding about boys, she can only do so by interpreting their behavior as though they are a special type of girl who needs extra socialization (“His first-grade teacher, recounting the story to me, recognized a sensitivity and honesty she had encouraged and valued. What often appears as boys' intransigence, as disruptiveness, indifference or confrontation, may instead be a refusal to engage in false relationship.”).

Michael – I was often the smartest boy in school growing up, but never particularly the teacher’s pet (in fact I got thrown out of class a few times and openly disdained a couple of my teachers as middlebrow hacks). Never got beat up once. On the other hand, I always had a great respect for education, if not always a respect for schools, which are often rigid, bureaucratic and mind-numbingly dull.

Agnostic: I agree that fatherless households can be an issue, but only part of the story. My father died when I was young, but I had a slew of strong male and female relatives who all strongly valued education to help guide me, as well as the influence and example of a great male elementary school teacher who was also my scoutmaster.

Also, oddly enough, a number of my family members have been teachers. One great aunt had won numerous teacher-of-the-year accolades and was remembered and respected by her former students long after they left her classroom. Her good example helped fuel my impatience and disdain for mediocre teachers.

Posted by: Alec on January 27, 2006 2:57 PM

Did any one stop to consider that about 40% of college age kids are minorities? In order to explain these statistics, you need to look at how they break down according to race. I bet you will get a different picture then. I know for a fact that significantly more black women graduate from college than black men. One of the reasons for this is that most high IQ blacks are female. I'm not sure about hispanics. Also, lots of black men that age are in jail. The tip-off that this is the case is that the Newsweek cover showed only white boys. Make it look like a white male problem! All bad news regarding minorities must either be excused or covered up, like crimes where the race of the perpetrator is not mentioned. Then you know the perpetrator was black or hispanic. I bet you wouldn't be fooled into discussing "teacher's pet" theories if they put minorities on the cover. The truth would be self-evident. The browning of America also means the dumbing of America. "Let me introduce you to the generation which will be funding your retirement".

Men are also more likely to start their own businesses, to be aggressive and take risks. Not exactly the safe college route. Also, many people are find a college degree (perhaps someone actually gets educated too) priced ridiculously high, and are seeing through the rip-off, especially in the liberal arts.

Posted by: btm on January 27, 2006 9:28 PM

College is more of a necessity for girls than it is for boys. Skilled trades skim off a not-insignificant number of boys who'd otherwise go off to college. Girls find such occupations much less appealing, for a variety of reasons, and having fewer other options for earning decent money will end up in college.

Posted by: Peter on January 27, 2006 11:44 PM

I'd recommend reading the Steve Burton posts along with the Teacher X material--it all reinforces the notion that the failure to maintain discipline in schools--a task that is at some level a matter of physical intimidation with boys--is having a seriously negative impact on male education.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 28, 2006 6:06 AM

Most high IQ blacks are not female. Black females do have significantly higher levels of academic achievement than black males, though. So the point about minority representation at university potentially skewing the male/female ratio stands.

Posted by: PatrickH on January 28, 2006 11:46 AM

In my high school I think roughly 70% of the top 1% of GPAs were girls, but I doubt I would consider more than one of those to be on my intellectual level (not to brag, just my opinion). I can count perhaps three other guys who I considered roughly equivalent, but none of them were "high achievers" in a GPA sense either. This didn't really change in College either -- If I remember correctly a majority of the top GPAs were girls there as well.

I suppose if I had to point to factors, I would say that girls are typically much more competitive in the social arena than boys are, and that, as far as I'm concerned, schooling has been largely turned into a social rather than educational endeavor. Girls are far more ingratiating with their teachers, and are willing to whine and complain and make excuses for themselves far more often -- My own personal ethics are such that I never complained to a professor for a higher grade unless it was clear the teacher was in error, and I suspect that a lot of other guys are like this as well. (This actually led to a shouting match between one of my high school teachers and myself, one time, because the teacher was unwilling to admit his mistake.)

Additionally, I think that if you looked at typical male behavior you would find that it is far more individualized than female work -- Practically every girl I can think of regularly asked her friends for help on assignments and studying. In contrast, most of the guys who I consider roughly intellectually equivalent do not work collaboratively (ie, "cheat") and have far greater compartmentalization between "school" and "home/socializing" activities. While I doubt this is always the case, in my experience this has been completely borne out, as the high-achieving girls in school are also important social figures. Typically these are girls who are reasonably attractive, but not attractive enough to be popular solely for that reason. The situation this creates is that focus on "school" doubles as time in social positioning for girls, whereas for guys like myself school was a tedious time-consumer distracting attention from more important endeavors.

Posted by: . on January 28, 2006 4:28 PM

I don't have anything to say about boys' performance in school, but if all this PR means that feminism is dead and buried, Hallelujah!

Feminism was a blight upon human history. Totally unnecessary. The invention of washers and dryers had more impact on the status of women than this rancid, Marxist ideology. Ideologues like to pretend that their vapid ditherings actually impact people.

The women of my generation were mostly just awful... complaining and bitching endlessly. I was born to worst circumstances than most of them. The ones who complained and bitched the loudest were the most privileged, i.e., Betty Freidan with her maids and rich husband proclaiming that housewives suffered in "concentration camps."

Only solution for a sane man... flee from white and black women and find a sane, traditional Asian woman. Whew! What a relief.

So, the trendy, feminist women disgraced themselves for 40 years with their whining and grabbing for everything they could get, manufactured phony rape and domestic violence crises... and now? How do we erase the effects of this madness? How do we nurse the women bad to sanity?

Sure, we've got to stop beating on the boys and return men to a place of honor and respect. The real problem is, what do we do with the horrible spoiled brat women we've created? The worst of them need to be confined in nunneries. Spankings?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on January 29, 2006 9:05 AM

To expand a little on Peter's comment about girls going to college to earn a decent living, I would point to the 50% divorce rate and the reality that usually it is the woman who ends up with both the kids and the house to support. Or consider how many folks now don't bother to get married in the first place, in every sociological category. Dance-away-fathers, in spite of DNA tests, mean that any woman with the capacity had better find a way to make a living and it would be best if it weren't waiting tables or typing. (Er, keyboarding.)

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on January 29, 2006 11:59 PM


Here are the statistics according to the US Census Bureau for the year 2000:

College Enrollment Rates, % Gender Gap in favor of Female

Men Women % Difference
Black 24.9 35.1 +10.2
Hispanic 18.5 25.4 +6.9
White 32.8 38.5 +5.7

Notice the higher gaps for the predominant ethnic minorities. Also notice the lower overall attendance. Factor in the use of Affirmative Action in order to inflate the overall minority attendance rates, along with rampant grade inflation to keep them in college. Mix in the fact that 45% of all illegal immigrants (mostly hispanic, but almost completely non-white ethnic minorities) don't even finish high school. Sleep well.

Posted by: btm on January 30, 2006 2:00 AM

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