In last Sunday’s NYTimes, Nicholas Kristof commented on a recently released book that draws attention to the increasing number of boys who are performing poorly in school.
Richard Whitmire’s book, Why Boys Fail, addresses the growing education deficit between girls and boys. Over the past few decades, academic performance by girls has steadily improved in elementary, middle, and high schools. Girls graduate high schools at higher rates than do boys. Young women earn more bachelors and advanced college degrees than do boys. Boys are more likely be suspended, more likely to drop out, and less likely to get good grades.
We are seeing some of the effects of this difference in male/female education right now, as employment reports showed at the end of 2009, when the total number of employed women surpassed men for the first time. Higher rates of education for women and larger numbers of men in the lagging manufacturing and construction industries combined to create this shift in the workforce.
The reasons seem to be varied, and as yet, not fully understood. But the issue affects all boys, regardless of ethnicity. Latino boys, like the kids who play on the Woodburn Bulldogs soccer team, seem to particularly struggle. Low high school graduation rates and even lower rates of college attendance and graduation follow Hispanic boys and men. Because Latino kids often face additional hurdles (besides the one that is inherent, apparently, in being male), such as language and poverty, education researchers have seen little growth in Latinos’ academic success rates.
As Whitmire and Kristof both point out, the U.S. has not yet done a good job describing and addressing this issue. Until schools figure out a way to help boys learn in a world where demand for traditional male labor skills is dropping, boys from towns like Woodburn, Oregon, and Los Angeles, California, will see increased poverty and all of the associated problems with poverty. Immigrants, especially, may find it harder and harder to get ahead.
One small way to help would be to bring back the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, and who graduated from American high schools, to attend U.S. colleges. The Dream Act has been hampered for many years because of our current resistance to immigrants, but if American-born young men aren’t going to college, why not let a foreign-born student take their place. We need to help educate boys as much as possible.
Here’s a link to Kristof’s piece: