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Boys, Dads, and Schools

The “Secret Behind College Completion: Girls, Boys, and The Power of Eighth Grade Grades,” a research paper by two sociology professors from Ohio State and Columbia University, indicates that grades received in 8th grade through high school are a better predictor of college completion than are standardized tests. The report argues that boys and girls show differentiated grades early in school and that boys are losing ground.

The analysis shows that students who get mostly As in middle school have a 70% chance of completing college by age 25, while with mostly Bs a student has a 30% chance of college completion by age 25. The completion rate drops to less than 10% for those who get mostly Cs.

Not surprisingly, there is a correlation between better grades and better behavior. In elementary school, girls lead boys in behavioral skills like paying attention, persistence, and eagerness to learn. In fact, the difference between boys and girls in these areas is much more pronounced than gaps between black and white children, and between poor and middle class students.

Why is there no uproar about boys falling behind all other groups? It could be because it doesn’t fit the media-favored and feminist-promoted falsehood that girls are at a disadvantage in what they call a “patriarchal” society. The college completion report explores the complex reasons for the gaps as well as what we can do to improve the outcome for young men. One reason identified by the authors is the absence of a father in the home. While evidence shows little girls can escape some of the negative effects of growing up with only a mother, the same situation is devastating for boys.

The report suggests reforms targeting the early grades and middle school because this is where the problems for boys initially show up. But there is a long way to go in changing the culture that devalues fathers and has determined single-motherhood is acceptable.

No Father in the Home is Bad for Boys

In a New York Times article, “A Link Between Fidgety Boys and a Sputtering Economy,” the author states: “Girls who grow up with only one parent — typically a mother — fare almost as well on average as girls with two parents. Boys don’t.” In the same article, Elaine Kamarck, a former Clinton administration official, states: “We know we’ve got a crisis, and the crisis is with boys.” (New York Times, 4-29-14)

A Wall Street Journal opinion article, “Ignoring an Inequality Culprit: Single-Parent Families,” bravely addresses a sensitive issue. The authors write that “Roughly a third of American children live apart from their fathers.” They continue, “From economist Susan Mayer’s 1997 book What Money Can’t Buy to Charles Murray’s Coming Apart in 2012, clear-eyed studies of the modern family affirm the conventional wisdom that two parents work better than one.” (Wall Street Journal, 4-20-14) This lack of fathers in the home is of particular consequence for young men who need male role models, discipline, and mentoring.

Schools Are “Girly”

Psychologist Michael Thompson says one problem is that in school boys are treated like “defective girls.” He says, “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools.” (Time Magazine, 10-28-13) Thompson is co-author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.

Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, holds schools responsible for some of the problems boys encounter. Today’s teachers and school administrators are aghast at what captures the imagination of boys: wars, pirates, weapons, and monsters are forbidden from schools. If a boy speaks about or draws pictures of any of the above he could end with an arrest record; at the very least his parents will be called in for a conference and he will be shamed.

It would also help children, particularly boys, if schools would return to previous levels of recess. Sommers remarks that children in Japan get ten minutes of play an hour while 39% of American first-graders get 20 only minutes during a full school day.

Boys are bundles of energy that are forced to sit in chairs for hours on end at many schools. An environment where they can move around and choose some of their own activities is more natural for most boys and many girls. Montessori schools are particularly suitable for many young males because, although the work must be done, children have some control over their learning choices and the day is not spent at a desk.

The plight of young males is relevant to the nation not only because boys are getting lost in the education shuffle. “In an economy that rewards knowledge, the academic struggles of boys turn into economic struggles. Men’s wages are stagnating. . . . Median inflation-adjusted female earnings are up almost 35% [over the past 25 years], census data show — while male earnings, incredibly, haven’t risen at all.” (New York Times, 4-29-14)

The “Secret Behind College Completion” report and supporting sources are found at ThirdWay.org.

Eagle Forum Education Reporter

 

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