This just in from the New York Times… Boys are being surpassed by girls around the developed world. In everything- test scores, graduation rates, advanced degrees, proficiency- girls lead boys in GPA, scores, and completion rates- and not just by a little. A lot. It’s not even close to 50-50, or even the natural ratio of 54-46. Some research has the rates of girls’ success at 65-70% over boys. It’s even worse in minority cultures. 72% of advanced degrees among African-Americans are held by women. The only exception is in math and engineering, where men have a slight advantage over women.
I’m all for equal opportunity and advancement of women. My mother was the first woman hired by the State Land Office that oversees oil and gas leases for the state. She now leads the Division and was recognized as a Woman Trailblazer. She was often the only woman on the oil rig. She was one of a few in her undergraduate geology program. My mother has fought HARD for women’s rights. I got to trail along in her wake and become a… teacher. Not the most trailblazing choice for a woman, but it was what I loved and wanted to do and I had that choice. I was always given that choice. I flirted with becoming a stockbroker, a doctor, a chemist- and several others that all pay much better than education! I chose teaching not because it was my only choice, but because it was what I wanted to be- a choice that my mother, and so many women like her fought for their daughters to be able to have.
But it is disheartening that as women have made so much progress, a) they are less happy than they were 30 years ago (and this is a whole ‘nother post), and b) men have started to slide. As the pressure of high-stakes testing have increased, it has become significantly more important to children to test well, study hard and sit down and fill in the bubbles- all things that boys, with their engaged learning styles, their activity levels and their team approach, do not do as well. Anyone with a “difference”- which is not so different, but is not what tests well- performs poorly. And so, we’re losing them. We’re losing children who are gifted and question deeply. We’re losing children who can’t sit still for hours at a time. We’re losing the boys.
The other night, my husband came home from working with my son’s soccer team- all 6- and 7-year old little boys. He was exhausted trying to organize them, teach them foot skills and get them to pay attention to him. “They ALL need medication,” he announced as he collapsed. He WAS joking, and I was amused at first, until I started thinking… if he had this much trouble organizing 10 little boys for an active game of soccer, imagine the teacher trying to get them to sit down and take a series of tests…. tests that my son has already started to fail; tests that so many other boys are going to fail as time goes on. Tests that will keep them out of college, out of graduate school, out of power. I’m not advocating keeping men in power, but I want EQUAL power… And are only upper socio-economic boys going to get to these levels because they’re the only ones whose parents help them through, pay for medication, are able to play this game?
And so the question is: Are we drugging our child because he “needs” it, or because our society is creating a system of testing that rewards passivity? It’s very 1984 and frankly, it scares the hell out of me.