Friday, June 30, 2006

School 2.0; Confront the Boy's Education Crisis

We're being lied to again. It matters very little. In the reign of terror that the Bush administration has been, few people care. Politicians believe that Americans will believe anything because we so often do.

For instance, the other day Joe Lieberman accused Ned Lamont of being a Republican! Could Lewis Carroll have written anything more absurd? Yet, we are daily bombarded with news that 40 years ago would have been described as nothing less than a bad acid trip requiring psychiatric observation. Today, this is typical Fox/MSM news - nothing shocks, nothing is obscene, humiliation is the order of the day.

The other day I posted a study indicating that there was no 'boy crisis' and another indicating what wonderful [by government standards] graduation rates students have today. The pieces smelled funny.

A few months ago the LA Times [as posted here earlier] reported that graduation rates, drop-out rates, and post-secondary statistics were very dubious. First, bad statistics mean trouble for school administrators so excuses like, "the dog ate the data" are not unusual to disguise troubled school practices. Secondly, fudging this data to look better has become a national education priority to artificially prop up the NCLB elixar being shopped by the federal Department of Education.

Let's re-examine whether or not there's an anti-boy bias in education. Click on the title link to read more. Here's a discussion point or two;

The Problem with Boys by Tom Chiarella
Esquire Magazine, July 2006, Volume 146, Issue 1

There's something equally forbidden about arguing the ongoing boys crisis. It's a loser. It doesn't sell. It doesn't translate as much more than a hobbyhorse for conservative think tanks.

But here's the deal if you are a boy in this country right now: You're twice as likely as a girl to be diagnosed with an attention-deficit or learning disorder. You're more likely to score worse on standardized reading and writing tests. You're more likely to be held back in school. You're more likely to drop out of school. If you do graduate, you're less likely to go to college. If you do go to college, you will get lower grades and, once again, you will be less likely to graduate. You'll be twice as likely to abuse alcohol, and until you are twenty-four, you are five times as likely to kill your self. You are more than sixteen times as likely to go to prison.

"As long as ten years ago, we started seeing the data that showed boys were slipping behind," says Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, an advocacy group for low-income and minority students. "People were still arguing: We don't have a boys problem, we have a girls problem. It just didn't match what these data say. There's still a lot of resistance among rank-and-file educators."

The growing achievement gap between boys and girls has landed in our laps. Fueled by slim percentages in some cases, the numbers are stacking up over time. We're faced with the accrual of a significant population of boys who aren't well prepared for either school or work. "The problem," says Haycock,"is what this will add up to in twenty years."


In the classroom, there's ample evidence that certain changes could help boys prosper. They like to do their work in bite-sized chunks. They need differing levels of activity, often tied to some element of competition or short-term goal. They tend to gravitate toward nonfiction in their reading—more facts, shorter pieces. They need physical activity, too, up to four recesses a day, to stay focused.

We also have to think about the way boys put the world together outside the classroom. In England, gaps in achievement have been attributed, in part, to what is known as laddishness. Since boys tend to run in packs, their values are defined by the boys who lead them. There's a sort of antiestablishment disaffection passed from boy to boy, a sense that school doesn't matter. Educators there used that pattern as a means to reinvent it. They used intensely focused mentorship, aimed at the pack leaders, to break down these attitudes, cracking into the structures that keep boys distant from school.

Women forced the issue with girls. Men have to do the same with boys. As it is now, men don't even have the language to discuss what it means to be male. Forget the Right and the Left. I am as skeptical of character training, championed by conservatives as the answer to the crisis, as I am scornful of sensitivity training, which put our classrooms in their current posture. We don't need a new orthodoxy. We need a deeper sense of involvement.

Men have to be willing to care about the way boys are being treated, taught, and cared for in this country and advocate for them. Find the books that boys read—they are out there—and make sure they are in the libraries and under the Christmas trees. If the classrooms don't work, men must be in the schools—at the PTA meetings, at parent-teacher conferences, in front of school boards, in classes teaching or just talking about their jobs. Young men, men without children, must take a stake and volunteer to coach, to counsel, to read to kids. You can't wait for fatherhood to hit you in the face. Men whose children are grown must mentor a new generation of children. Select two boys, the ones who need it, the ones you know are hurting. Take a lesson from Joel Klein and convince two more men to do the same. Two more men: That's your assignment.

Go talk to boys. You don't have to use baby talk with them or buy them things. You just have to listen to them. Ask them who they are. The answers they give may not always make sense, but talk to enough of them and you will surely realize that boys themselves are not the problem. And it sure as hell isn't women or girls.

The problem is men.

Powerful stuff. Read the entire article, it is very worthwhile.

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