Christina Hoff Summers in NYT on Boys’ “Poor Performance” in School

by W.F. Price on February 5, 2013

For at least a decade now we’ve been seeing educators disingenuously “wondering” what’s going on with boys. I don’t believe teachers are confused in the least — they know exactly what’s going on. I’m certain of this because I have a fair number of educators in the family, and they know just what the “problem” is: boys are, in general, more difficult to teach.

Boys are rowdier, more prone to acting out, and don’t listen as carefully. Sometimes, they are aggravatingly unaware of their surroundings. My son, for example, will become interested in something, and suddenly the rest of the world doesn’t exist to him any longer.

Boys also lack the desire to please that seems to be innate in little girls. They don’t really care so much if the teacher is happy about what they are doing or saying.

But does this mean they are inferior students who “perform poorly?” No more than it means that an F-18 fighter, due the high skill required of its pilots, is an inferior airplane that performs poorly when compared to a cessna.

Despite the abysmal failure of public education in regards to boys, boys are still scoring higher on tests than girls. Even verbal tests in many cases. It’s just their grades that are lagging, and unfortunately that’s what keeps them out of college:

Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. Why? A study coming out this week in The Journal of Human Resources gives an important answer. Teachers of classes as early as kindergarten factor good behavior into grades — and girls, as a rule, comport themselves far better than boys.

The study’s authors analyzed data from more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.

In other words, the teachers – overwhelmingly female – don’t like them. Nor, apparently, do a number of NY Times commenters, who say it’s just desserts for all that male oppression of the past. Yes, that’s right: little kids who were born a few years ago must pay for the imagined sins of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.

Example:

B Lundgren Norfolk, VA

Girls and women were shut out of education for centuries. In many parts of the world, they still are. No one cared. Now that men are coming up short, it’s a crisis. Please, let’s find a real crisis to solve.

Ah, feminists. So compassionate!

What this “boys crisis” really comes down to is a public schools crisis. Public schools may be a necessity, but they have some pretty severe flaws. As a socialized system, they do not reward teachers for being harder workers or even result-oriented. Teachers in my local public school district are in open rebellion against tests that would hold them accountable for their students performance.

What public school teachers prefer is an easy day with obedient, compliant students. Unfortunately for boys, they don’t typically fit into the obedient and compliant category. So, rather than try harder, the teacher simply marks them down and leaves it up to the boys or their parents to deal with it (parents, many of whom are single mothers, definitely share some of the responsibility).

In private schools it’s a different story. Sons of the wealthy have higher academic achievement than their female counterparts. This is because teachers at private schools are informed in no uncertain terms that students’ performance in their classes is directly relevant to their continued employment. Miraculously, rich people’s sons are better educated and perform better every step of the way than their daughters.

The problem isn’t that boys are poor students. It’s that they require more effort. However, the results speak for themselves. Despite the higher grades and academic achievement of girls in our society, boys still lead the way in productivity, innovation and achievement in every other measure.

So all this hand-wringing about boys’ performance is misplaced, and I think the rest of us are beginning to figure it out. It isn’t really that the boys are performing poorly; it’s the schools that are lousy, and grades reflect little more than how teachers “feel” about their students.

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