Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 2, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE GENDER GAP, REVISITED....A couple of weeks ago I linked to a New Republic article by Richard Whitmire in which he investigated gender differences in school achievement and concluded that the reason more girls go to college than boys is because girls have way better reading skills. In Slate today, Ann Hulbert responds:

Over the next two decades [since 1980], as women continued to get college degrees in ever greater numbers, there's evidence to suggest that girls' gains at the pre-college level weren't as striking and don't appear to have been at the expense of boys....The trend is relative stability for all, rather than marked mobility for either gender. Boys' reading scores have declined somewhat over the past decade, but they were lower than girls' from the start; girls' scores have barely budged.

Hulbert has a point, but she also glosses over some very real differences. The chart on the right shows the NAEP data she relies on for her conclusion (see page 28 in this report for a bigger version), and although the trendlines are indeed pretty stable, it's worth noting that NAEP test results are extremely sensitive: 10 points is roughly equal to one grade level. This means that in 1985, 17-year-old girls were about one grade level ahead of boys in reading and in 2001 they were about 1.3 grade levels ahead. That's a pretty sizable difference, and I think Hulbert is wrong to dismiss it so casually.

Overall, I'm inclined to agree with Hulbert that viewing educational differences through a gender lens has limited utility, regardless of whether those differences are caused by biology, culture, or anything else. It's not the biggest problem on our plate, and it's not at all clear that gender-specific teaching styles would accomplish very much anyway. Still, facts are facts: high school girls read at a significantly higher level than high school boys, and as other barriers against women have dropped over the years, it should hardly come as a surprise that this advantage has transformed itself into higher college graduation rates. Whether it's our biggest problem or not, it's probably one worth paying attention to.

Kevin Drum 6:04 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (86)

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Comments

boys = dumb + reasonable
girls = smart + insane

lol

Posted by: cdj on February 2, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

If the difference was the other way round, boys out performing girls, would you still be saying "...viewing educational differences through a gender lens is probably not that useful, regardless of whether those differences are caused by biology, culture, or anything else."

You seem to be saying, yes, there are gender related facts, but somehow because they are gender related we should do nothing about it.

Posted by: neil on February 2, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

More girls are going to college because outside of college, it's hard to find a man with a good future earning potential.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 2, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Osama -

Wow - that's cold.

And I'm not known as the warmest guy in the world.

Posted by: cdj on February 2, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Neil
You know darn well that if boys were outperforming girls it would represent an abject failure of our educational system at all levels.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on February 2, 2006 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

What I always wonder if it was the other way around, girls doing worse than boys, if people would just dismiss the findings as girls just not being naturally good at reading, or that girls were more focused on one day having a family, the way people sometimes try to explain away the lack of women in scientific fields and in the upper echelons of business.

Personally, I think the discrepency between boys and girls has more to do with how they are raised. Girls are oftentimes held to higher standards. This can be bad when it comes to sexual issues...if a girl sleeps around, she's a slut, if a boy sleeps around, it's seen as something to be proud of. But the reverse of that, in my personal experience, is that boys are held to lower standards in their schoolwork and in their behavior, leading to worse grades and less achievement.

Posted by: Sovay on February 2, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Do they also have a breakdown by race and age?

Posted by: Ugh on February 2, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

It's because girls actually read People magazine, while boys just look at the pictures in Playboy.

Posted by: craigie on February 2, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

mmmm - boobies...

Posted by: cdj on February 2, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta go with Neil on this one. If girls were as far behind boys as boys are behind girls, this'd be getting a lot more attention. Although, as it is, evidently a lot of colleges are worrying about their gender imbalances. "Affirmative action" benefiting white males being obviously out of the question, they're stumped.

Posted by: waterfowl on February 2, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

I rest my case.

Posted by: craigie on February 2, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

one likely contributor to this is the difference in brain growth rates between boys and girls. Girls' brains mature about 3 years earlier than boys and this happens in the mid-teens. pause for jokes. And one of the areas of boys' brains that develops later is the area to do with language.

Posted by: neil on February 2, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

How about the math scores?

Posted by: ogmb on February 2, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

craige -

=)


ogmb -

In my six years teaching math, girls perform substantially better. (lower undergrad level)

Posted by: cdj on February 2, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

ogmb -

As best I can tell, the main difference is that boys are too stupid to listen. I know that's true of myself much of the time at any rate... Mebbe I'm just projecting...

Posted by: cdj on February 2, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Its not gender, its not race, its not ethnicity, its not economic level; it is all about socialization and family expectation plus the randomness of personality development.

Margie Spelling and the NCLB crowd don't like to admit this since it would render their actificial testing regime highly spurious. After all, how can you punish or reward schools for things that are out of their control.

Posted by: Keith G on February 2, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

Boys are smart enough not to get too excessive with their reading.

Posted by: Matt on February 2, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

From the Medows report:

"Sommers does note that boys out-perform girls on almost every standardized test (e.g., the Scholastic Aptitude Test, law, medical, and graduate school admissions tests), but suggests that a selection effect is at work. For example, a greater percentage of girls take the SAT. Thus at-risk boys, who will likely perform poorly on such tests, are also less likely to take them. The not surprising result is a higher verage from a select group of males versus a lower average from a more heterogeneous sample of girls."

Posted by: ogmb on February 2, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Question:

Given that girls mature faster than boys, mebbe this 1-and-change grade difference isn't surprising.

What would be more telling, perhaps, would be a study that showed essentially the same difference between boys n girls in their late 20s (by which time, presumably, boys have had plenty of time to "catch up").

Or am I full of rich creamery butter again?

Posted by: cdj on February 2, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

What happened in the 1990s? If you look at the NAEP reading results from the '70s and '80s you see that the SD between boys' scores and girls' scores were pretty uniform. Then all of a sudden the differences start to mount and the SD of boys gets wider and of girls gets narrower. Here is the data for 9 year olds, 13 years olds and 17 year olds so that you can see for yourself. Only recently have they started to converge again.

Another point of interest is that High School GPA has been losing it's predictive validity in assessing college success, especially compared to the SAT, which has remained stable in predicting college success. In fact between 1996 and 1999, the HS GPA r^2 fell from 0.17 to 0.119 while the SAT r^2 went from 0.138 to 0.133. The components that are comprising high school grades seem not to be accounting properly for content mastery, for boys are now performing above what their HS GPA would predict compared to girls and the SAT captures this issue of content mastery and it's predictive validity has remained fairly stable across time.

Posted by: TangoMan on February 2, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

cdj,

What would be more telling, perhaps, would be a study that showed essentially the same difference between boys n girls in their late 20s (by which time, presumably, boys have had plenty of time to "catch up").

Yes, except by then a lot more of the girls than the boys will have been to college, right? I can't help but feel that this is going to make some difference.

Posted by: waterfowl on February 2, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

waterfowl -

That can be corrected for statistically, no?

Just for stupid example: only test/survey members of both genders with similar educational backgrounds?

Posted by: cdj on February 2, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe reading is just overrated as a life skill. No woman has ever been President, but here just yesterday George Bush was being praised because he just now mastered the ability to read a teleprompter, and previously he found the book "My Pet Goat" so riveting that he couldn't put it down.

Posted by: Bud on February 2, 2006 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Bud -

If that's what one thinks of as "reading", then you may well be right.

Posted by: cdj on February 2, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK
This means that in 1985, 17-year-old girls were about one grade level ahead of boys in reading and in 2001 they were about 1.3 grade levels ahead. That's a pretty sizable difference, and I think Hulbert is wrong to dismiss it so casually.

No, its not really a "pretty sizable difference"; its, on average, less than a third of grade of expected proficiency, which is almost completely negligible. And the entire difference, looking at the chart, is a one time jump that's been fading since it occurred.

Overall, I'm inclined to agree with Hulbert that viewing educational differences through a gender lens has limited utility, regardless of whether those differences are caused by biology, culture, or anything else.

Well, duh. Any form of analysis has either negative, zero, or limited utility, so that's the best that can be said of any of them.

It's not the biggest problem on our plate, and it's not at all clear that gender-specific teaching styles would accomplish very much anyway.

On what do you base the conclusion that it is not clear that gender-specific teaching styles would accomplish much? Specifically, is it "not clear" because insufficient study has been done to identify the underlying differences and how to address them, or because there is no evidence of differences, or because you just assume that its not clear? This casual, unexplained dismissiveness is common in your posts, but its frustrating when you just spout breezy conclusions without explanation.

Still, facts are facts: high school girls read at a significantly higher level than high school boys, and as other barriers against women have dropped over the years, it should hardly come as a surprise that this advantage has transformed itself into higher college graduation rates. Whether it's our biggest problem or not, it's probably one worth paying attention to.

Well, I think first there is the question of "is it a problem at all?" Differential performance in different demographics is a problem if it is a result of differential treatment or preferential structures. But different distributions of interests or abilities are not necessarily problems (they may be, especially in the latter case, however symptoms of preferential treatment.) This is particularly true across gender (rather than, say, race) where there are unquestionable systematic biological differences which may directly contribute to differences in performance.

I mean, it may be that women's advantage, on average, in reading ability and academic performance is as fundamental -- once the social ground is levelled -- as men's advantage, on average, in weightlifting.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 2, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect that, as has been found with studies on race and IQ, that the natural variations between all individuals in a classroom hugely outweigh any innate gender variations, so a teacher already has to adjust himself to deal with each person anyway. This doesn't really change much.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 2, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

Have you dealt with what has become the standard "Language Arts" curriculum for 6th-12th graders recently? Boys in my day didn't like English much, but there were always a few adventure stories or "forbidden" novels thrown in there, and perhaps some classic military fiction, to keep them at least nominally interested.

Today's "Language Arts" curriculum is all horses and feelings, all the time. And much of it at what I would consider a 4th grade level for both reading and emotional complexity. Not a single work that a self-respecting boy would _want_ to read, and plenty to drive him away from any thought of literature for life.

Think that has anything to do with it? Naaaaaw.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 2, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

To gain entrance to the middle class, you've got to go to college. (Crude, but to a first approximaition, true enough.)
Six out of ten women are making it. Five out of ten men. (Ditto)
Women like (or have liked)to marry up or across.
Now they're going to have to, a good many of them, marry down or not marry at all. (Ditto)
That's a sociological situation a physicist might say is "non-trival," and possibly, in the new sense of word, "concerning." Not least to women.
Should the concern go beyond sociologists to politicians? Possibly yes: in reacting to the situation, admissions officers at selective colleges are favoring less qualified males over more qualified women. They're doing that, I'll wager, out of fear that if their school gets overloaded with women, highly qualified women will stop coming. But it still isn't fair, is it? Affirmative action for patri?

Posted by: alittleworried on February 2, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Now they're going to have to, a good many of them, marry down or not marry at all.

Nah. You just need to think out of the box. Why would these young and talented women submit to these two limited options? There are plenty of men out there who match them for SES and interests. All these women need to do is convince these men (likely somewhat older) to leave their wives. Afterall, these women will be younger and have a lot going for them. There, the problem is solved for these women.

Posted by: TangoMan on February 2, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

What we need to do is not indulge gender stereotypes but to work to diminish them more.

While girls on average read better - are their more girls sitting at the top of their class? In leadership positions? Athletic positions?

While more women graduate from college - are their more girls being hired? Being placed in positions of authority?

Boys read worse than girls before the whole Title IX thing. Bringing equality is more than reading better. And indulging in stereotypes doesn't help.

Until the boy who wants to work as a secretary or librarian isn't scoffed at, we're going to have this difference.

Posted by: Crissa on February 2, 2006 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

How come no declared female has offered an opinion here? What are they reading anyway?

Posted by: Bob M on February 2, 2006 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

PS, every question I asked has the same answer: no.

Therefore even having a small advantage in reading obviously isn't enough to balance out gender discrimination in our society.

Posted by: Crissa on February 2, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

This "declared female" (whatever the hell that means) is 100% sure that if the statistics were reversed, there would be a great hue and cry throughout the land that women "just aren't as smart as men". The print media would write a wave of articles and the pundits would debate on TV, earnestly questioning whether women just don't have what it takes intellectually, and suggesting that perhaps instead of vainly pursuing higher education, they should just stay home and have babies.

Posted by: fiat lux on February 2, 2006 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

To gain entrance to the middle class, you've got to go to college. (Crude, but to a first approximaition, true enough.)
Six out of ten women are making it. Five out of ten men. (Ditto)

I would argue that for women, college has less potential as an entryway to the middle class than men. Women's earning potential is lower, and many men find themselves able to compete with women economically even without a college education.

The reason you don't see much outrage regarding boys' underperformance is because the boys generally grow up into men that still earn more and have more job opportunities than women... there doesn't seem to be a negative consequence, on average, to the boys' futures.

Posted by: Constantine on February 2, 2006 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Fiat Lux, were you around in the 1980s when there was a hue and cry over girls' achievement in the lower grades? Or are you too young to remember?

Back then, someone did a study and discovered that teachers called on boys more often in the classroom, and they gave boys more opportunities to amend their answers and get them right. It became a storyline in Doonesbury.

In fact, substandard academic achievement among girls was considered a failure on the part of the schools and of teachers. No one said it was because girls are dumb. Elementary schools, at least, are much more girl-friendly. Thus you have the bland, girlified 'language arts' selections that Cranky Observer comments on.

Stop feeling so pissed off just because the president of Harvard said something that hurt your feelings.

The sex imbalance in college is not a trivial problem for women who graduated from college and who want to marry men who graduated from college. I have a hunch that most female college graduates want to marry a man someday. And I have another hunch that their potential mates' income is a lower priority than educational achievement -- that most female college grads would feel happier marrying a history major with a five-figure income than a plumber with a six-figure income.

It's a real problem that affects real people. Talking about stastics, or throwing yourself a pity party because of something Larry Summers said, isn't going to solve anything.

Posted by: Holdie Lewie on February 2, 2006 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Thought it interesting that on the BBC America Mystery web site, they assign several adjectives to the characters of "Conviction" and "Night Detective".

Adjectives assigned to various men include:
Insightful, reckless, brooding, ambitious and untrustworthy, straight talking, a no nonsense type, etc.

For three of the female characters:

One, a lawyer, is attractive and ballsy, the other two, one a lawyer and the other a police officer are "feisty" (one being feisty and determined).

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 2, 2006 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

The sex imbalance in college is not a trivial problem for women who graduated from college and who want to marry men who graduated from college
Posted by: Holdie Lewie on February 2, 2006 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Well there's always gay marriage in Canada! Lets face it, sperm donors are easy to find with an active market for one night stands so carpet munching is an option for non-procreation sex.

The fact that there is no market for males wanting to commit to a high maintanence woman who's spent 4 years in college being programmed to blame everything from colonialism to the checkbook not balancing on you is not unexpected.

The sexual revolution freed women to 'hooking up' being a pre-requisite for a man to take you to dinner, made divorcing the wrinkled first wife for the bimbo a lot easier and gave women the right to commit murder to avoid stretchmarks.

Such a success!

Posted by: McA on February 2, 2006 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

McA,

Can now understand why you prefer the boys at the Long Yang Club. They post great things about you.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 2, 2006 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

McAnus, Sorry, meant the Long Ying Club - Long Yang is for the more endowed.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 2, 2006 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

The sexual revolution freed women to 'hooking up' being a pre-requisite for a man to take you to dinner, made divorcing the wrinkled first wife for the bimbo a lot easier and gave women the right to commit murder to avoid stretchmarks.

Riiiight.

Because, it always comes down to marriage when it's women...

...Because, ya know, no one worried about men 'marrying down'.

Posted by: Crissa on February 2, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

no one worried about men 'marrying down'.

Posted by: Crissa on February 2, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

And if women didn't worry more than men about 'marrying down' you wouldn't have MoDo feminists bitching in NYT editorials about how rich successful women aren't happy. Or MoDo complaining that the feminist revolution has resulted in women being under more pressure to be thin and have fake boobs.

If you believe in evolution, you realise few hundred thousand years without birth control and the burden of pregnancy might have left women with some biological tendencies to want to 'marry up'. Its pretending those tendencies don't exist that have gotten women in the state they are.

Do you see MoDo looking for a himbo to take to parties? No. Biology. The mother wold looks for an Alpha Wolf who will pioritise her and protect in child rearing.

Do you see men doing it? No problem. Biology. The Alpha Wolf has many partners.

So the net result is that the breakdown of the family structure brought about by feminism hurts women more than men.

Just realise that the likely 50-year old life of a secular American is to be divorced and hooking up while her ex gets to look at younger models. And that your post-sexual revolution society has more anorexia and more teenagers having plastic surgery than any other culture.

Then wonder if 1 Corinthians 6:12 might not have some relevance:

"Everything is permissible for me"but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"but I will not be mastered by anything.

Feminism was great for industrial rights, but a disaster when it got behind the sexual revolution.

Posted by: McA on February 3, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

So when you get a 14 year old kid experimenting with a destructive bisexual group relationships....and you aren't in a position to give them any sincere advice because you've lived your life on the basis that anything consensual is OK.....ask yourself if 'everything permissable' has been good to you and your children.

http://www.nymetro.com/news/features/15589/

Posted by: McA on February 3, 2006 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

i think Dicely's post above is on the mark. tbrosz's point, that teacher's (good ones anyway) end up adjusting for individual differences however those differences slot into gender is good too. so I'll just add two things: On is that whatever the differences are, there are plenty of people out there who believe that boys just aren't or shouldn't be as interested in reading as girls, & sadly, some of those folks are parents.

More speculatively: It seems to me that men have more options available without completing college than women due-it's less crucial I think, to their financial standing and stability, or at least they can survive at a higher level without finishing college. Women's prospects, without college, are dimmer. Because of this and for other reasons, boys and girls prepare and are prepared differently for college. As the historic gender based barriers agianst women in college have been diminished, that preparation is perhaps beginning to show.

I really should have phrased that last part as a question, since it's not based on any real research, just some anecdotal observations and general reading of the culture. Still, whattaya'll think?

Posted by: URK on February 3, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
The flatness of the curves may also reflect actual ability. A ten point difference may appear significant when corrolated with grade level if you are persuaded that the difference in reading comprehention between grade levels is large. At the high school level, I feel safe in assuming that the difference between, say, tenth and eleventh graders' reading levels is trivial when measured in terms of breadth of vocabulary and mastery of complex grammar and rhetoric.

Posted by: joe on February 3, 2006 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

Holy shit - did tbrosz say something that was actually more than 1/2-way reasonable?

Mebbe it's just the drunkenness... (in me, I mean)

Posted by: cdj on February 3, 2006 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

Ahh, McA...

...Except the divorce rates for secular couples is much lower than it is for non-secular.

Funny, that, you pop out the religion and guess what? You're wrong! Hah. Surprised me, not.

Posted by: Crissa on February 3, 2006 at 6:29 AM | PERMALINK

Except the divorce rates for secular couples is much lower than it is for non-secular.

Posted by: Crissa on February 3, 2006 at 6:29 AM | PERMALINK

That's because many secular couples live together without marriage...and so don't show up in divorce.

Go ask Maureen Dowd what life is like.

Posted by: McA on February 3, 2006 at 7:05 AM | PERMALINK

Go ask Maureen Dowd what life is like.

Posted by: McA on February 3, 2006 at 7:05 AM | PERMALINK

'Cos if everything is OK...there's no way hanging around an aging bitch feminist woman in old age makes sense.

Secular women get abandoned in old age. Your children have no moral framework and the men have viagra and money (some of it yours nowadays)....

Posted by: McA on February 3, 2006 at 7:13 AM | PERMALINK

A lot depends on the size of the standard deviation. The idea that 10 points on the NAEP equates to a grade level is, first of all, suspect - but more to the point, it's a less informative reference than the standard deviation for telling you how significant the gap is.

Another big factor is the reacial/ethnic and native/immigrant mix of the student sample. Over the past thirty years, the apparent stability of the overall NAEP scores has masked significant gains in some historically lower-scoring subgroups (esp. black & hispanic students) and modest gains in other groups (including whites & asians) - but because the proportion of students coming from those lower-scoring subgroups has gone up, it's made it look like there's been no progress. You've got to tease those factors out of the mix before you can even conclude that there is a persistent male/female gap.

And as others have commented, to say that the gap has been persistent isn't to say that it's intractable; and to say that it's significant isn't to say that it's the most important one out there. Personally i'm not as convinced that a big gap really exists; if it does exist it worries me a little less than the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic gaps; and i'm probably most concerned that our educational standards across the board are less ambitious than they should be. (From what i've read on the subject, it seems like diffferences in curriculum account for a lot of these gaps across subgroups anyway, so raising standards could also help to reduce ineuqlaity in performance.)

Posted by: TW on February 3, 2006 at 7:30 AM | PERMALINK

This is all an interesting debate.

As an educator, one thing I have most definitely observed that I think does impact this is the curriculum. At least at the high school level, the reading lists seem very much geared towards "women's" books, not at every grade level, but at most. I find boys complaining about being bored by the reading, bored by reading women's books that they are forced to read, etc. My observation is that many men read nonfiction more than fiction, yet very few English curriculums contain nonfiction works either. Now this is obviously a gross generalization and I have no data to support it, but it is something I wonder about.

Schools are set up in ways that favor girls--like everyone should be sitting in their desk, quietly working, etc. Not that girls these days necessarily do that either, but there isn't enough "tactile" activity in many classes.

And I am also going to bring in the "dread" topic of video games and just the electronic world in general. Boys seem consumed by that by the high school level--ipods, Fantasy NBA, Game Cube, you name it. Girls too, actually--also blogs, bulletin boards, Myspace, etc. Yet they come into the classroom and they are usually(not always) using paper and pencil and sitting in a desk. I've also noticed that some boys seem much more motivated by working together--collaborating in groups--and that often doesn't happen in many classes. If you watch them on computers in a lab space, they gather around each other's computers, laugh, communicate, but often that is not the way assignments are set up.

Now this is not to say that schools aren't using technology because they are, and more and more.

But the "average" classroom moment is still very traditional. I worry that we are losing kids because schools cannot keep up with the digital changes happening. I don't just mean in terms of technology purchases either, just the whole vision of it.

I read an article somewhere that said today's teachers are like the immigrants and our students are like the children of those immigrants who were born in the 'technology' country. I think that analogy is very apt.

So, I've maybe wandered off topic a bit here, but I see all of those things contributing to a disinterest in school.

That is not to say that we teachers need to "entertain" students, but we need to be relevant.

Posted by: CF on February 3, 2006 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

Funny how the marriage rates aren't as much lower in Blue states as the divorce rate is in Red states?

Of course, with Maureen Dowd as your only data point, how would facts on hand enter into the discussion? She didn't need any, either.

Posted by: Crissa on February 3, 2006 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

PS - There's more abandoned elderly in Red states, too.

So that shoots that out of the water...

Posted by: Crissa on February 3, 2006 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Well, let's hear from Dear Leader:

"Reading is the basics for all learning. The true greatness of America are the people, but the illiteracy level of our children are appalling. You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."

Posted by: CFShep on February 3, 2006 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

I'm curious to see how the perceived increase in dicipline problems, ADD, and ADHD correlates with the increase of femine teaching style and the shift of teaching methodology to focus on girls.

College courses ssem to have become increasingly verbal and less logical and structured. Most classes seem to be about writing as much as possible and saying as little as possible.

Posted by: aaron on February 3, 2006 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

We live in a world where nothing is wrong as long as it's well written.

Posted by: aaron on February 3, 2006 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Jihad! Jihad! As a muslim, I take offense at all of this talk of educating girls. It is one more insult among many insults against Islam. We are at the breaking point. I declare a jihad on you! Right after I finish helping my son work on his school project -- a shadowbox commemorating the glorious suicide bombing at an Israeli Sbarro pizza shop -- I am going to go burn your flag. Which state are you in? I want to make sure I burn the correct flag, and I have several of them lying around here ...

Posted by: Mo on February 3, 2006 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, as a Moslem, I am also offended at last Sunday's Family Circus cartoon. Little Dolly was not wearing a head scarf, which is a thumb in the eye of the prophet! I declare a jihad on Jeffey and P.J.!

Posted by: Mo on February 3, 2006 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

> As an educator, one thing I have most definitely
> observed that I think does impact this is the
> curriculum. At least at the high school level, the
> reading lists seem very much geared towards
> "women's" books, not at every grade level, but at
> most. I find boys complaining about being bored by
> the reading, bored by reading women's books that
> they are forced to read, etc.

All I have is a singular of data myself, but in our flyover country middle-middle-class whitebread district this is absolutely the case. The "Language Arts" faculty are all women and it is all feelings all the time from 6th to 12th. Our son's math teacher, who is a woman, spent most of our last conference asking us how she should help HER son - now in 6th grade in the same district - deal with this.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 3, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

"Gotta go with Neil on this one. If girls were as far behind boys as boys are behind girls, this'd be getting a lot more attention. Although, as it is, evidently a lot of colleges are worrying about their gender imbalances. "Affirmative action" benefiting white males being obviously out of the question, they're stumped."

Actually, colleges are admitting boys on an affirmative action basis, very informally. This according to the Wall Street Journal about a year ago.
Of course the WSJ reporter revealing this also has done stories on how legacy admissions make up a much bigger percentage of admissions than affirmative action admission of blacks.

Also, on the whole reading thing, political correctness works two ways, as Diane Ravitch has pointed out in her anti-PC book. Teachers were doing somersaults they were so elated when boys started showing an interest in reading a la Harry Potter. Then the CC crowds starts howling about witchcraft, so schools backed off. The same crowd complains about the Goosebumps books, also popular with boys, as well as Captain Underpants, in the Night Kitchen, A Light in the Attic -- in fact a lot of books that show "boys being boys," mischievous, anti-authority, etc.
To the person who talked about "sitting quietly at desks" is a reason boys aren't learning, uh, well, they were learning just fine for the past 100 years with an even more rigid no-talking-back-to- teacher, regimented, drilling, memorization system that used to be in place....maybe it's the parents, not the schools. Schools do use more hands-on activities and allow more movement than they used to...

Posted by: lou on February 3, 2006 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Strictly speaking, education is acceptable under the Koran. But too much reading is un-Islamic. Too much learning, or learning by girls, is a plot of crusaders and jews.

Posted by: Mo on February 3, 2006 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

McA wrote:

Secular women get abandoned in old age.

I reply:

WTF? Dude, where do you live? La-la winger land? You can't just baldly assert stuff like this and call that an argument. As Crissa so rightly pointed, Maureen Dowd is hardly a statistically sound sample. But, for the sake of argument, I'll assume your methodology and blow your "argument" out of the water.

Neither mother nor my mother-in-law have attended church in 25 years. They are the picture of secularism. AND they live in red states. AND they're avowed feminists. Yet, hold on to yer britches McA, they've been married 41 and 26 years respectively.

So, you've got two middle-aged secular feminists in happy marriages. I'll put that against your MoDo sample any day.

Pinche hoto,
Everett

Posted by: Everett Volk on February 3, 2006 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

aaron wrote:

College courses ssem to have become increasingly verbal and less logical and structured. Most classes seem to be about writing as much as possible and saying as little as possible.

I respond:

aaron, just for the sake of logical consistency, you might reconsider your formulation of sentence one and sentence two. As written, they contradict each other.

Cheers!

Posted by: Everett Volk on February 3, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Where does MCA live? MALAYSIA.

Posted by: Pat on February 3, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

From a parent's perspective, since the Columbine shootings boys tend to be considered automatic discipline problems and automatic suspects.

My sons despised high school every minute they were there, although they did well (probably the 1-6 private school, they read very well).

Also, boys who are not athletes tend to be second class citizens in high school.

Posted by: save_the_rustbelt on February 3, 2006 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

The conservative default argument is that girls do not achieve in any given competition (say for Harvard science professorships) because of nature and nothing can be done about it. But when boys do not achieve, conservatives look to nurture (say left behind by teaching bias and John Dewey liberal education). This is telling.

Maybe men were great in agricultural societies and in resource-rich industrial societies when brawn was useful but in an economy where scarcity is our future and technical education is our present, they are just not up to the challenge. Big trucks for those that do no physical labor and hypermasculinism (if you look at pictures of Americans in the 19th century men seem more physically affectionate than today) may be compensating for more than one inadequacy.

Posted by: bellumregio on February 3, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

At the high school level, I feel safe in assuming that the difference between, say, tenth and eleventh graders' reading levels is trivial when measured in terms of breadth of vocabulary and mastery of complex grammar and rhetoric.
Posted by: joe

Given that the overall level of literacy has declined to the extent that it is routine now to graduate while reading/writing/computing at a 8th grade level and, with grade inflation being what it is, scoring 5.0 on a 4 point scale in the process.

For a good laugh re SOTU check out:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2006/01/29/INGT0GTK0O1.DTL

"George W. Bush, in his own write"
SFChronicle Sunday, January 29, 2006


Wherein Jaime O'Neill imagines the result if Dear Leader wrote his own speeches. Taken entirely from Dear Leader's own precious pronoucements.

Posted by: CFShep on February 3, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

colleges are practicing affirmative action as we speak and admitting boys with lower scores/grades to get an even number of admissions so their student body ratios don't get too far out of wack. Girls I think, are held to a higher standard of performance , academically and behaviorally, and they have a generation of mothers who know that as a woman you have to have twice the education to get half the wages, promotions etc.For a woman there is no paycheck without at least a masters degree.

Posted by: emel on February 3, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK
Have you dealt with what has become the standard "Language Arts" curriculum for 6th-12th graders recently? Boys in my day didn't like English much, but there were always a few adventure stories or "forbidden" novels thrown in there, and perhaps some classic military fiction, to keep them at least nominally interested.

My mother is a high school english teacher and talks frequently about her work and particularly the reading lists, so yes. This is still, very much, true today.

Today's "Language Arts" curriculum is all horses and feelings, all the time. And much of it at what I would consider a 4th grade level for both reading and emotional complexity. Not a single work that a self-respecting boy would _want_ to read, and plenty to drive him away from any thought of literature for life.

This explanation would be more useful if it had even a casual connection to anything resembling facts.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 3, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Everette, 'verbal' is used in the sense of focusing on language. The verbal section of the GRE is not oral. Classes lack content, but are very time consuming.

You need to explain how I'm inconsistent. I don't get it.

Posted by: aaro on February 3, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

One reason I think women go to college and get professional degrees is precisely because it might free them from the necessity of marrying (or marrying "up") in order to have a middle-class lifestyle. So a woman with a law degree has more choices than a woman with just a high school diploma, if she aspires to a comfortable living.

She can choose not to marry and have children. She'll still earn a good salary and create a retirement fund, and might actually earn more and save more without the distractions.

She can choose to have a family without marriage. Easy enough these days, and plenty of professional women choose that option-- something for men to keep in mind... as long as there are sperm banks and adoption agencies, woman can do this alone, and many do, by choice or necessity.

She can choose to marry one of her colleagues or a man at the same level or higher. Since once we're out of school, we tend to interact primarily with people in the same line of work or economic class, she actually probably has far more chance to marry a lawyer than the woman with only a high school diploma and a job in a retail shop.

She can choose to marry a man in a lower occupational or educational category. In other words, when she can achieve a comfortable lifestyle by her own salary, she has the freedom to marry someone whose income doesn't match. I know plenty of professional women who are married to non-professional men. One is an attorney married to a truck driver. Another is an executive married to an artist.

She can marry another woman, in any of these categories.

Plenty of choices. As a self-described woman, I do not lament the days of trying desperately to "marry up". Read Jane Austen-- it was harder then to marry up than it is now... and the consequences of not marrying up were far more drastic. Then, a woman who didn't find the "right" man faced destitution. Now, she might sigh a bit, but she'll have a security that has been unknown before in history-- a knowledge that she can make her own fate. That really is worth a lot. We are much better off now, and most of us would never go back.

And men should be glad too-- surely they wouldn't have liked suspecting that economic security was the main reason their wives stayed?

Posted by: a on February 3, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

With the questional relevance of the curriculum and the rebelius nature of boys, perhaps they view college more as a luxery. They know it is mostly just something to put on the resume, with questionable real value.

Posted by: aaron on February 3, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

> the necessity of marrying (or marrying "up")

What the hell does "marrying up" mean in our society? If a woman with a BA in English marries a man pulling down 75K/year as a plumber, has she "married up" or "married down"? If she marries a man with a BS/MS in Engineering earning 55K/year: up or down?

Now note well: plumbers' jobs _cannot_ be outsourced to India; the engineer's job can and probably will be sometime in the next 10 years. Does that change your answer?

If at age 45 the plumber goes to night school and takes a Ph.D in history, has her marrying choice suddenly changed in sign?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 3, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Talk about a tempest in a teapot. Comparing an 11 grade one month reading level to an 11th grade 4th month reading level is stupid. It is noise.

On the other hand boys better be thinking about dropping the math and science and boning up on *something* because there for sure won't be the technical design jobs.

They need to get into something where it is required you are a US citizen and are local - pharmacist and lawyer are the only two that pring to mind. Even Drs work can be offshored if the patients are willing to travel.

Posted by: Tripp on February 3, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky,

I think "marrying up" means you marry someone making more than your parents.

As you point out, it is difficult anymore to know who exactly that is. As you say, many traiditional 'blue collar' jobs such as mechanic, plumber and electricial will end up paying more than science and tech jobs. In a global economy anything that CAN be offshored WILL be offshored. For traditional white collar work that means unless there is a law against it (like requiring someone licensed by the state - pharmacy, law, medicine) it will get offshored.

We programmers are going to be really sorry we didn't form a professional association with licensing requirements.

Posted by: Tripp on February 3, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised people here think that there *isn't* quite a lot of noise and strategizing and lobbying about boys not doing as well in school, because I am sure hearing about it. Some people call it a war against boys - there was a book by that name, and I read about it on education blogs.

As far as language arts - In my daughter's 7th grade class, the book the class read together and analyzed was "Treasure Island," and the kids pick their own books to read on their own. So no boys were forced to read about ponies or feelings.

Posted by: EmmaAnne on February 3, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Lou, I generally agree with you. But I would like to get your thoughts on the following:

You wrote, "To the person who talked about 'sitting quietly at desks' is a reason boys aren't learning, uh, well, they were learning just fine for the past 100 years with an even more rigid no-talking-back-to- teacher, regimented, drilling, memorization system that used to be in place....maybe it's the parents, not the schools."

What I wonder is this: How much have things changed in the last 100 years? Specifically, the fact that we're trying to educate everyone now. That wasn't the case 60 or even 35 years ago.

When I went to first grade in 1969, it was in a segregated school. My school district desegregated when I was in second grade. My point being, I'm only 42 and I actually attended Jim Crow-era schools! My home town's official policy, just 36 years ago, was to dump black kids in a crumbling school, shove old, torn-up books under their noses, and wait for them to drop out.

I'm asking a real question here, not a rhetorical one: When did more than half of the high school-age population begin attending high school? I have a hunch that this didn't happen until the 1950s or 60s.

So ... why did so many people drop out by ninth grade? Was it because of racial bias? Because disabled kids were kept out of school? Those probably had something to do with it. But what about the "regimented, drilling, memorization system" that you mentioned? Could it possibly be that a lot of people dropped out of school because of that system? What we ended up with, then, was a self-selected group who didn't mind rote learning.

Again, I'm questioning more than saying, if you know what I mean.

Posted by: Holdie Lewie on February 3, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect a reason more kids dropped out of HS in the 50's was because you could get a decent job without a HS diploma.

When we offshored our manufacturing jobs in the 80's students started needing a HS diploma and as the trend continued they now need a college diploma to get a 'decent' job.

Of course we are offshoring many of those jobs these days so I suspect many students will go back to the old way - it's not what you know it is who you know - and they will start taking 'apprenticeships' if they can get into a union. A simple college diploma will be worthless - it is your personal 'contacts' with someone who can 'pull strings' to get you in.

Why bother with college if you can't get a job with it?

Patronage and clout, it is the old and new again American way.

Posted by: Tripp on February 3, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I'll add that I believe we've made progress in educating more people in the last three decades. Not a rousing success, but our culture sends a message that everyone should finish high school, and minorities and disabled people are welcomed into school more than they were in past decades. The dropout rate is too high, but my (unproven and unsupported) assumption is that more kids are starting high school than in the middle of the last century, and that on average they stay in school longer.

We haven't achieved nirvana, but things have improved. Could that partly be attributed to changes in teaching styles -- away from rote learning?

Posted by: Holdie Lewie on February 3, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

I welcome the coming overlordship by women. Lots of educated, hot women. It is already a joy to be working at a university where the female population outnumbers the male. This is GOOD. Of course, beyond the plain enjoyment I get from having a lot of highly educated women all about the place, I also look forward to the expulsion by attrition of the male fucktards from all positions of power in the government.

It can only be a good thing for women to be at the top of the heaps of government, consigning the males to areas appropriate for most of their talents...like filling in for Dobson and other mouthbreathers. Of course, they will at least need to have an ability to read well enough to totally misinterpret and misrepresent everything in the bible...

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on February 3, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Trade jobs are still fairly inhospitable to women, with overt discrimination and harassment common enough to make women think a bit about getting a degree in accounting rather than an apprenticeship in the plumbing or electrician trades.

Many high school boys also invest a lot in sports, hoping to make it big, and are allowed to let academics slide, while girl athletes are generally held to a higher academic standard because there is no pretense that they will be able to earn big bucks as pro athletes. A lot of girls use their sports skills as a way to get a college scholarship, whereas a lot of boys use their sports skills as a way to get into college to be seen by pro recruiters.

College graduation rates can in part be explained by the hole in male college participation caused by the high rate of black male incarceration.

Posted by: NancyP on February 3, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

My former sister-in-law in Austin, herself an MSW, remains happily married to her high-school educated master plumber. Very nice standard of living, thanks, and scarcely noticed the vast tech implosion afflicting Austin.

Intelligence or competence doesn't necessarily correlate to years of formal education.

My own hero, Mr Sam. L. Clemens, left school at the 4th grade, I think.

I have as my motto this little gem from Mr. Twain:

"I never let schooling interfer with my education."

Posted by: CFShep on February 4, 2006 at 7:24 AM | PERMALINK

I believe someone above was asking about the dropout rate.

From looking at the NCES summaries, it appears that the dropout rate has declined gradually over the last 20 years or so. It is much higher for hispanic students than whites or blacks.
The data attributes part of that to hispanic immigrants who have a high dropout rate.

http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005095.pdf

The figures cover through 2002, so doesn't really include measurement of NCLB or if that has impacted the dropout rate or not.

This is also only counting 16 year olds through 24 year olds.

My experience as an educator was that many students who were going to drop out did that prior to the age of 16. Sophomore year seemed to be a definite line where students did or did not continue at one school where I taught.

This is another reason you hear varying degrees of dropout rates being reported, some of them much higher than these figures, which put it at around 8-10%, except for hispanics, where it is about 25% from examining the chart.
In the 70's, it was approximately 14% for whites, 16%? or so for blacks and 35% for hispanics according to this diagram.

Another interesting fact I found here was that students in rural schools are less likely to have opportunities to take advanced courses.

That seems like a good place to start improving the offerings, and give those students a "way out" if they want one. Anyone in the federal government ever heard of distance learning or streaming media?

Educator from Texas

Posted by: CF on February 4, 2006 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

When I went to first grade in 1969, it was in a segregated school. My school district desegregated when I was in second grade. My point being, I'm only 42 and I actually attended Jim Crow-era schools! My home town's official policy, just 36 years ago, was to dump black kids in a crumbling school, shove old, torn-up books under their noses, and wait for them to drop out.

Holdie, I was just wondering what district this might have been. My first newspaper job was in Macon, Ga., in 1977, and apparently the schools there had reorganized in 1970, leading to the end of schools such as Sidney Lanier HS, and creating new high schools named Central, Southwest and Northeast. I'm certain integration had something to do with it.

Posted by: Vincent on February 4, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

act,actress,actor,singer,doctor,design

Posted by: fdfd on February 4, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Vincent, it was the Fort Worth school district. Segregated as late as 1969-70, then desegregated over the next two years, from my experience at one elementary school.

Fort Worth kept the same school buildings, fixed up the formerly all-black ones, didn't change the schools' names, and sort of sent people to the nearest school. "Sort of" meaning "with plenty of exceptions in elementary grades, fewer exceptions in middle grades, and few exceptions in high schools."

Toward the end of first grade, I recall hearing first-grade classmates saying racist things about the black kids they would see the next year. But integration went very smoothly at my school. It helped that the district transferred some black teachers to our school. We saw black authority figures, and our white teachers suddenly had black co-workers. Imagine that.

Posted by: Holdie Lewie on February 5, 2006 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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