What About Our Boys?

Friday, February 21, 2014
posted by elizabeth @ 8:03 AM

At the State of the Union Address, President Obama again brought up the myth that women are paid 77 cents on the dollar less than men.  His numbers are an exaggeration of the truth.  We know that women tend to choose careers such as teaching, social work, and retail.  Whereas men tend to pick fields such as trucking, oil field services, and construction.    Women are not discriminated against.  Quite the contrary, women are free to choose their own fields of interest.   Women also tend to leave the work force for short stints to care for their children and/or take on part-time jobs or flexible jobs in order to have a greater work-family balance.  Again, choices.

What President Obama really should have brought to our attention is our boys.  Our boys are failing.  And, we are failing them.  Our boys are the ones being left behind.  Because of obstacles  at school and in our culture, they are not achieving their maximum potential.  For years, the attention was on girls.   The experts told us that schools didn’t focus enough on encouraging girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  So, we re-focused and made great strides.   We worried about teen pregnancy, which is currently down 50% since the peak in 1991. We worried about eating disorders and low self-esteem.  As a mother of two girls, these are real issues.  However, what about our boys?  I’m also a mother of two boys, and I worry that society is not giving them the focus and specific attention they deserve.

Women in the U.S. today earn 62% of associate’s degrees, 57% of bachelor’s degrees, 60% of master’s degrees, and 52% of doctorates.    Furthermore, girls are more likely to graduate from high school.  Nationally, only 65% of boys will graduate from high school.  When you control for ethnicity, the statistics are particularly grim for minorities, with only 55% of African-Americans and 53% of Hispanics graduating from 12th grade (Manhattan Institute).

What is going on with our boys? First, K-12 grade schools have become flat out hostile to boys.  Boys are loud, messy, unorganized, and restless.   And, that does not fit in with today’s teaching styles. We have either taken away physical education from the daily routine or reduced it so much, that boys do not have the opportunity to simply get their energy out.  Yet, we expect them to sit still, quiet, and learn for seven hours straight.   

And, when they are able to play on the playground, most of their natural imagination play has been banned.   For example, bad guys, cops and robbers, and shoot-up games are not allowed in many schools.  We have all heard the various news stories where young boys as young as Pre-Kindergarten are expelled due to imaginary shooting with their fingers or pencils.  I’ve heard of schools where Tug of War is now called “Tug of Peace” and tag is replaced with “Circle of Friends” games.  Is this really necessary?  Columbine and Sandy Hook were tragedies that should not be taken lightly, but those violent boys were sociopaths.  I think we all agree, the majority of boys are not sociopaths.

In addition, boys need help in literacy and creativity.   Across the world, boys are weaker in reading than girls.  Yet, our American education system does not account for that.  We do not encourage reading in their interest groups or creative ways to engage boys to read.   Furthermore, we do not allow our boys to fully engage in their creative spirit – in writing, reading, drawing, you name it.   Boys that write about sword fights or war risk being turned into the principal as too violent.  But, these topics interest boys and encourage them to read and write.

Let’s not forget our boys need time and attention specific to their needs and interests as well.  It is important that we provide the structure and atmosphere fitting for girls to excel, but our boys need the nurturing and ability to learn as boys.   Proper training for educators is key to ensuring that our boys graduate from high school and move on to a technical degree or college degree.   Our future is dependent on the success the boys of today.

-Elizabeth Biar

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