Women outnumber them in colleges and the work force, and too many men are failing to keep up
The recent release of : The Facts About Gender Equity in Education, by the American Association of University Women, presents an opportunity to review the extraordinary success of women in education over the last four decades. The release also presents an opportunity to review the failure of the entire education system - from kindergarten through college - to educate boys for their adult roles at work, in families, and as citizens.
Such measures are a convenient way to highlight women's success in education using males as a benchmark. It is a wonderful record, one being replicated throughout the world. Women have worked diligently to raise girls' aspirations, performance, achievement, and attainment - and it shows.
The work is unfinished, however, and further progress is being actively pursued in the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), senior academic and career positions, and pay equity.
Those jobs paid men well for the work they did, and men did not need much formal education to do them. But those jobs are gone, and they are unlikely to return to the American labor force.
As a consequence, since the early 1970s the incomes of men with less than a college degree have been in economic free fall. The share of the male population that is employed has declined, labor-force participation rates have dropped, unemployment has increased, average weekly hours at work have fallen, and median income for men has flattened. Many more men than women ages 18 to 34 are still living with their parents, fewer men are getting married, and more men have never been married. Male registration and voting have dropped sharply, for men have quintupled (America now leads the world in incarceration rates), and the already high suicide rates for men have surged in the 15-to-44 age group.
Men are in profound crisis. The world is changing, and too many men are not adapting to it. If such conditions affected women, you can bet we would be hearing about it.
The employment that is expanding in America is in service-providing industries like health care and education, business and professional services, leisure and hospitality, financial, and other services. The better-paying jobs in those service industries require a great deal of education beyond high school. The girls get that message. The boys don't.
That is the boy crisis in education. We are educating girls for their futures but not nearly enough of our boys. Currently about 35 percent of all boys get at least a basic higher-education degree - an associate or bachelor's degree. An additional 15 percent do not . That leaves about 50 percent of our boys who at least graduate from high school, or earn a GED, but do not get a college degree. They are the boys whom we are not reaching through education - but who must be reached with higher education and training to prepare them for the jobs that will be there when they enter the labor market.
The American Association of University Women is correct in asserting that education is not a zero-sum game. The progress of girls has not come at the expense of boys. But for the last 40 years we have focused on raising the educational and , achievement, and attainment of girls - and ignored the same for boys. Boys do not raise themselves. They too require realistic aspirations and guidance in setting them, consistent and directed support of both fathers and mothers, community reinforcement for academic success, and teachers who understand male development and are trained and committed to providing it.
Creating an educational system for boys as successful as the current system has been for girls will require rethinking how we educate boys. The current system has not worked for boys in 40 years. I am opposed to affirmative action for boys in college admissions because that deals only with the symptoms and avoids the underlying causes of male disengagement from learning.
Instead we should focus on the new efforts emerging from recent brain research that is identifying fundamental, hard-wired differences between the genders. Where such differences influence learning, schools of education must incorporate that relevant new knowledge in teacher-training programs. We must understand and appreciate boys for who they are and stop thinking of them as defective girls.
The progress achieved by girls shows us what we can do when we set our minds to it. It is now time to make similar efforts for our boys. We owe as much to our sons as we have provided for our daughters.