The AAUW and Distorting the Crisis in Educating Young Men

Earlier this week, the American Association of University Women published a study entitled, “Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education“. And like the folks on the other side of the argument pointed out a few days back, it’s really not about the girls, but rather it’s aimed at debunking the claim that young men aren’t being served terribly well by our education system.

As you might imagine, others disagree. Like the Editorial Board at USA Today:

The facts show that gender gaps start to emerge in elementary school and widen in middle school. Over the past 30 years of federal testing, girls’ advantages on verbal tests have widened while the boys’ advantages in math have narrowed. Girls end up graduating from high school at higher rates, earning far better grades and reaping most of the academic honors. This trend continues into college — the key to economic success in today’s economy — where women are earning 62% of associate’s degrees, 57% of bachelor’s and 59% of master’s.

As for the contention that the gaps are a function of race and income, not gender, that can’t be true when researchers in urban, predominantly black school districts such as Chicago are learning that girls outperform boys from the same families, same neighborhoods and same schools.

[…]

True, plenty of boys are doing fine in American schools, and many are high-achievers. Unfortunately, as a whole too many are lagging, a trend that becomes obvious in the college-going rates.

The message here is pretty simple: Help the children. A generation ago, those most in need were girls. Today, they are boys.

The AAUW should relish the successes girls and women have achieved rather than trying to impede attempts to help boys.

Here’s Carrie Lukas over at National Review Online:

The AAUW likely fears that if the public accepts the idea of a “boy crisis,” activists and policymakers will steer the public-school system in a more “boy friendly” direction. After all, that’s the tactic they embraced when sounding alarms about a “girl crisis.” You could say they’re unintentionally right to want to stop that from happening — it would be a terrible policy outcome, since there is no one best way to educate a boy or a girl of any race or income level.

If only the AAUW were sincere in their desire to move beyond the obsession with sex-specific outcomes. After all, the issue really shouldn’t be whether we call it a boy crisis, a girl crisis, or an inner-city crisis. The problem is simply that too many public schools aren’t helping children make the most of their potential.

In an interview at Inside Higher Ed, Thomas Mortensen, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute, found fault with AAUW’s reasoning too:

Thomas Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, didn’t question the specific numbers in the report or the idea that both male and female students can succeed at the same time. “Women have made huge progress in education over the last six decades,” he said. “The success of women is a great story — it shows what we can do when we set our minds to task.”

But he said that in 1970, when he started his career in higher education policy analysis, there were 1.5 million more men than women in higher education and “I recall vividly that women complained that this was a crisis. Now there are 2.7 million more women than men in higher education and the feminists assert that this is not a crisis. What am I missing here?”

He noted the hugely disproportionate rates of suicide among men who are 25 to 34, and of incarceration, and asked how this could be anything but a crisis.

“The hypocrisy of the feminists — AAUW being a major part of this — astounds me,” Mortenson said. “The fact is male lives are falling apart at the growing margins of male welfare, and the utter failure of the education system to address male needs on male terms is indeed a crisis. We have shown what the education system can do for women when we set our minds to it.”

I’ve only been blogging here at Saving Sports for a couple of weeks now, but one of the most formative experiences I’ve had since my arrival is a conversation I had with Reggie Torrence, a former wrestler at Howard University who had his program cut due to Title IX back in 2002.

Over the course of our conversations, Torrence told me something that’s going to stick with me forever: While he was at Howard, there were a large number of female dormitories. But there was only one for men. And it wasn’t full.

Today, a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities are approaching the sort of gender balance that, if the numbers were reversed, would have professional feminists screaming for bloody murder. There’s a problem, and it isn’t being addressed. And the AAUW seems quite content to let it get worse.

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