Gender gap in education?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by SpeedoGuy, Jul 12, 2006.

  1. SpeedoGuy

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    There are an increasing number of news stories these days regarding the so-called "gender gap" in U.S. education. The perception is growing that American girls are generally outperforming American boys in test scores and graduation rates at all levels of schooling, from elementary through college. This naturally has ominous implications for today's generation of young men.

    I've heard a variety of explanations:

    One explanation holds that this generation's boys are unmotivated slackers more interested in sports or video games than studying. Another explanation holds that boys are not doing worse but, rather, girls are simply doing better. Yet another explanation holds that teaching methods in use by today's elementary schools unfairly favor girls over boys. The list goes on...

    Is the gender gap real, and, if so, why? Or is it just more media hype?

    I hope the educators on LPSG chime in and this becomess a lively topic.

    Some assorted links:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2005-10-19-male-college-cover_x.htm

    http://www.brookings.edu/views/op-ed/ravitch/19981217.htm

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20060705_ellen_goodman_boy_crisis/
     
  2. Altairion

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    I think boys in general are encouraged by society to be cool by appearing not to care, so a lot of them don't in the end. Also, some guys would rather be independent instead of working with someone else when they would need help. Girls are more social and focused on getting things done, so they would not only be slightly more motivated to complete their tasks, but they would seek out someone else to explain things if they couldn't do it themselves.
     
  3. rawbone8

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    I thought that there had been a trend in the past for some teen girls to slack off so they would not appear to be too intimidating (or something) to guys, in a perverse way trying to appear more attractive to shallow guys by dumbing down and letting them feel superior.

    Perhaps they are not doing that as much now.

    Are the scores today any higher than in the past or still the same overall?
    I'd like to know on what basis they are comparing the achievements.
     
  4. Shelby

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    Schools encourage communication and discourage competition (losing theoretically damages self-esteem) more than in the past. Playing right into girls' natural abilities and working against boys'. This came about in part as a result of the feminist movement.

    It's telling that 90% of all ritalin addled adhd 'sufferers' are boys.

    I'm starting to think the education system would be better served if it were gender segregated from grades 1 - 12.
     
  5. SomeGuyOverThere

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    I think the biggest problem is probably what society currently regards as "cool" - that is the slacker, the rebel without a cause, the guy who "just doesn't give a shit".

    It's especially prevailent over here in Scotland... a large portion of the boys at school simply don't give a shit and are even proud about that - their ignorance makes them cool.

    Yes, some girls were like that, and althoguh I hate to make sweaping generalisations, I will anyway: it was mainly the "tom-boys", the quite masculine girls who were basically the sluts - the easy fucks - who were like that. Granted, some of them it wasn't their fault - they were just plain stupid - but like the boys, there were many girls who revelled in their ignorance, cultivated it, were proud of how stupid they were.

    They weren't the majority of girls I don't think: I think more girls were, as it has been said, a bit more social than that, and saw the point in education and pursuied it. Certainly, however, the ignorant and proud were the vast majority of the boys.


    So, whats wrong? Well, I think we have a society that values the action star overmuch, and not intelligence. I mean, has it ever occured to you that the badguy in most action films is the smart one? He is the "Evil Genius" after all! What kind of a message does that send out?

    Certainly, I was labelled the "Evil Genius" even at halls at university, simply because I was quiet and did the work and went to every lecture and tutorial I could physically make it to. Although at uni there wasn't as much poison in that title as there was at school, it says a lot about intelligent people (blowing my own trumpet again... ouch, there goes my back) and how valued or otherwise they are in society today.

    I really think we have to lose the idea of igorance being a virtue - we need to bring back, bizarrely enough, comic book heros. I mean, look at comic books: they are stories told by... dare I say it? nerds. Stories told about nerds acheiveing great things through accident or design.

    I mean lets take a look at some famous comic book heros:
    • Spiderman starts off as a nerd, then becomes a mutant and becomes the 'hero' (though I think Spiderman wasn't quite a clear cut as that...)
    • Batman, well, he's an out and out Goth isn't he? He sits in a cave and wears black all the time and fiddles with his computers, but he's the hero.
    • Superman - Alien/Nerd... Samething.
    • Judge Dread - well, you need a law degree to be a Judge don't you? Nerd.
    But seriously, I think if being smart was cool, you'd find that boys are jsut as capable as girls... it's just they're more susceptible to whats "cool".
     
  6. stud_hunter

    stud_hunter New Member

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    I think it depends on where you live. I grew up in a small city in Michigan and girls did not have the same expectations on them to have a career as boys did. It was pretty rediculous if you ask me. I think in that culture girls were supposed to be well-behaved and boys were allowed to be boys - you know, "boys will be boys." So the guys were allowed to skip studying for football practice and things like that. So we were supposed to be well-behaved and do our homework but at the same time there was no expectation for us to have a career or go to college. Pretty rediculous. But I live in southern California now and I think the expectations on boys and girls are a little more even here.
     
  7. SpeedoGuy

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    I suspect this effect has always been true to some extent. Do you think its any more true now than, say, a generation ago?

    That's what I want to know as well. Are boys' test scores and graduation rates really declining? Some insist its so, others say just the opposite. I haven't seen a clear answer yet which is why I opened this topic.

    Shelby, I have heard this as well but I've yet to see an example of it beyond occasional anecdotes. Are there bona fide studies showing that teaching techniques now put boys at a real disadvantage?

    SomeGuy, believe me when I say I'm surprised to hear what you say. I was under the impression that the perception of boys' underachievement was a U.S. problem. I guess I was operating under the naive assumption that the generally higher quality of U.K. and European schools automatically translated into better student involvement and academic performance without gender distinctions.

    I think what you said was very true for a number of generations (it certainly was for my parents' generation). To wit: Why should the boys bother to spend much time studying when the U.S. economy provided well paying jobs to craftsmen and tradesmen? Those jobs are becoming scarce now, though. I think we'd better develop a more realistic ethic about education in an increasingly competetive world economy.

    I find this a fascinating topic. I hope others continue to add to this thread.
     
  8. Lordpendragon

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    Post feminist PC culture (found strongest in the state sector) is to factor out or ignore the X chromosome factor.

    Boys like to be respected as boys and prefer to be taught by men - the State is denying them both and they will continue to suffer as a result.
     
  9. Pensive Josh

    Pensive Josh New Member

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    I would have to guess that women nowadays are more encouraged to seek higher education because households with both a working man and woman are much more prevalent than they were say...50 years ago. I can't really say if men are falling behind in scholastic performance, but I know getting a good education is very high on my list of priorities.
     
  10. Amazoncongo

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    Statistics prove nothing. If you take 10 people 5 girls and five boys and all the girls and 2 boys are A students, and 3 of the boys are f students the statistic show one thing. But if you have a group of 20 people,10 boys and 10 girls with 7 of the boys A students, and 4 girls A with the rest being f students they say another. poll take a percentage an manipulate people into believing crazy theories.
     
  11. Ineligible

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    My impression here is that high school academic requirements have become biased towards things girls tend to be better at. Science, for example, is taught with a strong emphasis on social aspects. Everything, even practical subjects, is being assessed through reports, which leaves students who are poor at writing (who tend to be boys) with nothing they can be good at.
     
  12. Lordpendragon

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    This has been going on for about ten years in the UK. The statistics do support it but the best evidence comes from personal experience and a great series run by our Sunday Times in which some of our most famous academic women recounted their own experiences of their sons being failed by the new type of education.
     
  13. DC_DEEP

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    I'm sensing about 33 different dissertations in this topic.

    There are lots of factors that figure in the "gender statistics" in education. Fads come and go in pedagogy. In my formative years, "new math" was all the buzz. It was ludicrous... addition became a 4-step process instead of a 2-step process, long division was out in favor of a horrible "factor&solve" 8-step method... and those methods were dropped in about 4 years after their introduction, because students just were not learning. When I was taking my education block courses, the current fad was "Program for Effective Teaching," or PET. Most of it was common sense (the catchphrase was T2O, or "teach to the objecive"... duh!), but someone somewhere in a doctoral education program had to come up with a thesis, PET was it, and it became a certification requirement in several states... and was dropped about 5 years later. Having a variety of teaching methods in one's arsenal is a good thing, but in my first 12 years of being a student, they tried out so many different fads it just confused the hell out of me.

    The current trend of trying to be so "politically correct" and "building the child's confidence" at the expense of actually ensuring a solid education is sad. Sure, school should be a place where kids can learn some social skills, but it should not simply be one big therapy session to establish self-esteem. In my humble opinion, the goal of public education should be 40% giving the students knowledge and facts, and 60% teaching them how to learn. Kinda like the old saying about giving him a fish, or teaching him how to fish.

    "No Child Left Behind" is by far the most insidious fad developed so far. As an unfunded federal mandate, it does lots of harm but precious little good. A huge problem I have seen in the past two decades is that the "educational experts" and the policy-makers tend to get so far out of the loop, so out of touch with the actual classroom, all their good intentions do not mean a damned thing. Lawmakers need to back off. Education experts should make the policies, but should also be required to spend a percentage of time actually in the trenches. Instead of being isolated in an office at the Department of Education for 15 years, they should (for example) spend 2 years in the Department, and then 2 years teaching, actual-hands-on-in-the-classroom-teaching-students teaching. Or 4 years on, 4 off, and rotating through - with new board members replacing one-fourth of the current members each year, that would give a little continuity.

    But probably the biggest improvement would be to just encourage all students, male or female, in whatever subject area they have interest. Don't discourage boys from taking home econ or art or music, don't discourage girls from taking shop class or chemistry or physics.

    During my high school years, for a large segment of the student population, it just was not "cool" for boys to excel academically. I really didn't give a shit about peer pressure; for about the first quarter, I took some heat. But when other students saw that I really did not care what they thought, suddenly I was "cool". I saw some really intelligent guys waste their high school years because they were worried about what others would think.
     
  14. Ethyl

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    Back in grade school in Northern California, my test scores qualified me for the gifted program but school officials were hesitant about placing me in a class of four (male) students. My mother raised a ruckus until they relented. To everyone's surprise, I fit right in with the boys, our instructor treated us all equally, and she created an environment of respect for knowledge and one another.

    Fast forward to high school: my family moved to Kansas and my education resources plummeted to an all-time low. Girls were not encouraged to excel in school and enrolling in classes like shop, drafting, and welding were out of the question. I asked to be enrolled in the drafting class and my guidance counselor had the nerve to ask me why and comment "it's not like you're going to do anything with it later" (not only do I hand draft architectural plans, i'm proficient in AutoCAD. If he only knew). Then I enrolled in college (3 times) and my experience was more positive with each passing enrollment.

    I wonder if we're nearing the end of an educational pendulum swing and the gender gap will close when it returns to the middle. The reports i've read say there are more female college and university graduates than ever, but both genders are also more educated now than in previous years. The number of females seeking education and employment in the math and science fields are growing, but they are still a dismal minority. Maybe instead of looking at the general percentages, we should see exactly how those percentages are broken down by occupation as well as education.
     
  15. dong20

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    SomeGuy I think you make a good point. It's been a long time since I was at school but part of my work is with schools. One client is a fee paying school and the children are in general well motivated (also parent driven I expect) and I see no real difference between the sexes beyond a 'background' norm.

    But in the state sector it's often a rather different story and there is a marked difference, not really in aptitude but attitude between boys and girls, and especially black males who seem to do comparatively very much worse. Like you, I suspect that it has a great deal to do with "cool to be dumb" peer pressure.

    It's one thing to play uneducated hence not 'nerdy' but actually being uneducated? Well that's a problem because by the time adolescent peer pressure is less acute the damage is done and we risk having a generation of, in effect semi-literate young adults with a stong gender bias.

    I don't know MB, I hope so. Sometimes I wonder if in 100 years from now the situation could be nearer what it was 100 years ago but with gender polarisations reversed. I know that's extreme and probably unlikely but who knows. Any gender bias that extreme is a recipe for a truly unhealthy society.

    Certainly, when I was at school there was the same pressure that you alluded to, boys were 'pushed' down the science and manual skills route and girls down the softer 'social skills' route on the premise that no one wanted a female ABC. On the flip side, any boy wanting to study say Domestic Science or sociolgy was often thought of as somehow sissy or stupid and not just by his peers. Thank God things have improved in that regard at least and of course we all know the best Chefs are men.:wink:

    Certainly it would appear it's not restricted to the US or UK. It truly seems to be a global and growing phenomenon and, not a recent one:
    BBC article from 2003. I always suspected that girls are smarter than boys when they work as hard, perhaps it's true!

    I hope you are right and society will soon find a more stable equilibrium between social pressure to take the lazy option and self motivation to do one's best. As I see it right now the latter is suffering, largely under the influence of the former and right now boys seem to have it worse.

    What nags at me is that the current generation of school leavers will soon start to father the next. There is an 'assumption' that each generation aims for its progeny to surpass them. But what if, as parents they see themselves as successful despite, or worse because of their passing aquaintance with meaningful education what incentive will they really offer their children to strive for better?

    If that happens to a signficant degree the 'problem' as we see it today may become that generations 'norm' and we're going backwards. Coupled with the growing intransigence of our governmental institutions I find that a disturbing scenario if a rather pressimsitic one.
     
  16. Ethyl

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  17. rawbone8

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    I disagree with the term you employed here.

    I think a better characterization is "cool to not care". Slackers are not by any means uniformly unintelligent as a group nor necessarily proud of being seen as such.

    The education system uses scoring and grading achievements to set the measures. Those who don't respect the system and don't play by its rules could generally care less about their grades and many put in the minimum effort necessary to simply avoid getting the boot. Poorly programmed curriculum is one major problem, hackneyed teachers (protected by very powerful unions) is another, but lack of motivation from the student, peers and most importantly from his or her family seem to be the most critical factors.

    I agree with your distinction that the failings of a group is related more to attitude not aptitude.
     
  18. madame_zora

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    I would tend to believe that the fact that fewer and fewer children are growing up with good same sex role models is having an effect on education. We have a huge percentage of female heads of household where there really isn't an interested father, and this is a disadvantage to boys. Males and females DO learn differently, and generally speaking, boys DO take longer to mature. I hate how so many young boys are being put on ritalin and such drugs when they are just enthusiastic. "Bad behavior" used to be something that teachers could bring to the attention of PARENTS, and work on solutions together. Now the poor kid is just put on drugs and his spirit is broken, not a good thing for any of us.

    Larger class sizes make an educator's job more difficult, but tracking down fathers has become increasingly difficult. Women raising boys alone need to get a male involved with them, whether it be an uncle or a family friend who is willing to make a committment to the boy's raising, or much that is "male" can be lost. Same for men raising girls alone, while this is not as common, is does exist. Women and men bring different tools to the table in child rearing and I think the best learners come from homes where they have more influences than one. The best "balanced" kids have always come from households where there is extended family involvement and more sources of information and affirmation for the child.

    Too many of our American families are single women with absentee fathers. These women are working two jobs to keep food on the table and a roof on their heads. They come home and try to do homework with their kids, but if there's any special problem, there's just no time or energy left to deal with them. Our boys are slipping through the cracks because no one's there to catch them. Drugs should be a LAST resort, and by last, I mean, when ALL other options have been fully investigated.

    People who WANT to be parents make much better parents than people who become parents by accident. When family planning is not a subject of interest in our society, then we are doomed to reap the rewards of the bad behavior of all of us. Crack whores don't make good mothers, and men who don't want kids don't make good fathers. Think a little bit, people. Men AND women- if you bring children into the world, pay attention to the little fuckers once in a while, or wait until you're ready to become parents.
     
  19. dong20

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    Yes, I think 'cool to act dumb' may be a little nearer but your suggestion works fine for me too. I wasn't meaning to suggest that they were unintelligent, merely, as result of 'slacking' were increasingly ill educated and thus appeared so and that to some this was somehow appealing.

    As for the behavioural aspect, I do believe it's real. To me it's rather analagous to the 'traditional' lampooning of the nerd, yet taken to a new level where even someone of average intelligence is somehow to be scorned.

    It's normal for children to 'buck the system', it's in their job description but by taking this particular path to this extreme, they, the boys are risking doing themselves real long term damage. The evidence that this is already happening is incontravertable.

    There has been something of a push, albeit an intermittent one on improving adult literacy in England in recent years. It fails to tackle to problem at source but calling it bandaid is also probably overly harsh. If you're interested the DFES has a dedicated adult literacy curriculum. It's aimed at educators but is accessible by all.

    Indeed....the belief that to 'compete' equally, girls actually need to work twice as hard is still alive and often true. A sad corollary is that in doing so they frequently expose themselves to sexual predjudice in the workplace because, if they are as 'ruthless' and competent as men, well, they can't be real women can they and so must be treated as men.:rolleyes:

    I do get your point and I think social and thus educational change over the last 30 years has forced (western) societies as a whole to finally realise and accept, grudgingly in many cases that women can and should compete at the same level as men. It's a shame it took legislation to even attempt to level that playing field.

    Most of this impetus has come from women themselves. And, as you suggest, over the same period there has been little or no incentive for men to work harder as they still hold that latent belief that overall, 'the breaks will fall their way'. While that belief still holds a signifcant degree of truth the times they are a changing.

    Aside:
    I don't believe that women are intrinsically more intelligent than men. What I meant but expressed poorly was that I think that compared to men, at any given level of 'intelligence' women are, on balance, less prone to reverting to ego, bluff and aggression to 'cover up' a lack of knowledge when trapped in an intellectual cul de sac on a given subject. And more open to working to overcome it. Or, perhaps they are simply more gracious and competent than men at covering up any shortfalls, real or perceived.:wink:


    I was being a bit of a doom monger I think. I don't know if we're actually retreating but it's not in keeping with human nature to even stand still for long, so either way it's an issue of concern. The added worry is that those who's task it will be to address the problem are increasingly at risk of failing to see that there is a problem to address.....:eek:

    I agree that one could reasonably expect the spectre of 'girls being smarter than boys' to provoke a desire to at least redress the balance.:tongue:

    To explore the flip side of my original argument, I'd suggest that it's not insecurity, but rather misplaced faith that a system formerly biased so strongly in favour of men and which, in the past had compensated for a lacklustre education will continue to do so for them today. If so, then I suspect a great many of the male school leavers are in for a rather rude awakening. And it may be that that will drive them to ensure their children don't make the same mistake.

    Thus, perhaps that pendulum will, as you suggest swing back a little over the next educational cycle. One can only hope.
     
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