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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Leaving the boys behind

    Janne Peronacolumnist
    Janne Perona
    columnist

    Up through the 1980s, there was a major national push for women to do better in school. Corporations and government institutions stressed the importance of women in science and engineering; colleges tried to increase female enrollment.

    Now it seems that the coin has flipped.

    According to recent studies, girls outperform boys in primary and secondary school and have higher high school graduation rates and higher rates of college admission. In Arizona, the disparity is startling: Statistics published online by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne show that girls score more than five percent higher on the AIMS reading and writing sections at all four tested grade levels.

    Schools across America report having high female-to-male ratios on honor rolls and in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes, according to The New York Times. For the class of 2004 in Arizona, graduation rates among white students were 88.7 percent for females and 83.7 percent for males. The percentage gaps were nearly identical for Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American students.

    At the UA, female students outnumber male students. This school year, there were 15,123 female undergraduates compared to 13,339 males. The numbers were similar at the graduate level – 4,558 females for 4,016 males. Almost 62 percent of the Honors College is female.

    The gender incongruity spans from early elementary school through college, and it is clear that there is something wrong with our education system from the very beginning; the question is what.

    It’s true that boys still dominate in traditionally “”male”” subjects like math and science, and boys perform better on the math portion of the AIMS test. But in most other areas, boys are left in the dust.

    The gender
    incongruity spans from early elementary school through college, and it is clear that there is something wrong with our education system from the very beginning.

    In Boston, a male high school senior filed a lawsuit against his school for discriminatory practices favoring girls. He claims that “”Girls face fewer restrictions from teachers, like being able to wander the hallways without passes, and girls are rewarded for abiding by the rules, while boys’ more rebellious ways are punished,”” according to The Boston Globe.

    His solutions – like boosting boys’ grades retroactively and encouraging male enrollment in AP or honors courses by instituting pass/fail grades for multiple classes – are far-fetched. However, his complaint brings to light the practices of favoritism permeating our schools.

    From the moment we step into kindergarten we are told to sit quietly, raise our hands if we have questions and walk single-file – rules girls have an easier time following than active and rebellious boys.

    Rather than integrating aspects of both dispositions into lesson plans, teachers favor the socializing inclinations of girls over the singular and active proclivities of boys.

    Much of this is due to the prominence of female teachers who expect female behaviors from students of both genders. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, teachers in the U.S. for the 2002-2003 school year were 91 percent female in pre-primary grades, 88 percent in primary and 65 percent in secondary.

    Boys tend to work solo and excel at concrete thinking. They do better in subjects with one correct answer, such as math and science. Girls, on the other hand, are group-oriented and are usually good at abstract thinking. Answering questions with multiple or no right answer and subjects in the humanities are usually easiest.

    However, schoolwork tends to be oriented toward female learning abilities. This causes boys to become discouraged and frustrated, leading to lower rates of success and a problem for society in general.

    There are, however, two short-term solutions.

    The first is the recruitment of more male teachers. Having more male teachers to serve as positive role models for boys is imperative, yet they are in extremely short supply. School districts need to actively recruit male teachers, and universities should increase male recruitment for their education programs.

    The second is curbing discriminatory practices among teachers and administrators. Now, teachers tend to only question boys in the hallway because boys are usually the troublemakers; schools need to stress discipline distributed fairly and equally. This also applies to assignments and grading scales.

    A more long-term goal would be to conduct additional research to more fully understand the root cause of why boys are falling behind in order to create a more holistic and encompassing solution.

    Educational equity is one of our most valued standards because education is the key to a successful future. Unfortunately, that success is disproportionately enjoyed by girls, and our boys are being left behind.

    Janne Perona is a criminal justice administration sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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