Where the Girls Aren’t
What the media missed in the AAUW's report on gender equity.
In May, the American Association of University Women announced the good news that the much-ballyhooed “boys crisis” is a myth. In its study, entitled "Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education," the AAUW reports that both girls and boys are doing better in American schools compared with 30 years ago. Gender gaps in academic achievement are generally small and getting smaller, according to the association. The report has received prominent coverage in all major American media, including Education Week , and the coverage has been almost universally positive. ( "AAUW Sees No Educational Crisis for Boys," June 4, 2008.)
But there are substantial holes in the picture the AAUW is trying to paint. Over the past seven years, I have personally visited more than 200 schools around the United States, usually as a provider of professional development related to gender issues. I believe the AAUW report missed the point. There is a real gender gap, and it’s growing rapidly, but that gap has little to do with graduation rates or college-entrance rates, parameters that are given great emphasis in the report. The real gender gap is not in ability but in motivation—not in what girls and boys can do, but in what girls and boys want to do: specifically, in what they want to learn, and how they...
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