Education Letter to the Editor

‘Gender War’ Argument Is Counterproductive

February 09, 2010 1 min read

To the Editor:

We must take exception to Richard Whitmire’s mischaracterization of the American Association of University Women’s view of academic underachievement on the part of male students. He is simply wrong when he asserts in a recent post on his Why Boys Fail blog (“The Liberals’ Explanation for the Boy Troubles,”; edweek.org, Jan. 21, 2010) that the AAUW would simply say, “What boy troubles?”

The fact is that the difficulties students face in the classroom are not primarily a function of gender. Our 2008 research report “Where the Girls Are” dispelled the myth of an overall boys’ education crisis, and called for refocused attention on the deep divisions among schoolchildren by race, ethnicity, and family-income level. That is where the bulk of the education disparities lie, despite Mr. Whitmire’s intentional disregard of the evidence.

When he talks about boys falling behind, he speaks too broadly and actively ignores the test scores of white, Asian, and high-income boys, which show that they are doing well by standard educational measures. Mr. Whitmire’s claim is not just a rhetorical disservice; it also misdirects the possible policy solutions and education reforms that could help those students most in need of improvement.

It is essential for us as a society to put the counterproductive “gender war” argument to rest and work toward real solutions that will result in every student’s having the best learning experience possible. The AAUW remains committed to ensuring strong academic principles and closing achievement gaps for all children.

Linda D. Hallman

Executive Director
American Association of University Women
Washington, D.C.

A version of this article appeared in the February 10, 2010 edition of Education Week as ‘Gender War’ Argument Is Counterproductive