Education Opinion

Obama Ducking the School Gender Realities

By Richard Whitmire — March 03, 2010 1 min read
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Many of us, including me, hoped out loud that President Obama would use his position to tackle the school gender gaps -- at the very least, the steep gender gaps revealed among African American boys. As his recent speech on dropout prevention reveals, however, that’s unlikely to happen.

Here was an opportunity to point out that 32 percent of males drop out of high school, compared to 25 percent of females. He could have mentioned that 52 percent of black males drop out, compared to 39 percent of black females.

Obama could have mentioned that men who enter college are far less likely than women to finish. In urban areas such as Washington, there are three times as many college-educated black women as men. The social implications of that figure are staggering.

But he didn’t. Instead, he stuck with the traditional measurements:

Over 1 million students don't finish high school each year -- nearly one in three. Over half are African American and Latino. The graduation gap in some places between white students and classmates of color is 40 or 50 percent. And in cities like Detroit and Indianapolis and Baltimore, graduation rates hover around 30, 40 percent -- roughly half the national average.

In other countries it’s politically acceptable to refer directly to the gender gaps. This country remains the exception. And the one person who could shift the education accountability system in a direction to face those gender realities appears comfortable with the status quo.

There’s a price to pay for adhering to the status quo, however. His goal of making the United States first in the world in education achievement by 2020 is measured by those earning at least two years of college. Already, women earn 62 percent of those degrees. Does he really think he can achieve that goal without addressing why boys are faltering in our K-12 schools?

Apparently, the White House would rather fail at reaching the goal then engage an issue that might draw unwanted controversy.

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