Education Opinion

Score: LAT 1; NYT, 0

By Richard Whitmire — January 25, 2010 1 min read
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Today’s editorial in the L.A. Times examines the college gender gaps, concludes that admitting slightly less qualified males is justified and then moves on to the heart of the matter: Why is this happening?

Theories and arguments abound. Some say that boys are more active and thus less able to sit still for long periods -- and as a result, more likely to be categorized as having attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or needing special education. A 2008 study by researchers at Northwestern University found that when girls are involved in a language-related task -- such as reading -- they show more activity in areas of the brain involved in encoding language. Boys use more sensory information to do linguistic tasks. The study suggests boys might do better if they were taught language arts in different ways. Race is a factor as well. The gender gap is starker among African American and Latino students. There may be no one reason -- or solution. But figuring out ways to help boys achieve in school is a better response to the gender gap than making it easier for them to get into college later.

Nice...we need more analysis like that.

Now the New York Times, which normally is spot on about this topic, attempts here to put a smiley face on the marriage mate dilemma. Will women opt to marry down?

Not a problem, we’re told. These marriages where the woman earns more, is better educated, or both, are working out nicely, according to the anecdotes offered here, because they are more equitable. Reminds me of the years I spent writing for small newspapers. String together more than three anecdotes and you have a trend to write about, we would joke. And then we would turn around and do exactly that.

My favorite part is where marriage expert Stephanie Coontz, director of research and education for the Council on Contemporary Families, says her husband is less educated and makes less (because he’s retired). No problems here, Coontz reports.

Sure, everything could work out nicely. But I’m skeptical. The only real-world example we have of this in the United States is with black women, who graduate from college at twice the rate of black men. A classic marriageable mate dilemma. So do they happily marry down? That’s not what I read into the marriage and out-of-wedlock birth rates for black women. Not seeing a lot of equitable magic at work.

I’m missing that exacting New York Times editor who normally would step in and demand: Give me more than anecdotes! Took a buyout, perhaps.

Will white women differ from black women in their response to the marriageable mate dilemma? Within a decade we should have that answer.

The opinions expressed in Why Boys Fail are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.