International Opinion

Canadians Taking a Hard Look at Their Boy Troubles

By Richard Whitmire — October 17, 2010 1 min read
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There’s more interest in the gender gaps in Canada (and England, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere) than you find in the United States, despite the fact the gaps are roughly the same. I can’t explain why. My only theory is that when the “boy troubles” first surfaced in this country they were seen as a right-wing assault on the gains made by feminists. (The highly influential book, “The War on Boys,” by Christina Hoff Sommers blamed feminists for the gender gaps. Consider the book’s subtitle: “How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men”).

As such, the gender gaps were dismissed by national women’s advocacy groups, especially the American Association of University Women, which developed a cottage industry dedicated to churning out position papers denying boys were in trouble. All this had the effect of making the issue controversial -- too controversial for education foundations or even the U.S. Department of Education to touch. In other countries I didn’t find the same level of political opposition.

As such, schools are left trying to close racial gaps under No Child Left Behind without even considering the gender influence within racial groups. Among African Americans, for example, I don’t see how you can possibly made progress in closing learning gaps without considering the very different school outcomes between blacks males and females.

This Globe and Mail piece out of Canada posits five reasons for boys falling behind. I don’t agree with their emphasis. For example, the “boy code” is very real and does affect boys’ performance in school, but where does it come from and why would it arise only in the last 25 years? My answer is the same I would give to another of their reasons, video games: first came the disaffection from school connected to literacy issues, then came the embrace of video games and boy code behavior.

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