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College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

Saving the “Lost Boys”

By Richard Whitmire — October 03, 2011 1 min read
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That’s the headline of an interesting commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Actually, the point of the commentary is why so little is being done to rescue boys.

Author Robert Smith speculates:

So why the inaction on the so-called lost boys? One effort seems to have stalled amid apparent lack of interest: a proposal to establish a White House Council on Boys to Men, spearheaded by the author Warren Farrell, who has published several books about gender relations and what he views as the myth of male social advantage. The lack of progress may stem from our sense that males hold all the cards--an impression undiminished by the abundant research documenting their struggles, which affect boys and men regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Contemplated in the abstract, the image of hard-working women giving a bunch of masculine underachievers their comeuppance after eons of patriarchy might seem just. But the realities of the new gender gap are nothing to celebrate.

Smith would like the White House to create a Council on Boys to Men. That would help. From my perspective, the most important first step has to come from the U.S. Department of Education, which could launch research into the issue. Just that research alone would alert K-12 educations to the gender gaps.

Yes, believe it not, there’s little awareness in the schools, mostly because accountability systems such as No Child Left Behind ignore gender. School superintendents and principals are swamped. Why pay attention to issues that aren’t necessary?

School leaders are aware that minority boys are lagging. Thus, they see it as a minority issue -- something that will get solved only when poverty get solved. Which means not in our lifetime. That allows schools to escape blame.

But further research is likely to point to school-based causes as well. I maintain that minority boys are lagging for some of the same reasons white boys from blue collar families are doing so poorly -- literacy shortcomings at a time when literacy demands have soared.

Schools are not entirely to blame. But neither are they blameless. At this point, however, they are allowed to act that way.

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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.