Monday, February 4, 2013

Gender differences

Most girls have always been better at "teacher pleasing" than most boys and now that compensating advantages boys had have diminished, the problem of their lack of achievement has grown. In "The Boys at the Back" Christina Hoff Sommers tells us what has happened, why it is important, and what might be done:
Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. Why? A study coming out this week in The Journal of Human Resources gives an important answer. ....

The study’s authors analyzed data from more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.

The scholars attributed this “misalignment” to differences in “noncognitive skills”: attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently. As most parents know, girls tend to develop these skills earlier and more naturally than boys. ....

.... Over all, it’s likely that girls have long behaved better than boys at school (and earned better grades as a result), but their early academic success was not enough to overcome significant subsequent disadvantages.... Those disadvantages have lessened since about the 1970s. Parents, especially those of education and means, began to value their daughters’ human capital as much as their sons’. ...[W]hile workplace inequities persisted, changing attitudes, legislation and litigation began to level the occupational playing field.

As these shifts were occurring, girls began their advance in education. ....

There are some who say, well, too bad for the boys. If they are inattentive, obstreperous and distracting to their teachers and peers, that’s their problem. After all, the ability to regulate one’s impulses, delay gratification, sit still and pay close attention are the cornerstones of success in school and in the work force. It’s long past time for women to claim their rightful share of the economic rewards that redound to those who do well in school. ....

A few decades ago, when we realized that girls languished behind boys in math and science, we mounted a concerted effort to give them more support, with significant success. Shouldn’t we do the same for boys? ....

...[W]e can follow the example of the British, the Canadians and the Australians. They have openly addressed the problem of male underachievement. They are not indulging boys’ tendency to be inattentive. Instead, they are experimenting with programs to help them become more organized, focused and engaged. These include more boy-friendly reading assignments (science fiction, fantasy, sports, espionage, battles); more recess (where boys can engage in rough-and-tumble as a respite from classroom routine); campaigns to encourage male literacy; more single-sex classes; and more male teachers (and female teachers interested in the pedagogical challenges boys pose). ....[more]
The Boys at the Back - NYTimes.com
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