Reality Coming Into Relief: Boys Education Needs Attention
Thomas Mortenson’s latest study on the ways that American economic and educational changes affect men, “Economic Change Effects on Men And Implications for the Education of Boys,” receives a good airing by Sarah Sparks through her Education Week blog “Inside School Research.”
Boys, and men, falling behind women, and girls, isn’t a new topic. The numbers, and realities, have been in sunlight for some time now.
What’s so interesting is that no-one seems to be acting with any urgency, or alacrity, to do anything about it- save the seemingly few handfuls of schools and researchers that focus on boys learning.
Sparks scored an interview with Mortenson hitting these highlights:
- “In 2010, 72.8 percent of children lived with a father, down from 88.8 percent in 1960, when these data were first reported.
- In 2010, 62.8 percent of young men who graduated from high school enrolled in college, up 7.6 percentage points from 1970, but far below the continuation rate for young women—74 percent in 2010, up 25.5 percentage points from 1970. ‘Each spring, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out its spring study on recent high school graduates, and I’ve been compiling that data since 1959,’ Mortenson told [Sparks]. ‘The gap between males and females is now greater than 10 percentage points, and it’s never been that wide before’ favoring girls during his years of analysis.
- Boys ages 6 to 14 are more than twice as likely as girls to have a developmental disability and three times as likely to be diagnosed with mental retardation.” (EdWeek)
Mortenson provides an interesting two fold quick analysis; the first piece of which is obvious. We’ve (American education) spent the last 25 years focusing on girls’ educational and economic achievement without a lot attention to the ways, and hows regarding boys’ development. (Whether, or not, we’ve achieved our goals for girls is fodder for another discussion.)
We (educators) assumed boys were doing fine and would continue that way. Beware assumptions.
“Mortenson told me he thinks school format is partly to blame, with greater focus on writing and test preparation and fewer opportunities for active projects. As he puts it: ‘Boys have to be doing something: Things have to be blowing up or being built or going really fast. If you ask them to sit down and write and read, more physically passive activities will turn off boys before they turn off girls.”
‘…My perception over the last 40 years is we’ve provided a lot of support and encouragement for girls to try and take on new things,’ he said, ‘but I’ve also seen no special effort to encourage boys to take on different subjects…’ (EdWeek)
Mortenson’s second observation is the most interesting. While traditionally male workforce fields opened to women- and, women were encouraged to grow into them,- traditionally female occupations have yet to become culturally viable options to males.
“‘A growing percentage of boys are not getting the education they need for the industries that are growing, like health and service sectors,’ [Mortenson] added. ‘I’ve tried to say to boys, ‘If you want a good job, think about becoming a nurse’ … but nobody ever introduces boys to entering these traditionally female occupations, and someone needs to do that.’”
It’s time to examine the notion if we might become a healthier culture, and economy, if we were to begin to dispel, and break down, assumptions about inherent gender disposition toward particular professions.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be free to pursue the field that interests you free of stereotype?
Why can’t boys grow-up to teach elementary school?
Sparks post contains a link to Mortenson’s study results.