Giving Compass' Take:
- There's been a recent decline in male college enrollment and graduation, and academic experts are trying to understand how best to address this problem.
- One scholar argues that improvements made in literacy practice can help address the current male education crisis. How can donors support programs that encourage new evidence-based literacy instruction approaches for boys?
- Read how to support child literacy.
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A recent dramatic dip in male college enrollment and graduation flushed out multiple academic experts to explain why. The academics sound smart, and they all offer valid pieces of the puzzle.
Problem is, I get the impression none of them has ever reported from an actual elementary school, where these gender gaps start.
This week, New York Times writer Thomas Edsall produced another of his great deep academic dives into an issue, this time the “boy troubles.” The theories from the academics appeared to reflect their personal areas of research: fatherless families, jobs offshoring, a constant need to act macho and the slowly maturing male brain.
One example, from Frances Elizabeth Jensen, chair of the department of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, responding to Edsall’s query:
Teens go through a period of increased emotional fluctuation and are like a Ferrari with weak brakes. The emotional center of the brain, the limbic system, which controls emotions, is fully connected, but the frontal lobe that sharpens critical thinking isn’t well-connected. That means the part of the brain that makes them pause and say to themselves, “Bad idea. Don’t post that on Facebook because it might hurt my chances of getting a job in the future” or “Don’t jump in the lake, there may be a rock,” isn’t mature.
I get that, especially after watching over my grandsons. How do they ever survive through high school?
The issue I have with all their theories is that most don’t explain the recent decline. Boys have always had slower-maturing brains. And none of them appear to dive into elementary school classrooms where, as best as I could determine while researching my 2011 book, Why Boys Fail, many of these recent gender problems originate.
First: the recent news about men: A Wall Street Journal piece about the slipping numbers of men enrolling and graduating from college expertly laid out the dilemma. Soon, there will be two females earning bachelor’s degrees for every one male.
In my book, I sifted through multiple explanations offered for boys falling behind, and settled on one that can both explain the recent boys-failing phenomenon and is not immutable: literacy shortfalls.
Read the full article about male education crisis by Richard Whitmire at The 74.