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In recent years, it appears that girls have overtaken boys in terms of education. More girls are going to college and graduating, and they're testing better than boys at earlier levels. This has created a certain level of panic amongst those  who find it almost impossible to believe that in an equal playing field, girls simply couldn't possibly be better than boys.

This article does a good job explaining this phenomenon in American public schools, as well as highlighting the panic that it's sent John Q. Public into. As the article illustrates:

A consistent trend emerges across these subjects: There have been no dramatic changes in the performance of boys in recent years, no evidence to indicate a boy crisis. Elementary-school-age boys are improving their per­form­ance; middle school boys are either improving their per­form­ance or showing little change, depending on the subject; and high school boys' achievement is declining in most subjects (although it may be improving in math).

Importantly, the author says To the extent that tales of declining boy perform­ance are grounded in real data, they're usually framed as a decline relative to girls. That's because, as described above, boy perform­ance is generally staying the same or increasing in absolute terms.

As you can see, there isn't really much of a crisis with boys' education, though they do try to claim it. What I found interesting this morning is that this isn't a uniquely American phenomenon. I was reading Le Monde today, and ran across an article that shows there's a similar thing going on in France, albeit with less panic.

Parallèlement, les filles ont rattrapé, puis dépassé le niveau scolaire des garçons : en 1971, les bachelières étaient plus nombreuses que les bacheliers ; en 1975, les étudiantes plus nombreuses que les étudiants. Aujourd'hui, les filles réussissent mieux leur scolarité que les garçons : elles redoublent moins souvent, ont moins de difficultés en lecture et obtiennent des taux de réussite plus élevés au brevet comme au baccalauréat.

(Please forgive my terrible translation)

Similarly, girls overtook, then surpassed the academic level of boys: In 1971, there were more girls passing le Bac than boys; in 1975, more female college students then male. Today girls are more academically successful than boys: they increase less often, are less difficult in class and obtain the rank of success higher on le Bac.

Despite this academic lead in both the States and France, women aren't coming anywhere near surpassing men in the professional world, either in status or in pay. I'm sure you can find a bajillion citations of this for the States, but in France "Les progrès considérables des performances scolaires des filles ne se sont pas accompagnés d'une amélioration proportionnelle de leur statut professionnel et familial", regrettent Christian Baudelot et Roger Establet dans Quoi de neuf chez les filles ? (Nathan)."

"The considerable progress of women's scholastic performance isn't accompanied by a proportional improvement of their professional or familial status," Christian Baudelot and Roger Establet regret in Quoi de neuf chez filles?"

As you can see, there isn't a real male disadvantage, either in school or work. Men aren't being held back, but aren't progressing at the same levels academically as their female peers, and furthermore maintain their professional status.

So, why the panic? Why did Newsweek print "The Boy Crisis. At every level of education, they're falling behind. What to do?"

—Newsweek cover headline, Jan. 30, 2006

Why are people interested in education all over the internet freaking out? Where's the problem?

Originally posted to sunflwrmoonbeam on Mon Nov 26, 2007 at 11:46 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ka-ching. (5+ / 0-)

    So, why the panic? Why did Newsweek print "The Boy Crisis. ...

    It sells magazines.  Ka-ching.

    Fear will keep the local systems in line. -Grand Moff Tarkin Survivor Left Blogistan

    by boran2 on Mon Nov 26, 2007 at 11:55:48 AM PST

    •  The old boy's club is scared. They may have to (5+ / 0-)

      hire and promote women to fill jobs in numbers they can't excuse as "affirmative." They can't stand being on equal footing with a "skirt". Same old. I excelled in math, science and engineering. After 30 years as a professional engineer I was still told by male bosses how shocked they were by how well my projects went compared to their "guys". Couldn't figure out how I did it. Couldn't be I was smarter, more experienced and capable, nah.

  •  actually (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, GreyHawk, dennisl

    there was a study out that among young professionals in cities like NYC (and perhaps a few others) women were outearning men of the same age and background, so maybe it's one of those phenomena that takes a lot longer to change than people realize, but is not unchangeable. We can be impatient at times. With female enrollment in college now surpassing male, we may well see more results like this in the future. Of course, the education effect does get off-set by the kids effect later, but even that might change as women get to some kind of critical mass. I've been interested to see that well compensated professions like veterinary and OB/Gyn practices have been pretty much taken over by women in the past several years. But if it's true that male achievement is not dropping in absolute terms, where's the big deal, really?  

    Put the circular firing squad in the circular file.

    by JMS on Mon Nov 26, 2007 at 11:57:01 AM PST

    •  My understanding is that (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreyHawk, dazed in pa, irishwitch

      women are less able to translate scholastic achievement into professional status, even from their first entry level jobs. The clearest case is with MA level certifications, women are far more likely to have them, but women are also far more likely to need them in order to get that promotion. Men are much more likely to get the promotion without the cert.

      I fish about for links about this.

    •  linky (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, GreyHawk, irishwitch

      In the second section of this article:

      What Difference Does Education Make?

      Higher levels of education increase women’s earnings, just as they do for men. However, there is no evidence that the gender gap in wages closes at higher levels of education. If anything, the reverse is true: at the very highest levels of education, the gap is at its largest,

      •  that's how things are (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GreyHawk, irishwitch

        NOW...doesn't mean they can't change...they may just change so slowly that we can't claim progress yet. It may be that the study I saw was an outlier (and it applied only to a few cities like NYC), but as far as I can tell, it was the first study with a result like that at all (women outearning comparable men), so maybe it's a fluke, or maybe a first step...who knows

        Put the circular firing squad in the circular file.

        by JMS on Mon Nov 26, 2007 at 12:15:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  When I see reputable (5+ / 0-)

    indicators that men's EARNINGS are falling behind women's, I'll be really concerned.

    Until then, I have to wonder if this "discussion" about boys "falling behind" girls educationally is real--or sexist hysteria.

    •  Yup (6+ / 0-)

      WHich is why I posted this. I think it's an anti-feminist backlash, akin to "OMG! MEN AREN'T INHERENTLY SUPERIOR!" THe fact that they're slowly getting equal to and falling behind women seems to threaten the "natural order" of things. Thus, panic.

      •  Boy, do I agree! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Themistoclea, karmsy

        Girls catching up means men aren't superior in all things, which makes it harder to justify shoving women back into the kitchen, nursery and church as God commands.

        Ever notice how much money  anti-feminist women like Malkin and Coulter and the other broads at Concerned Women for America make tellign the rest of us to slink back into our God-ordained roles?  While COutler has never married because no sane man would have her, let alone borne a child, and Malkin's husband stays home with th e kiss....

        The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

        by irishwitch on Mon Nov 26, 2007 at 01:21:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  translation note - I think "redoublent" means to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    heartofblue, GreyHawk, irishwitch

    repeat a grade.

    I've also heard it said that the boys are pushing to keep up with the girls' achievements because they still don't have to, to do all right.

    •  I used (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      irishwitch for the 3 words I didn't know. THat was the closes I could come to make "redoublent" make sense.

      •  I had a hilarious encounter in Paris shortly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        after they introduced a new ticketing system. There were large signs up explaining it, and I could translate all but one word:

        For your ticket to be valid, you must compost it. It is only valid on the day you compost it. You can compost it at any station.

        Compost? You want me to rip up my ticket and bury it in leaves?

        As I was looking up at the sign, a classic French grandmother (barely five feet tall, dressed in black) comes to me and asks, "Qu'est-ce que c'est ce "composter'? (What does compost mean?)

  •  People freak out about everything. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But I'm a little disturbed however with the scornful nature of some of the comments in this diary.  If somebody is not learning as well as they can be, it doesn't matter what their sex is.  We need to be sensitive to the needs of boys and girls.  Don't let frustration with current gender-equity issues affect your opinion of current educational practices.

    •  The thing is... (4+ / 0-)

      Boys are largely staying at the level they've been at. They just aren't improving as fast as girls are, and the girls are catching up. Thus, there's not actually a problem unless you (general you) think that boys need to be better than girls at all times, and any variation of that is unnatural.

      •  Hear, hear (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cali Scribe, irishwitch, Themistoclea

        As I understand it, sunflwrmoonbeam's point is that the terms of the whole
        "discussion" about gender inequities in academic performance, are sexist. The stories in the big magazines like Newsweek, they aren't good sources of information, because they don't provide a realistic social context for "data" about boys falling behind.

        •  But why throw out the supporting data? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I agree that it doesn't do anybody any good to sensationalize the gender gap.  At the same time we need to be congnizant of anything that can be done to improve education.  Taking a closer look at causes of this disparity isn't going to hurt anybody.

          It's ridiculous to see this as a battle of the sexes.

          •  ? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            What's the "this" that it's ridiculous about? My point is that they're framing boys' steady education vs. girls' drastically improved education as an "OMG! We're failing the boys!" IT's not that boys are worse off, they're just less better off.

            In terms of economics (I love argument from bad analogy), say your neighbor makes $100,000, next year he makes $101,000. You make $80,000, next year you make $95,000. Is this something to freak out about? Is your neighbor worse off because you're better off? Now to bring it back to gender in education, the way this change is framed is as if your neighbor (or those who care about his interests) thought your improvement was harming him and therefore something to freak out about. Clearly that's flawed reasoning, and I argue that it's so in the education as well.

          •  "Disparity"? (0+ / 0-)

            That's the point. I'm just not sure there is a "disparity," where boys are someohow being "left behind" in school. In the absence of convincing evidence otherwise, I believe this gender "disparity" in school may be a trumped-up, sexist "issue"--an instance of hysteria, not a matter of legitimate concern.

            Again, you could convince me boys suffer in school, relative to girls, if you corroborate that hypothesis with convincing data that men are somehow being "left behind" in the workplace, earning less or with fewer career opportunities than women (hah!) But I just don't see it happening--by a long shot.

      •  The article fails to explain the discrepancy. (0+ / 0-)

        It only marginalizes any gap between genders.  

        It's not about who is better, it's how you account for these trends.  The author instead points to racial and economic gaps as something that need to be addressed.  That's a cop out, and it's because there's an obvious reason for those gaps and their solutions lie outside the classroom.  It's a lot harder to get a handle on the gender gap because there are less pressing external factors that would create a difference in the same way poverty would.

        There's a lot of good that could come out of more research into differences in learning.

  •  Undoubtedly It's Partly Cultural Inertia (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    irishwitch, karmsy

    finally being nudged by the steady advancement of women in so many different ways.

    Equality is not a switched that can be flipped in an instant, no matter how many prejudicial laws are repealed.

    Same is true of most of our minority populations. Success breeds success, increasing participation breeds mainstream familiarity and erodes unconscious biases.

    To my eye, society is becoming steadily more competent at dealing with women in many areas of life previously closed to them.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Nov 26, 2007 at 01:01:34 PM PST

  •  More women are in college than men, (0+ / 0-)

    partly, I believe, because so many of America's young men are in prison.

    I could be wrong, but look at the incarceration figures for young males.

    To say my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, "Your end of the boat is sinking."--Hugh Downs

    by Dar Nirron on Mon Nov 26, 2007 at 04:14:33 PM PST

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