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It's Tough to be a Boy in American Schools

JOHN LEO


It's a bad time to be a boy in America, Christina Sommers says in her important new book, The War Against Boys. We are turning against boys, she writes. Boys need discipline, respect and moral guidance. They do not need to be pathologized. Sommer's book is packed with examples of the anti-male attitudes that pervade the public schools.


In my eldest daughter's pre-kindergarten class, run by parents in Greenwich Village, the children were from all sorts of ethnic and class backgrounds, but they always sorted themselves out by sex. The girls sat quietly at tables, drawing and talking. The boys all ran around screaming like maniacs, bouncing off the walls, raising so much ear-splitting commotion that my first reaction each day was a fleeting urge to strangle them all.

I do not believe that these male tots were acting out their assigned masculine gender roles in the patriarchical order. I think the obvious is true: Boys are different from girls. They like rough-and-tumble play. When they alight somewhere, they build something, then knock it down. They are not much interested in sitting quietly, talking about their feelings or working on relationships. They like action, preferably something involving noise, conflict and triumph.

Teachers know that girls are better suited to schooling. So if you want to teach boys, allowances must be made. One of the tragedies of the last 20 years or so is that school systems are increasingly unwilling to make those allowances. Instead, in the wake of the feminist movement, they have absorbed anti-male attitudes almost without controversy. They are now more likely to see ordinary boy behavior as something dangerous that must be reined in. Or they may tighten the screws on boys by drafting extraordinarily broad zero-tolerance and sexual-harassment policies. Worse, they may simply decide that the most active boys are suffering from attention deficit disorder and dope them up with Ritalin.

Two straws in the wind: Four kindergarten boys in New Jersey were suspended from school for playing cops and robbers at recess with guns (their hands, with one finger pointed out). Teasing, ridicule and making unflattering remarks are now listed as sexual harassment violations for 4-year-olds and up in public schools in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

It's a bad time to be a boy in America, Christina Sommers says in her important new book, The War Against Boys. We are turning against boys, she writes. Boys need discipline, respect and moral guidance. They do not need to be pathologized.

Sommer's book is packed with examples of the anti-male attitudes that pervade the public schools. At University High School in Pacific Heights, Calif., boys must sit quietly through a Women's Assembly, in which women are celebrated and man are blamed. Boys in one San Francisco class are regularly put through feminists paces made to enjoy quilting, forced to listen as girls vent their anger at males. When Barbara Wilder-Smith, a teacher and researcher in the Boston area, made Boys Are Good T-shirts for her class, all 10 female teachers under her supervision strongly objected to the message. One of the 10 was wearing a button saying So many men, so little intelligence.

Some schools use the Bem Androgyny Scale named for feminist psychologist Sandra Bem to measure success in getting rid of those pesky masculine traits in boys. In his book The Decline of Males, anthropologist Lionel Tiger says women have taken charge of the public dialogue on gender and decisively bent it to their advantage. That is certainly true of dialogue about the schools.

We spent most of the 1990s fretting about bogus research claiming that the schools were shortchanging and damaging girls, when the truth is that boys are the ones in trouble.

Boys are much more likely than girls to have problems with schoolwork, repeat a grade, get suspended and develop learning difficulties. In some schools, boys account for up to three-fourths of special education classes. They are five times more likely than girls to commit suicide and four to nine times more likely to be drugged with Ritalin. Student polls show that both girls and boys say their teachers like the girls more and punish the boys more often.

Girls get better grades than boys, take more vigorous courses, and now attend college in much greater numbers. While the traditional advantage of boys over girls in math and science has narrowed (girls take as least as many upper-level math courses as boys, and more biology and chemistry), the advantage of girls over boys in reading and writing is large and stable. In writing achievement, 11th-grade boys score at the level of eighth-grade girls. The Department of Education reported this year: There is evidence that the female advantage in school performance is real and persistent. The school failure of so many boys, magnified and fanned by anti-male hostility, is a severe social problem.

Females now account for 56 percent of American college students, and the male-female gap is still widening. It is 60-40 in Canada and 63-37 among American blacks. These numbers, always overlooked in media laments about underrepresentation, have several ominous implications. One is for much Read More ..therlessness. College women who can't find college-educated mates won't marry down; they will likely just have their babies alone.

It's time to discuss some remedies, including vouchers, single-sex schools and programs targeted at specific problems of boys. Save the males.

A Quote Worth Remembering

"We must vigilantly stand on guard within our own borders for human rights and fundamental freedoms which are our proud heritage......we cannot take for granted the continuance and maintenance of those rights and freedoms."

John Diefenbaker
(1895-1979)

A Quote Worth Remembering

About The truth

"All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed, Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as self-evident."

Arthur Schopenhauer
(1788-1860)

A Quote Worth Remembering

"In a world darkened by ethnic conflicts that tear nations apart, Canada stands as a model of how people of different cultures can live and work together in peace, prosperity, and mutual respect."

Bill Clinton
(William J. Clinton)
42nd President of The United States of America

Toronto Star logo

Smokers - the new deviants

The Toronto Star
Aug. 20, 2006

Smokers need not apply," ran a classified ad for a job in Ireland this past May.

"Why not?" asked Catherine Stihler, a British Labour party MEP, who posed the question on behalf of one of her constituents. Should women not apply, either? Or homosexuals? Muslims? What about high-functioning alcoholics, or fat people?

The answer, from the European Commission that oversees anti-discrimination legislation in the EU, came back to Stihler this month: Smokers are fair game for discrimination. Read More ..

Canada's
national "Child Day"

November 20th

Canada's "Child Day" is held on November 20th each year as designated by the Parliament of Canada in 1993.

It commemorates the United Nations adoption of two landmark documents concerned with the human rights of all children and youths.  Read More ..

United Nations

Canadian appointed U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights

Louise Arbour

Louise Arbour took up her duties on July 1, 2004 as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her term in office ended in June 2008.

Mrs. Arbour was a member of the Supreme Court of Canada immediately preceding her appointment to the UN as  Commissioner for Human Rights.


Law Times

Louise Arbour: a colleague we have failed

Law Times, Canada
22 September 2008

This profession - and all of us in it - have failed to protect, honour, and defend one of our most accomplished and distinguished members. We have let Louise Arbour down by our silence when she needed and deserved voices of support.

On July 1, Arbour stepped down as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, an enormously prestigious and important international position.

The gratitude and praise which greeted her at the end of her term was shamefully muted. Arbour was a courageous champion of human rights, and a bold critic of the erosion of those basic tenets in our world.

She was never timid. She was never chained to a desk, was involved, hands on, outspoken, and challenging. She breathed life into the enormous portfolio that she was asked to take on.

CBC logo

INDEPTH: DAY CARE

Day Care in Canada

CBC Television News Online, February 9, 2005

It was first proposed in 1970 a program that would provide affordable day care across the country. It was promised when Brian Mulroney and the Conservatives swept to power in 1984. And again four years later.

By the time Jean Chretien's Liberals did some political sweeping of their own in 1993, promises of a national day-care strategy had fallen victim to the realities of a government wallowing in debt. With budgetary knives sharpened and drawn, day care would have to wait.

But the economic climate began to shift and in 1997, Quebec introduced its own day-care system, offering spaces at $5 a day. Demand quickly surpassed supply. Read More ..

A Quote Worth Remembering

About The truth

"All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed, Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as self-evident."

Arthur Schopenhauer
(1788-1860)