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    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    More on the "War on Boys"

    Send Sarah Karnasiewicz of Salon a thank-you note for a writing a sane piece on the so-called "boy crisis" (which, I'm happy to report, brings in some of my points from before).

    "Everyone is asking, 'How do we do this? Do we change the structure of classes? Do we send out glossier materials?' But I think what worries educators the most is that boys don't seem as focused on the process as girls. [Boys] seem to feel they'll be OK, whereas with girls there's still a sense that if they don't do well, don't go to college, there'll be a consequence that will be negative."

    Tweed's point raises a controversial question that most crusaders in the "war on boys" would rather dismiss. Despite their flagging performance in elementary and high school, men have hardly abdicated their power to women. While women may have held the majority in higher education for more than a decade, men still earn more than women, still hold the vast number of tenure-track university positions. Women possess executive positions at less than 2 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Could it be that men aren't going to college because they don't have to?

    According to Laura Perna, assistant professor of educational policy and leadership at the University of Maryland, the gender gap is all about economics. Last fall, Perna published a paper in the Review of Higher Education in which she determined that young women might be more motivated to pursue higher education because, consciously or unconsciously, they sense that there are real economic advantages at stake. Her examination of a Department of Education sample of more than 9,000 high school students, interviewed over a period of eight years, revealed that women with bachelor's degrees earn 24 percent more than women without, while young men with bachelor's degrees experience no significant economic gains. For practical proof of her hypothesis, one need only consider that most well-paid, skilled, blue-collar professions continue to be dominated by men -- while minimum-wage jobs in hospitality and service remain the province of women. ...

    "There has been no decline in bachelor's degrees awarded to men," she writes. "The numbers awarded to women have simply increased." Put simply, in the words of Jacqueline King, director of the Center of Policy Analysis at the American Council of Education, who is quoted in Rosser's piece, "The [real news] story is not one of male failure, or even lack of opportunity -- but rather one of increased academic success among females and minorities."

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