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March 11, 2013

All Right, So You're Bored. Do It Anyway

If we had a dime for every time we said this when our sons were growing up, we'd be richer than Al Gore.

Because we haven't had time to get to that mega-post on why boys and young men aren't doing as well as girls and young women in school, we offer this as prelude. An educator who specializes in gifted and talented kids explains why parents shouldn't be take complaints that school is "boring" too seriously:

Sometimes, in an effort to advocate for our child’s happiness, we forget that being bored is a part of life—and that extremely valuable lessons can come out of facing it head on. Everyone is bored at some point--in school, in a job, in life. No matter what dream occupation we may eventually hope to have, parts of it are bound to be dull, tedious, monotonous. As adults we learn that there are ways to cope with these realities, if only to get through them. We sit down, we suck it up, and we power through filing our taxes because, when we are done, we’ll know how much money our refund check will be worth. We’ll clean out that garage, the project we’ve been dreading for months, and when it’s done perhaps we’ll congratulate (and reward) ourselves with a celebratory beer. Persevering against boredom in the very face of that boredom is what builds tenacity and the patience to solve long-term problems. Scientists have not discovered a cure for cancer yet, but surely they are far less likely to do so if they find the task of crunching the numbers after an elaborate experiment too dull or boring to do.

Struggling through tasks that seem tedious or remedial may in fact be the very ones that, in the long run, add up to mastery. Michaelangelo is credited with commenting that, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.” Tedium may not be useless. Ask yourself this question: what are you really good at and how many times did you have to go through the boring stages of practice before you got there? How many thousands and thousands of backhand swings must Venus Williams have executed before she became a pro? Students in school need the opportunity to figure out these lessons as well.

The Editorial Staff have been bemused of late by righty pundits who latch on to every excuse in the book to explain poor performance in school... well, at least when the students in question are boys. The "I'm bored" excuse is quite possibly the lamest of a long litany of ludicrous excuses parents clutch at when their little darling brings home bad grades.

Note to parents: the world, whether it manifests itself as a prospective employer, a boss, a professor, or a spouse, is under no obligation to rearrange itself to keep your child amused and entertained.

Our own job contains many tedious and even unpleasant tasks, and the notion that one needn't complete assignments unless they are designed to be personally fascinating (or worse, that we need only do things we "see the point of") is about as good a recipe for a lifetime of chronic unemployment and failure as we can imagine.

Adults are - or ought to be - capable of drawing the line between spineless obedience and entitled narcissism. What gets most of us to the point where we're able to make such choices wisely is a lot of experience (much of which involves having our own stupidity and lack of foresight pointed out to use by older and wiser humans).

Children, on the otter heiny, rarely have the wisdom or experience to see the point of most things adults ask them to do. If they did, kids would be running the world and adults would be going to their 10 year olds for pocket money.

Posted by Cassandra at March 11, 2013 07:20 AM

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"...(or worse, that we need only do things we "see the point of")..."

Oh, I don't know. I never *saw the point* of algebra (or any of the higher math courses, ftm) in high school, college, yada yada yada.
Aaannnndddd.....
I still don't.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at March 11, 2013 12:49 PM

I hated math when I was in high school. And I didn't see the point of any of it.

When I went back to school as an adult, though, I realized the mathematical reasoning (and the ability to solve complex problems using a structured approach) applied to all sorts of other topics. As an intuitive - and impatient! - thinker, I learned to appreciate the value of slowing down and thinking my way through things systematically instead of trying to jump straight to the answer before I fully understand the problem.

That discipline is the single most valuable thing I got from college, and I wouldn't have learned it if I hadn't been forced to do things that were (IMO) difficult, boring, and pointless :)

Algebra, in particular, teaches students to reason from what they know to what they don't know. I still use it in my job every day - something I'm painfully reminded of whenever I am trying to figure something out using a technique I've grown rusty at :p

Something I'm wrestling with at work right now is the utter havoc caused by people who are too impatient to think their way through complex problems. Decisions still have to be made, but when the people making them are either unwilling or unable to break a complex issue down to its constituent parts and work through the problem thoroughly, bad decisions are made that cause a LOT of rework for everyone.

The world isn't getting any less complex over time.

I'll grant that many jobs don't use math. And some jobs don't involve much thinking or decision making. But those jobs have mostly been automated - most of the ones that remain don't pay well.

An educational system that teaches (actively or passively) that everything should be fun and entertaining does a real disservice to students. A lot of work, whether physical or intellectual in nature, is difficult and/or unpleasant if you do it right.

My point is that learning to persist is one of the most valuable skills around.

Posted by: Cass - Confirmation Bigot-in-Training at March 11, 2013 01:05 PM

The only thing that algebra taught me to persist in was the consumation of more beer. (And that really wasn't a
Sorry, I understand your point. I just happen to disagree with it this time. Unless one is planning on going into a math-related/reliant field, it's just an exercise in programming.
0>:~}

Posted by: DL Sly at March 11, 2013 01:23 PM

Here's a question: do you think kids should only have to take classes that will be used when they grow up and get a job?

Do most kids have any idea what they'll do when they grow up?

I hated Social Studies too, quite frankly. And I can't say I've ever used it. It's possible for pretty much anyone to say they didn't use some subject they were forced to take. But as a practical result, you don't see any value in the notion that kids probably aren't the best judges of what they may need later in life?

Posted by: Cass - Confirmation Bigot-in-Training at March 11, 2013 01:50 PM

Let's come at this another way.

We totally "get" the value of discipline and habits when applied to something we approve of. For instance, marching in the hot sun is about as pointless an activity as I can think of. Marine recruits won't ever do this in battle. They just won't. Spit-shining their boots doesn't contribute to combat effectiveness either - at least directly. Neither does most of the endless nitnoid crap that the Marine Corps insists that both officers and enlisted do. The spousal unit doesn't miss that stuff one iota.

And yet.... he understood that a big part of what happens during boot camp or Basic School consists of breaking down a recruit's ego and teaching him or her to function as part of a team - to give and take orders, to deal with hardship/fatigue/pain/extreme boredom. It also teaches the value of doing something right (no matter how stupid or distasteful it may seem at the time), and of attention to detail. The paradoxical result of learning to do all this ostensibly pointless stuff is generally pride and increased self respect (along with respect for others).

One of my favorite parts of attending graduations at recruit training was when parents would come up to battalion staff and thank them for the incredible change in their sons. Young men who were once sullen and selfish often treated their Moms with courtesy and respect (surprising the heck out of them).

Think of every martial arts movie you've ever watched - they all begin with the sensei forcing the young student to do all sorts of seemingly pointless stuff. Fairy tales often have a common theme - the young, inexperience hero who thinks he knows better than everyone else; who thinks everything he's asked to do is stupid and pointless.

Usually he finds out it wasn't, really. Which was kind of the moral of the story.

Posted by: Cass - Confirmation Bigot-in-Training at March 11, 2013 01:54 PM

It is one of the few feathers in my cap that I, at the time, would have wagered that a year's worth of Chemistry would serve me not at all throughout my life, and that I would have won – I have yet to come across a chemical equation that required balancing.

As to the other point, boys and boredom, I trust you would not dismiss the premise out of hand. I take it as given that boys and girls are different and learn differently.

I think it evident that boys would benefit, at least in part, from being taught by men. A man may get in the face of a boy, bored or otherwise, and make a compelling point by it. Boys are easily bored by the anodyne attempt; there are no winners/everyone's a winner – if so why bother – boys are competitive and associate results, losing and winning with incentive. Boys are unreflective. An anecdote from a teacher:
The choir director of the National Cathedral School for Girls and the St. Alban's School for Boys told us that when he's teaching the high school girls a new song, he'll start by sharing a story about why the composer wrote this piece, who it was written for, or maybe how the choir director himself felt 20 years ago when he goofed the solo part. "Giving the girls some context, telling them a story about the piece, gets them interested. The boys are just the opposite," he said. "If you start talking like that with the boys, they'll start looking at their watches, they'll start getting restless. Then one of them will say, 'Can we please just get on with it already? Can we please just learn the song already?'"

Furthermore:
Researchers have consistently found that "girls are more concerned than boys are with pleasing adults, such as parents and teachers" (Pomerantz, Altermatt, & Saxon, 2002, p. 397). Most boys, on the other hand, will be less motivated to study unless the material itself interests them.

Finally, the coup de grace:
Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said separate classrooms reinforce gender stereotypes. “A boy who has never been beaten by a girl on an algebra test could have some major problems having a female supervisor.” And there you have it.

That separate classrooms are at this stage merely experimental says all that need be said. There's something more at work here than education.

BTW: I'm not calling for the separation of the sexes in education - only for the option.

Posted by: George Pal at March 11, 2013 02:21 PM

Private schools have plenty of experience with single sex education, George. So single sex education is hardly experimental.

It does present problems in the public school arena since so few men willingly take low pay teaching jobs. I wish more men would too because I think that on average, any profession will be better if it is more balanced (though I don't believe government should force this balance). But the fact of the matter is that large numbers of men haven't wanted to be teachers for as long as I can remember. It wasn't any different when I was a child (or when my parents were children back in the 1930s).

I agree that "there's something more at work here", but I think it's low expectations and the refusal to do what's needed to succeed:

According to Hacker, three of four high school senior girls report spending an hour or more on homework every day, compared to about two out of four boys. Statistics showed boys report, “watching more television than girls do and spending more time on video games.” Hacker continues, “It’s almost as if being a man and being masculine, macho and powerful is not conducive to being a good student.”

Michael Thompson, a school psychologist who wrote “Raising Cain” on the academic problems of boys, agreed with Hacker’s theory.

“Boys hear that the way to shine is athletically. And boys get a lot of mixed messages about what it means to be masculine and what it means to be a student. Does being a good student make you a real man? I don’t think so… It is not cool.”

I also think there's a fair amount of fact-free silliness going on. I've yet to see ANY evidence that boys are actually doing worse over time.

Just as there's no evidence that individual income has declined over time. So the Left switched to hyperventilating about income inequality. The right has done the same thing - they can't show that boys are doing worse over time so instead they steal a play from the Feminist playbook and start complaining that things are "unequal" and "unfair" :p

If anything has helped girls and woman, I think it's the increased emphasis on achievement. And that happens to be exactly what I think would help boys and men - less talk about "helping" and more raising our standards and expectations.

Posted by: Cass - Confirmation Bigot-in-Training at March 11, 2013 03:00 PM

“A boy who has never been beaten by a girl on an algebra test could have some major problems having a female supervisor.”

He's going to face some other problems in life, too, stemming from the protected bubble he was allowed to grow up in. Real experience will be a sad shock in many ways.

My answer to bored kids probably would be, "Really? The rest of us are exquisitely amused feeding you, housing you, and preparing you for a future in which you can have an endless good time."

Posted by: Texan99 at March 11, 2013 03:54 PM

My mother in law tells a funny story (at least it's funny to me) about sitting at the family dinner table as a young girl in the 1940s. She said something to an older relative that wouldn't even cause today's parents to bat an eyelash because they no longer expect children to respect their elders or be polite.

And she got her face slapped and was sent to her room without supper for it.

My husband tells a similar story about being smacked for having a smart mouth to his grandmother... by his mother. As a parent, I would probably not have smacked one of my sons for something like that (though I did smack them a few times for mouthing off to me, it was pretty rare - mostly b/c they almost NEVER talked back to me. They knew I wouldn't tolerate it). But there would have been a very sharp and very public and embarrassing correction. I wouldn't be worried about their self esteem because self respect has a lot to do with respect for others and doing the right thing.

Nowadays, though, we just shrug this stuff off. Our expectations are so abysmally low. We don't expect our kids to do chores, or pay for much of anything. My mother in law earned all the money for her wedding dress. I had $1000 saved up when I married at the age of 19. For no reason except that saving is a good idea - the best safety net is one you control.

Every time I hear people saying that we have to make everything easy and pleasant for kids lest they give up or refuse to exert themselves, I think to myself, "Good God. Is that how our parents were raised?"

Of course not.

I loved my boys more than anything, but it never occurred to me that teachers had any obligation to cater to their subjective likes and dislikes. That's not the point of school. I was the world's biggest brat, but even I never thought the schools should revolve around me and my interests. I read Paradise Lost 4 times in 4 years. Should I have refused because I hate Milton and was bored to tears?

I was pretty clear on the concept that I was lucky to live in a country with free public education. If I chose to take advantage of it and better myself, good on me.

If I chose to slack off and complain (and being an obnoxious teen, I did a fair amount of that), I was free to accept the consequences. Not only did I have many, many teachers (even professors) who openly opined that girls/women were inferior to boys/men intellectually - I had more than one teacher who pretty much said he expected me to fail. One did that in front of the whole class. I walked out and female students were crying and saying they were going to complain and I said, "WTH? Who cares what he thinks? He can't stop you from doing your homework - grow up."

Oh. And I got the highest grade in the class - something I would almost certainly NOT have done, absent his attempt to humiliate and intimidate me. There's so much we can't control in life. Just about the only thing we *can* control is our reactions.

That guy did me a favor. He made me mad, and that made me try my hardest and not give up. Who cares if he disliked women (and he did) and thought we were stupid and inferior to men? So what?

If I'm a big enough dumba** that I'm going to let some jerk prevent me from doing what is needed, then I deserve to fail in life. None of this makes that kind of nonsense desirable in teachers, but what's alarming me here is that I taught my sons that intelligent, successful people don't give up just because someone doesn't have faith in them. And they don't allow the expectations of others to define them. America is a country where it's pretty much impossible to stop someone who's willing to work hard and keep at it from succeeding.

That kind of thinking has been replaced by "someone has to make it easier for me/it's always someone else's fault".

I suspect that I'm at the end of my blogging career. I find myself on the wrong end of most of these discussions and not even recognizing what I thought was conservatism anymore.

Anyway, thanks for understanding what I'm trying to say. I am so scared for our country. We're no longer teaching our children what it takes to succeed in life.

Posted by: Cass - Confirmation Bigot-in-Training at March 11, 2013 04:18 PM

First off, your link is broken...

Second, "Here's a question: do you think kids should only have to take classes that will be used when they grow up and get a job?"

Can you first explain why algebra is more important or effective at teaching that which you are espousing it for than the basics of math? Are not the processes for figuring percentages, converting fractions, long division, et al, not equivalent at teaching tenacity?

"I hated Social Studies too, quite frankly. And I can't say I've ever used it."

So, are you saying you learned what countries are on this planet, their governments and cultures as well as our own culture without any help from a social studies class?

And third, crap, crap crap, I hit post before I finished my snarky aside. Ah well, that's what happens when you get a call that the VES needs an x-ray machine.....again.
*sigh*
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at March 11, 2013 04:45 PM

Aannndddd... now it's fixed.
Day late and a dollar short. Seems to be a recurring theme these days.
pheh
0>;~/

[You and me both :)]

- Cass

Posted by: DL Sly at March 11, 2013 04:47 PM

"Private schools have plenty of experience with single sex education, George. So single sex education is hardly experimental"

Precisely my point; such private schools get better results than the public schools that will not allow for it except on an experimental basis on the basis that equality of outcome, no matter the outcome, even abject failure, is preferable to any qualitative difference.

As to pay, this is a myth:
Teachers in New York City earn an average of $73,751. That would be less than the average $76,000 average salary for Chicago teachers cited by CPS. And remove from the equation men who serve as teachers as adjunct to their primary job - coaching athletic teams - and the percentage of women in the profession goes up.

Statistics showed boys report, “watching more television than girls do and spending more time on video games.” Hacker continues, “It’s almost as if being a man and being masculine, macho and powerful is not conducive to being a good student.”

It's almost as if this is to be understood as the incontrovertible source of the problem and not the result of it. I take it as result.

"Research by psychology professor Judith Kleinfeld at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, finds that nearly one-quarter of high school seniors across the United States who are sons of white, college-educated parents have woeful reading skills, ranking "below basic" on a national standardized test.
"These boys cannot read a newspaper and get the main point," Kleinfeld told LiveScience. "These boys cannot read directions for how to use equipment and follow them."

I won't account this as being anything more than education gone bad – across the board. Nevertheless, I think boys are harmed by it more than girls.

Re: getting bested on the Algebra test by a girl:
"He's going to face some other problems in life, too, stemming from the protected bubble he was allowed to grow up in. Real experience will be a sad shock in many ways."

Really! Boys/men are going to shocked to learn girls/women can compete and be better at them at some things, things even in their own bailiwick, than they are. I learned that in the first grade – I was paying attention that day. Over the course of decades, the examples are too numerous to list, but a taste; I have learned that Rebecca West could out-write most men, and that Margaret Thatcher had stones that would shame most men in the political field. I was not shocked, dismayed, unnerved and neither were any many men on the Right (as per Ms. Thatcher), that I'm aware of.

"The right has done the same thing - they can't show that boys are doing worse over time so instead they steal a play from the Feminist playbook and start complaining that things are "unequal" and "unfair"

I'm not a spokesman for the Right and won't stand in line to make a claim of 'unequal' and 'unfair' but I am stalwart in believing things, boys and girls, are different, requiring different approaches; public school education is more a scam than vocation; the nationalization of schooling, Core Curriculum for example, is socially corrupting and philosophically hostile to this country; and that we are doomed.

Posted by: George Pal at March 11, 2013 04:49 PM

t's almost as if this is to be understood as the incontrovertible source of the problem and not the result of it. I take it as result.

On what evidence? Name one activity in life that doesn't require practice to be good at? You get good at reading by... reading. And any parent whose kids can't read a newspaper isn't doing their job. How do you "not notice" that your kid can't read?

I am seeing a lot of "I believe" and "I attribute this to" and not a whole lot of evidence to back up these beliefs. You've already stated that you trust your gut more than any amount of evidence.
That's fine as an individual basis for decision making but saying, "Trust me" (a la our current president) isn't calculated to convince others.

Here's a study on male teachers that found the following:

1. Male teachers don't want to teach young kids.
2. Financial incentives would make male teachers more likely to consider teaching young kids, but they're still very reluctant.

Male elementary teachers, as a whole, believed that males who taught elementary education were more nurturing and had higher patience levels. They also believed that financial incentives would play a persuading role in their grade level
selection. Of the male teachers with elementary experience, who were no longer teaching
there, over half agreed that age of students was their primary reason for leaving.

Hmmm...

The two dominant themes from this research study were related to money and age
of students. Many men were typically considered to be the main financial providers for
their families, so it was not a surprise to find that the respondents selected financial
reasons as a persuading factor for considering elementary education. Males, who could
often feel the pressure of providing financial stability for their families would, out of
necessity, see the incentives of scholarship assistance, loan forgiveness, or other financial
offerings clearly as a marker by which to increase the number of male elementary
teachers. Of the 147 male teachers who responded to the survey question regarding the
types of incentives that would make them more likely to consider education, the total
number of responses due to multiple responses by participants was 264. Of the 264 total
responses, 206 were related to financial incentives. Clearly, from this statistic, money
was a large motivating factor for male teachers.

Study link:

http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1276&context=doctoral

Finally, comparing a salary for a career that requires extensive education and certification with median salaries for all jobs is hardly an apples to apples comparison.

Posted by: Cass - Confirmation Bigot-in-Training at March 11, 2013 05:15 PM

Having read your comment more carefully, I need to walk this back:

Finally, comparing a salary for a career that requires extensive education and certification with median salaries for all jobs is hardly an apples to apples comparison.

That was careless reading on my part. But I don't think citing teacher salaries in two of the nation's highest cost of living metropolitan areas does anything to debunk the notion that salary matters to male teachers or men who might consider becoming teachers.

How can we evaluate how good a salary 73K is in NYC? According to this cost of living calculator, 58K in Chapel Hill equates to over 93K in NYC:

http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/

That's a pretty big spread, and it points out that 73K doesn't go as far in a big city as it does in the country. My DIL was a second grade teacher. She had to get a masters' degree and her salary wasn't what I'd call generous. These don't strike me as particularly generous salaries for anyone with a graduate degree:

http://www1.salary.com/Teacher-salary.html

I don't actually think teachers ought to be paid more - that's a market thing. But the suggestion that there ought to be more male teachers implies some mechanism for making that happen. You're going to have to overcome their reluctance to deal with small children, along with their reluctance to enter that market at the prevailing salary.

Posted by: Cass - Confirmation Bigot-in-Training at March 11, 2013 05:23 PM

Can you first explain why algebra is more important or effective at teaching that which you are espousing it for than the basics of math? Are not the processes for figuring percentages, converting fractions, long division, et al, not equivalent at teaching tenacity?

Algebra is harder than basic math, for one. Just like Calculus is harder than Algebra. I had little trouble with basic math. But when I got to Algebra and Calculus, it was a different story.

I don't actually think everyone needs Calculus, FWIW. But I do think every student ought to take at least some Algebra.

Posted by: Cass - Confirmation Bigot-in-Training at March 11, 2013 05:26 PM

Re: almost as if this is to be understood as the incontrovertible source of the problem and not the result of it. I take it as result.

"On what evidence? Name one activity in life that doesn't require practice to be good at? You get good at reading by... reading."

Evidence? The evidence is that boys are remarkably good at practicing and become adept at that which interests them. Boys will practice hours on end and read late into the night, under the covers with a flashlight if need be, that which interests them. If they are resentful, inattentive, and uninspired then they are the result of rote instruction in the expectation of rote product and not their natural disposition.

Posted by: George Pal at March 11, 2013 06:33 PM

The evidence is that boys are remarkably good at practicing and become adept at that which interests them. Boys will practice hours on end and read late into the night, under the covers with a flashlight if need be, that which interests them. If they are resentful, inattentive, and uninspired then they are the result of rote instruction in the expectation of rote product and not their natural disposition.

Hmmm. Who is preventing these poor boys from reading interesting books? Sounds like a tragedy to me.

No one ever had to point me to good books. My parents DID limit TV though, and as a result I read more than my friends did.

Reading isn't something you only do in school, George. If it is, we've got BIG problems as a society. My boys did the lion's share of their reading at home.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 11, 2013 06:55 PM

One more point:

Boys will practice hours on end and read late into the night, under the covers with a flashlight if need be, that which interests them. If they are resentful, inattentive, and uninspired then they are the result of rote instruction in the expectation of rote product and not their natural disposition.

One of the single biggest problems I faced as a mother of sons was finding male playmates for my boys who didn't sit around on their keesters all day playing video games.

And I had kids long before the Internet was a big deal or Playstation/WII were around.

Boys couldn't even play neighborhood sports - they had zero social skills because they never learned the negotiation and conflict resolution skills that traditional games teach. I still remember playing with the kids in our neighborhood - we had plenty of arguments about rules.

But playing video games side by side neatly avoids all that pesky "getting along with other human beings" nonsense.

It took a HUGE amount of effort as a parent for me to find other parents with similar values - parents whose kids played outside, were limited on things like watching r rated movies in jr. high school, who had decent vocabularies and read at grade level. Boy Scouts helped a lot in this regard because it was a refuge for parents with traditional ideas of child rearing.

How children spend their time outside of school is not the school's fault - that's directly attributable to parenting.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 11, 2013 07:00 PM

I don't doubt for a minute that we can get better results with all students by engaging their interest. I am more skeptical that boys wither more quickly than girls under the harsh experience of studying something that hasn't been tailored to tickle their fancy. Boys and girls may well differ in what happens to arouse their passions, but both have to learn how to struggle through tasks that aren't a laff-fest from day one. Rotten, boring schools are no bed of roses for women any more than they are for men.

Men's performance even in the modern world is not pitiful enough to demand excuses of this kind. But if boys need to be removed from the presence of girls in order to achieve their greatest academic potential, I think they should go for it and cloister themselves. Some people claim women learn better than way, too. I've never tried it; my college was 3-to-1 male, but I managed to struggle through somehow even though I'm pretty sure they weren't pinking the curriculum up for me.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 11, 2013 08:38 PM

...my college was 3-to-1 male, but I managed to struggle through somehow even though I'm pretty sure they weren't pinking the curriculum up for me.

So was my freshman year at Dartmouth.

When I finally got my BS, I was quite literally the only woman in most of my classes and one of only 2 in my major field. And these weren't just guys - they were Marines :p

I hated school and hated 9/10s of what I was made to read. But oddly, I read outside of school. So did my boys - I polished off several books a week all by my lonesome and so did my sons. I took them to libraries and bought them books and subscribed to magazines and newspapers and book of the month clubs.

They read science fiction and classic literature. The hard stuff I read to them - generally, after a head start they got impatient and read the rest on their own.

Of course we didn't have cable and I didn't let them have video games, though they were allowed to play at their friends' houses... after they had done their homework and so long as they weren't spending the whole afternoon indoors.

I wonder: how do schools prevent boys from reading during summer vacation, or on nights and weekends? Who knew teachers had so much power (and parents had so little)?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 11, 2013 08:51 PM

You must have feminized them, you meanie.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 11, 2013 10:50 PM

I am more skeptical that boys wither more quickly than girls under the harsh experience of studying something that hasn't been tailored to tickle their fancy.

That is, apparently, the argument. It may even be true, God help us.

It's also irrelevant in the end. You would think that we were living in some desperately poor 3rd world nation where book larnin' was rare as hen's teeth and children were being actively prevented from getting an education!

But in reality, we're living in an incredibly rich country overflowing with opportunities (one of which is free public education). If a student chooses to take the right classes and do the work, there really is nothing that can prevent him or her from getting a very decent education.

But education isn't imparted passively by Vulcan Mind Meld. It doesn't happen unless students work at it. I tutored and even taught multiple subjects at the community college level. Free tutoring was available to all students. 95% of the students who came to me were female. Boys/men almost never sought it out, preferring instead to fail or drop out. They wouldn't even stretch out a hand to help themselves to all this free abundance.

Not all boys are like that, but I refuse to make excuses for parents who allow young men to enter the world with that kind of attitude.

Parents are - first and foremost - the teachers and shapers of their children's minds and morals. Somewhere along the line, we raised an entire generation of people who think they can outsource that responsibility to complete strangers, taking so little thought and expending so little effort on the rearing of their own progeny that they produce adults who (if we are to believe the reports) functionally illiterate.

This, we are to understand, is all the fault of the public schools and feminists. It's always someone else's fault. They can't be blamed for not trying - it's someone else's responsibility to entice them into doing what the smallest iota of self interest and self respect should make mandatory.

Dear God, what an example we adults are setting for impressionable young minds.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2013 07:53 AM

I am trying (and failing) to understand how this is different from any OTHER legitimate parental expectation (make your bed, do your chores, go to school, take out the trash, don't talk back, don't hit your brother). Why, when it comes to schooling, is blowing off your parents an option?

When I brought this up to my husband last night over dinner, he said, "My response to a kid who says they're too bored to do their schoolwork would be, 'OK, so if school is too easy/boring, are you getting straight A's? Why not?"

I don't think anyone can honestly claim with a straight face that school is too hard. So the real issue here is that we have kids who have decided, probably with the active assistance of their parents, not to do the work.

Whether school work is boring or not is actually entirely irrelevant to whether the kid is expected to do it. I ask my team to do boring work all the time. It has to be done, and before I got promoted, I had to do it. It's not going to be done by fairies or lavender unicorns or Keebler elves.

And I don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about whether my team are feeling personally fulfilled by checking map numbers or testing or editing or answering the same question 10000 other clients have asked until the client is satisfied.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2013 08:53 AM

Cass,

A point you have made repeatedly through this discussion is your own involvement in your sons' lives, assuring what needed to be done by them was done. It's a fine model but one more difficult to depend on.

If seventy-two percent of black births, forty percent of Hispanic, and thirty percent non-Hispanic white, are to single unmarried women (mostly poor, mostly poorly educated) then you can't use your model. Even children born to cohabiting parents, around fifty percent of all unmarried births, are statistically at greater risk for a wide range of behavioral and emotional problems. This leaves urban public schools as very nearly the antithesis of what boys, under those circumstances, need for at least some academic success. Oddly enough, those gifted with some athleticism get precisely what is called for - discipline, incentive, drive, the idea of sacrifice – they make movies about it.

Posted by: George Pal at March 12, 2013 09:52 AM

But where does this leave us? We know lots of children aren't getting adequate parenting, and that poorly raised children are likely to fail at school, in part because their parents don't train them to soldier on through less-than-thrilling tasks. That leaves the schools with a decision to make. Should they make the demands that the parents have failed to make, and refuse to pass the students that don't respond by learning to do their work even if it isn't always fun? Or should they feel sorry for the kids and entice them into class by entertaining them? I'm all in favor of making learning entertaining, at least up to the point where the learning drops out and all that's left is entertaining. It beats using the schools as a dull babysitter, anyway. But at some point the kids have to learn that work sometimes means doing what other people want done rather than what they'd be doing with their free time even if they weren't being paid.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 12, 2013 10:17 AM

If seventy-two percent of black births, forty percent of Hispanic, and thirty percent non-Hispanic white, are to single unmarried women (mostly poor, mostly poorly educated) then you can't use your model. Even children born to cohabiting parents, around fifty percent of all unmarried births, are statistically at greater risk for a wide range of behavioral and emotional problems. This leaves urban public schools as very nearly the antithesis of what boys, under those circumstances, need for at least some academic success. Oddly enough, those gifted with some athleticism get precisely what is called for - discipline, incentive, drive, the idea of sacrifice – they make movies about it.

what you're making the argument for here, George, is end-justifies-the-means big government.

That's OK - you can make that argument and it's possible (worthless RINO oxygen thief that I am) that I might agree with you :)

But conservatism, it ain't. You're arguing that government needs to step in to perform the role of the parent.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2013 10:28 AM

More importantly, George - to Tex's point:

What happens to all these poor, underprivileged boys when they graduate from school with good grades (but no skills that will make them employable)?

Would you hire a worker who will only perform tasks if he's enticed into it - if they interest him? I wouldn't.

I have to be honest here: I'm happy I have a job in this recession. So (IMNSHO) should most folks be. If they can start a business without any of these skills and provide their own jobs, let them. But who wants a worker whose entire world view is that he needn't do anything he doesn't want to unless his boss makes things fun?

How does your way *help* these boys thrive in the real world?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2013 10:32 AM

"But conservatism, it ain't. You're arguing that government needs to step in to perform the role of the parent."

"What happens to all these poor, underprivileged boys when they graduate from school with good grades (but no skills that will make them employable)?"

Yes, conservatism it ain't. Marriages are hardly marriages, there are too few parents, there's little of education in public education, and the government has become the State.

We agree then, the schools exist, the NEA prevails, the unions are corrupt, the Department of Education directs, the cheating scandals grow, low expectations are politically expedient... and Dewey won. I have already once expressed my opinion in an earlier comment – we are doomed.

Anything I might offer on the subject would be, in the public square, beyond the pale and quite probably 'racist'. Had I a public soapbox from which to respond to the charges I would retort, in every instance, with one word – Detroit.

I never meant to give the impression that catering to boys' interests was a panacea by itself. My point was that, as in athletics, of great interest to a great many boys, the playing of games does not come without doing, and being subject to, things you would rather not be doing and be subject to - hours of wind sprints, practice, and being called an idiot, for starters.

I believe boys are more at risk than girls. I believe men, asocial, anti-social, and criminal, pose a greater danger to society. I believe a solution may exist in treating boys and girls different. Boys unable to function academically or behaviorally should have the option of single sex education (if it's good enough for marriage...). All boy schools, all men teachers - equality and NOW and Feminism be damned.

Posted by: George Pal at March 12, 2013 12:01 PM

re beyond the pale and 'racist'

http://dailycaller.com/2013/03/09/adam-carolla-rips-the-huffington-post-media-you-guys-all-have-blood-on-your-hands/

language alert

Posted by: George Pal at March 12, 2013 12:25 PM

George, you might enjoy the long comments thread that I took this from. They're responding to a very frustrated post about public schools. Many of them are talking about home-schooling, but some just about alternative schooling:

"… what do we do about the kids whose parents aren’t that engaged?

"What I’ve done is to get on the board of a small elementary school (it’s been run by our current church since 1923), and volunteer to do IT work for the school and otherwise volunteer where appropriate. (Hey, we don’t have any grandkids yet…)

"It’s been interesting watching. Watching fourth graders be let loose doing math at their own speed (two were finishing 8th-grade level math by mid year, and dabbling beginning high school work); they weren’t held back by the teacher focusing on those who were having trouble getting up to speed.

"The teachers understand that boys and girls don’t learn the same way, or at the same rates, and they’re using that understanding, and it works. (Sort of surprising the first time you find a boy or two up and walking/moving in the back of the classroom during lecture, if mostly quietly.) And they’re getting the material down sooner and better than before, even if they’re not sitting quietly like we were usually told to do.

"I expect this will be fun to watch for some time, if I survive the field trips."

http://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/03/11/malice-or-incompetence/

Posted by: Texan99 at March 12, 2013 12:53 PM

Texan 99,

Thanks, I gave it a quick once over and have copied and pasted it for a later, closer reading. How is it, though, that my eye caught this from the post:

"I sent them a kid who could read, write and was working on fractions. Imagine our shock when in our first first grade conference, the teacher informed us that Robert was learning disabled and would probably never learn to read and write. This was particularly surprising since one of her pieces of evidence was a worksheet that consisted of 1+0, 2+0 etc. across the top of which Robert had written in properly spelled words “this is stupid and boring. A number plus zero always equals the number.”
Dan and I threw a fit – we would – and they insisted Robert needed to be in Title One and remedial education. We insisted he didn’t. In the end, they had him IQ tested, after priming the school psychologist, who used a “set” that topped out at 107 IQ. Then they informed us his IQ was 107 and he needed to be in Title One and remedial education.
At that point I wanted to go raze the school or perhaps set it on fire.

Once again thanks.

Posted by: George Pal at March 12, 2013 01:27 PM

I believe boys are more at risk than girls. I believe men, asocial, anti-social, and criminal, pose a greater danger to society. I believe a solution may exist in treating boys and girls different. Boys unable to function academically or behaviorally should have the option of single sex education (if it's good enough for marriage...). All boy schools, all men teachers - equality and NOW and Feminism be damned.

Well, I'm really not sure what NOW or feminism has to do with any of this (other than that you cited to one person who doesn't like single sex education). It's not at all apparent to me that feminists or NOW are in charge of running the schools in all 50 states (a feat even the federal govt would find challenging). We womyn are good, but we're not anywhere near *that* good! :)

1. Question: do you think taxpayers are willing to pay for all boy schools with all male teachers? If they aren't, should government force them to anyway? Is this a federal question (IOW, do we impose this on all 50 states), or should such decisions be handled at the community level?

2. Question: How do we get men to teach when they (judging from both the fact that there are very few male teachers at the elementary level and only slightly more at the HS level)don't want to teach young children or accept the market wage?

3. Does it matter at all whether any of the remedies you suggest have actually been shown to work?

Or should we conduct this experiment solely on your feeling that it *might* work?

We need to be careful about assuming that what works in for-pay private schools (with self-selecting populations) will work in public schools with a different mix of family backgrounds, race, ethnicity, culture, etc.

This is the point at which I'm generally told that I'm "being too negative" or "don't want to try anything", but these are the real-world problems that must be answered, even if they're difficult ones. At the 40,000 foot level, every plan looks workable but the people who actually have to implement such plans (across all 50 states and a wide range of school systems) have to deal with the details - the *how*, as well as the "what".

I am genuinely concerned about most of the things you mention, but I'm not at all convinced that feminists have anything to do with anything, nor even that the problem lies with the school system.

One thing I learned over a lifetime in the military is that schools differ widely from place to place. That points away from "the system" and towards some deeper root cause.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2013 01:36 PM

Cass,

"It's not at all apparent to me that feminists or NOW are in charge of running the schools"

Come now, if they haven't the charge they have the influence. Remember, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said separate classrooms reinforce gender stereotypes. “A boy who has never been beaten by a girl on an algebra test could have some major problems having a female supervisor.”

Announce all male academies and cover your ears for the screeching.

"...it was fashionable to assume that gender differences in personality were "socially constructed." Back then, many psychologists thought that if we raised children differently -- if we raised Johnny to play with dolls and Sally to play with trucks -- then many of these gender differences would vanish. However, cross-cultural studies over the past 30 years have provided little support for this hypothesis. On the contrary, a report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that gender differences in personality were remarkably robust across all cultures studied, including China, sub-Saharan Africa, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Peru, the United States, and Europe (including specific studies in Croatia, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Yugoslavia and western Russia). "Contrary to predictions from the social role model, gender differences were most pronounced in European and American cultures in which traditional sex roles are minimized,"
source: Paul Costa, Antonio Terracciano, & Robert McCrae, "Gender differences in personality traits across cultures: robust and surprising findings," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, volume 81, number 2, pp. 322-331, 2001.

The 'system' should stop trying to fix what isn't broken but merely different. Accept difference, embrace it, recognize a Gnostic urge for what it is, a war against nature and its determinacy.

"Does it matter at all whether any of the remedies you suggest have actually been shown to work?

I refuse to believe the past was incapable of building pyramids, cathedrals, and men.

I was educated in an all-boys Catholic high school. Across the street and across the river was an all-boys Public high school. Opened in 1934 with 9,000 male students it remained an all boys school until 1971 - fifteen hundred male students protested the admission of girls.

Men would teach, will teach, if they are allowed to teach, and to discipline. They'll not be babysitters and they'll not engage themselves endlessly with bureaucracies, disciplinary boards, union can/can't do lists, etc.

There's no need to make nationwide, district wide commitments – just a couple of schools in the greater metropolises. Allow them autonomy from the 'system', allow them to flourish - if they can. It's either that or pray.

Posted by: George Pal at March 12, 2013 02:39 PM

George, I love you dearly but I hope I'm never on trial and relying on standards of evidence you're providing.

Men are not helpless patsies and a single quote from a feminist or a cite from a male psychologist talking about gender differences do not prove that feminists caused single sex schools to "go away" (or that they're preventing otherwise willing school districts from adopting SSE).

I'm not an opponent of single sex schooling. In fact, I'm fairly positively disposed to the idea because quite frankly, girls do better in math and science in all girl schools. This is the same reason many self-described feminists (including Hillary Clinton**, a proud graduate of an all girls' school who spoke in favor of single sex schooling as a Congresscritter) strongly support single sex education:

In the past 10 years, more public schools have been answering "apart." One of the first of the new groups to promote gender separation was the Young Women's Leadership School, founded in 1996 by Ann Rubenstein Tisch, then a journalist at NBC. "Single-sex schools existed for affluent girls and parochial girls and Yeshiva girls," Tisch says, "but not for inner-city girls." So in 1996, with the blessing of then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and a team of lawyers who assured her a single-sex school would not violate Title IX, she went to East Harlem and opened a public school for girls. The results, Tisch says, have been stunning: In its six graduating classes, the Harlem school has produced a 100 percent graduation rate, a 100 percent rate of enrollment in four-year colleges, and an 82 percent retention rate once the girls enter college.

Even in 2001, the Harlem program had already impressed Hilary Rodham Clinton, who talked about the school on the floor of the Senate. "We could use more schools such as this," Clinton declared, joining Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in proposing an amendment to the No Child Left Behind education reform act that would make this possible. That amendment is responsible for last week's changes.

This is pretty inconvenient for your theory that feminists are preventing single sex public education. I don't understand why it's so important to you to blame feminists. Maybe it makes the world seem more orderly and explainable. But you're not putting real evidence out there, and you're not making the case.


**and Condoleeza Rice

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2013 03:13 PM

Cass,

I love "I love you buts..."

We are not at trial, neither you nor Feminism is in the dock, and, under the circumstances, I am free to wing it – I believe. Nevertheless, here's more for your perusal.

Title IX regulations that would extensively weaken Title IX by making it significantly easier for schools and school districts to allow single sex classes and single sex schools.
Feminist Majority Foundation does not like:
http://feminist.org/education/SexSegregation.asp

Sexist sexism, sexist, sexist, sexist, sexist, sexist, sexist, sexist, sexist, sexist sexism
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/10/the_single_sex_school_myth_an_overwhelming_body_of_research_show.html

I have this notion that Feminism and the ACLU are not far apart in their agendas.

“Our concern is that once you separate boys and girls you are telling them that there is some inherent difference such that they need to be educated separately,”
Lenora Lapidus, head of the women’s-rights arm of ACLU

Seems 'choice' only goes so far.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/06/22/the-new-segregation-debate.html

ACLU pushes to end same sex schools.
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2012/05/push_from_aclu_to_end_same-sex_classrooms_in_several_states.html?+policy

Evidence of benefits of ss schooling
http://www.singlesexschools.org/evidence.html

You have the last word if you choose, you've exhausted me.

Posted by: George Pal at March 12, 2013 04:43 PM

George:

Conversations involve back and forth, and that does require effort. I'm sorry if you find that effort exhausting. I don't want the last word, and I don't really appreciate the suggestion that I do (or that I've done something wrong by responding to your comments).

Doing so requires considerable effort from me as well.

You may want to read this joint op-ed by Barbara Milkulski (Dem and feminist) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (Republican:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443768804578038191947302764.html

Key quote:

Studies have shown that some students learn better in a single-gender environment, particularly in math and science. But federal regulations used to prevent public schools from offering that option. So in 2001 we joined with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Susan Collins to author legislation that allowed public schools to offer single-sex education. It was an epic bipartisan battle against entrenched bureaucracy, but well worth the fight.

Since our amendment passed, thousands of American children have benefited. Now, though, some civil libertarians are claiming that single-sex public-school programs are discriminatory and thus illegal.

To be clear: The 2001 law did not require that children be educated in single-gender programs or schools. It simply allowed schools and districts to offer the choice of single-sex schools or classrooms, as long as opportunities were equally available to boys and girls. In the vast and growing realm of education research, one central tenet has been confirmed repeatedly: Children learn in different ways. For some, single-sex classrooms make all the difference.

Critics argue that these programs promote harmful gender stereotypes. Ironically, it is exactly these stereotypes that the single-sex programs seek to eradicate.

******************

Now you can simply choose to ignore that the folks who sponsored the bipartisan bill to amend Title IX and make sse easier for schools were female (and in many cases, feminists), in favor of posting links that show other feminists oppose Single sex ed.

But the fact remains that since the law was changed, SSE has grown exponentially in the public schools.

The fact also remains that the old law didn't explicitly ban SSE - but it did make it more difficult. So far, the challengers have not succeeded (and in fact, SSE is growing, not declining).

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2013 05:08 PM

What, precisely, is sexist about this article that you linked?

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/10/the_single_sex_school_myth_an_overwhelming_body_of_research_show.single.html

This part?

... decades of research on academic outcomes from around the world has failed to demonstrate an advantage to single-sex schooling, in spite of popular belief to the contrary. Of course, there are some terrific single-sex schools out there. However, research finds that their success is not explained by gender composition, but by the characteristics of the entering students (such as economic background), by selection effects (for example, low performing students are not admitted, or are asked to leave), and by the substantial extra resources and mentoring these programs provide. When researchers control for these factors, the advantages of single-sex schooling disappear. (And in the case of boys, the research looks even more favorable for coeducation—interesting, given how much the current surge of interest in single-sex programs is directed at them.)

Or this part?

...other research suggests that coeducation offers boys and girls the chance to learn positive skills from each other. Mixed-sex groupings tend to buffer the bullying that often occurs in same-sex groups of adolescents. Studies of siblings, meanwhile, have found that girls with older brothers tend to be more interested in sports than girls with sisters, whereas boys with twin sisters demonstrate better verbal skills than boys with twin brothers.

Simply calling something "sexist" without telling me what you object to in the link isn't really an argument. It's an unsupported ad hominem.

I'm not sure I agree with everything (or even most things) in that article but I'll be darned if I can see what justifies calling it "sexist"?

Here's a definition of sexism:

sexism - discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of the opposite sex

- unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice
- activity indicative of belief in the superiority of men over women
- sexual discrimination - discrimination (usually in employment) that excludes one sex (usually women) to the benefit of the other sex

Which of these things is the article advocating?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2013 05:18 PM

Cass,

"I don't want the last word, but I also don't really appreciate the suggestion that I do (or that I've done something wrong by responding to your comments)."

I am flummoxed that you should have gotten that impression – I had no such thing, not a bit of it, in mind. My intent was to express that I'd exhausted my argument, had no more evidence to offer, and could think of no other way to make my points without getting on a roundabout.

From the Slate article:
"No, the studies don’t show that girls’ schools are better for girls. But they’re sure great at perpetuating sexist attitudes."

Some studies also show that ss schools are better for some girls and boys – I've linked to a couple. But the notion that someone thinking they are, or even may be, better is sexist is just the sort of argument by ad hominem by extraction that Liberals, Leftists, and Feminists resort to – if you disagree with me you are racist, sexist, or a (pick)-aphobe. I've had enough of it. To begin to state one's position with the preamble 'you're a sexist if you think otherwise' brings to an end my interest in what may follow.

Posted by: George Pal at March 12, 2013 06:18 PM

I am flummoxed that you should have gotten that impression – I had no such thing, not a bit of it, in mind. My intent was to express that I'd exhausted my argument, had no more evidence to offer, and could think of no other way to make my points without getting on a roundabout.

Thank you for the clarification. I did not interpret the comment that way, and am glad you told me what you meant by it. Now I understand :)

Some studies also show that ss schools are better for some girls and boys – I've linked to a couple. But the notion that someone thinking they are, or even may be, better is sexist is just the sort of argument by ad hominem by extraction that Liberals, Leftists, and Feminists resort to – if you disagree with me you are racist, sexist, or a (pick)-aphobe.

Honestly, I didn't get that from the sentence or the article. First of all, that statement doesn't say that *you're* sexist if you think SSE is better for boys (or girls, for that matter).

It says the authors think SSE perpetuates sexist attitudes [in students, not SSE advocates]. Which is an entirely different statement.

I disagreed with many of their points, by the way.

On the other hand, I went to a college that was 3/4 male and 1/4 female. Part of the reason I left is that despite a lifetime of having close male friends at every duty station and years of generally wonderful relationships with boys, brother, father, boyfriends, I was absolutely appalled at the attitudes I saw during my freshman year in college from young men. I had no idea there were men/boys who had so little respect for themselves, let alone for the opposite sex.

My husband also attended a majority-male college his freshman year and I ran into the same attitudes there towards women.

I was only 18, and I have never forgotten either experience, George. Until I ventured online about 10 years ago, I really thought only fringe elements like psychopaths and criminals talked about other human beings that way. It was a bit of a shock to realize that on some college campuses, it's just mainstream culture. You know, "No means yes. Yes means..." I'm not going to say it, but boy did a lot of conservatives seem to think that sort of thing is super brave and worth defending.

So yes, I happen to think there's considerable value in boys and girls spending time with each other in an academic setting, though I also can see value in single sex education. It's not what I would have wanted for myself or my boys because I have treasured my friendships with the opposite sex and wanted my boys to have the same priceless opportunities I did.

I also think it's a lot harder to believe that girls are mentally inferior (or only there to be boinked) if you actually know girls your age and talk to them. And harder to think that boys are so different from us in what they want out of life as many men would have us believe. If they're right, married men in particular are living the world's greatest lie.

I have never been of the opinion that all men (or even most men) are pigs, even though men say that of themselves all the time. I've always had the highest respect for men as a general class of people because the men in my life *are* admirable and treat women with respect and courtesy.

And then there are ones who seem to think it's manly to badmouth women - who seem to think we're from another planet (one not populated by humans).

That's not my Dad. Or my brother. Or my sons. And certainly not true of my male friends and the commenters I've been privileged to converse with here at VC.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2013 07:25 PM

From Slate:

"Another group of feminists views single-sex environments as harmful because they provide an artificial world in which gender differences are reified as legitimate bases for disparate treatment, and males and females are both left unprepared to negotiate egalitarian relationships."

Gender differences are reified i.e., gender differences are abstract? There are no circumstances for disparate treatment? Egalitarian relationships? What the hell is that – relations between egalitarians?

Gender differences are not abstract.
Gender differences are real, physically, mentally (right brain-left brain), intellectually (verbally-spatially, socially, etc.

Legitimate bases for disparate treatment.
If gender differences are real disparate treatment is warranted. When in high school, I had male teachers slap me in the face, thwack me in the chest, and whack me with a paddle (may I have another, SIR!). There were half-squats in a corner of the classroom and gloves on for serious peer disputes. I haven't any idea how girls in all-girls schools were disciplined; I trust it was disparate.

Egalitarian relationships.
Honest, I don't now what that means.

Further in the article:
And in spite of many feminists’ belief that single-sex instruction counters it, such sexism still lurks at all-girls’ schools, albeit in a more subtle and therefore pernicious form, according to University of Michigan professor of education Valerie Lee and her colleagues."

and from a link in the Slate article;
"girls' schools did pay the most attention to equality between the sexes, but they also "perpetuated a pernicious form of sexism..."
"The sexism in girls' and women's schools is insidious"

Comparing a sample of coeducational, all-boys, and all-girls independent schools, Lee found that "the frequency of [sexist] incidents was similar in the three types of schools, [but] the forms of sexism were different."

It seems sexism is ubiquitous; it's lurking, blatant or subtle, insidious and pernicious, and did I mention ubiquitous - just like 'racism'. If that's the diagnosis I ache to hear the remedy.

This is pathetic. It conceptually indicts everyone, everything, everywhere, while taking absolutely no account of your definitions of sexism (in a previous comment), making no case for discrimination, abusiveness, unfairness, or addressing claims of superiority. Instead, it asserts dress, colors, décor, stereotypical notions of femininity, regressive notions of sex differences, social conventions, undue attention paid to neatness and cleanliness, as being sexism. That's NOT sexism; that's psychosis with psychotic secondary delusions. I can't take it seriously; nor should women, nor should anyone.

Posted by: George Pal at March 12, 2013 11:59 PM

George, I'm perfectly willing to grant that many of the article's assertions were poorly reasoned :p

But I'm not sure they're sexist by the definition I provided. If sexism is the belief that one sex (generally women) is inferior to the other, I'm not seeing a belief that men are inferior in the article.

What I *do* see is the belief that treating men and women differently simply because they're men or women, is sexist. You believe the differences between men and women are far greater than I do. I think there are some real differences, but also believe the male/female bell curves for most traits overlap far more than they diverge. That belief is supported by an awful lot of evidence.

Consequently, I am of the same opinion as Grim on the rightness of disparate treatment of men and women under law. I think it should be extremely rare and should have to be justified, and I say this as someone who does not believe women should be in combat - not to protect women, mind you (in an all volunteer force, they would be making the decision to enter the combat arms freely) but because our physical differences are demonstrably real and accommodating them poses too great an administrative burden on the military.

I suppose that's "unfair" to women in some sense, but I've never believed that fairness is the be-all and end all of every human endeavor or institution. That doesn't mean it's unimportant - our goal *should* be fairness, but we also should be able to realize that fairness does not always equal - or guarantee - perfect equality.

For this reason, I see nothing particularly objectionable in the fact that most child custody awards go to women either. If you believe (as most men do) that women are somehow uniquely suited for child rearing, then it makes no sense to think courts should ignore that very real difference and grant custody to the father 50% of the time.

I think the current standard is quite sensible: the presumption is that the parent who has spent the most time caring for the kids should get custody. It's actually a gender-neutral standard on its face, because if Dad is that person, he should get custody. And it disparately impacts men, but disparate impact is a particularly pernicious standard that men (and women like me) rejected on its face when it was brandished by feminists and civil rights types. The "boys are falling behind" movement is chock full of disparate impact reasoning - reasoning those making the arguments previously rejected.

The fact is that most men still think child custody awards are horribly "sexist" - they see an instance of disparate treatment that is very well grounded in real differences they claim to believe in, but that doesn't matter to them one whit :p

The "subtle and pernicious form" of sexism these women see in girls' schools is the idea that girls require gender-specific teaching techniques in order to learn. Or perhaps that girls can't learn in classrooms that have boys in them. But here, the fact prove inconvenient: to judge from the current academic success of women, clearly that's not the case. Women are doing just fine in mixed-sex schools.

You assume (again, on no real evidence I can see) that there is a correlation between the relatively lower grades and college completion rates of boys/men and the presence of girls/women in schools. But schools have been co-ed for quite some time. They were mostly co-ed in the 60s and yet far fewer women went to college.

Back then, boys got lower grades than girls. But that wasn't a crisis to conservatives, nor was it deemed "unfair". They argued that these disparate outcomes were a manifestation of inherent differences between men and women. Then, boys got lower grades and had better test scores, and fewer girls went to college. Today, boys still get lower grades but test scores are fairly equal... (which doesn't mean boys are doing worse, but rather that girls are doing better) ... and fewer boys go to college.

Perhaps you can see the logical inconsistency here? As I understand your argument, you are conflating correlation with causation and attributing these changes to sexism against boys/men without any of the tiresome investigation and proof that usually goes along with such claims. In essence, you seem to me to be doing exactly what you complain of in this article: you see a difference, and call it sexism.

What I'm arguing is, quite simply, that correlation does NOT prove causation. I am arguing that there have been a huge number of societal changes over the last few decades, and that it is more likely these cultural changes that are causing the relative (there's that word again!) gender gap. And I am arguing that one of the biggest reasons for that gender gap is not that boys are doing so much worse, but that girls are doing so much better.

That word is important, because implicit in your arguments is the notion that if academic achievement isn't split 50-50 down the middle, gender injustice has occurred and men/boys are the victims. But if boys get better over time and girls do too, the gap will widen. To you, the very existence of a gap somehow proves sexism.

You wouldn't accept such an assertion if it were turned around for one moment. I'm pretty sure you didn't accept it when the shoe was on the other foot and far fewer women went to college. Many conservatives attributed *that* gender gap to inherent differences between the sexes. And yet here we are today, with more women/girls going to college and doing better than men at some things. Did our "inherent natures" change? If they did, they were never inherent. Are girls/women only doing better because we're "cheating" (IOW, b/c the rules changed)? If so, that rather implies that the rules were holding us back then, not women's "inherent natures" :p

Or is it possible that the culture changed - that access to birth control and the basic idea that it was a *good* thing for women to work if they wanted to and go to college changed the incentives?

Conservatives have taken the unenviable that college is overrated and doesn't matter, but that it's a crisis that more boys aren't going to college! I want more men and boys to go to college b/c the job market has changed and they won't be able to compete or be financially secure unless they do. I see no reason why communities shouldn't be able to choose SSE if they want it, but I very much doubt that will help because SSE does nothing to change our current culture.

What needs to happen is that society (and primarily, families) need to teach boys the kinds of skills they need to compete for college slots and jobs. That's the goal, and IMO, you don't accomplish that by training boys in an atmosphere that isn't anything like college or the real world they'll have to live in when they graduate. The world has changed, and it's the adaptable among us who will thrive.

At its essence, you seem to be arguing that boys can't adapt, despite the evidence that a great number of boys and men have done exactly that. I would oppose such an argument if it were being made about girls (they need special accommodations or they can't learn!) and I oppose it equally when it is applied to boys, and for the very same reasons.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2013 06:45 AM

*
"...believe the male/female bell curves for most traits overlap far more than they diverge."

Oh the universes that can be made of small differences. Men and women are precisely alike physically; arms, legs, eyes, nose, toes, spleen, lungs, heart, right down the inventory list. But the divergence - worlds all their own. As much can be said for the traits. Men and women overlap in intelligence but the divergence? There lies genius (and idiocy).

"then it makes no sense to think courts should ignore that very real difference and grant custody to the father 50% of the time.
That very real difference is evident when the children are pre-school, less so after. After that point, why base it on caregiver? Why not base custody on the just as sensible judgment – "you want out of the marriage then you want out of the family" – petitioner for divorce leaves with nothing but a scheduled weekend custody.

"gender gap is not that boys are doing so much worse, but that girls are doing so much better."

There's more to the gender gap than grades.

Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to flunk or drop out of school.

Boys are four to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (and four or five times more likely to be dosed with Ritalin)

Boys make up two-thirds of the students in special education.

I don't understand how it is that there is a perception of a need for special education (special needs children) that doesn't include boys more likely to flunk/dropout, to be inattentive, or be discipline problems - or be drugged. Perhaps 30 percent and four to five times more likely are too subtle an indicator? How same sex education in those cases should cause so much consternation is puzzling. That it should get considerable attention from NOW and the ACLU suggests much.

Posted by: George Pal at March 13, 2013 10:14 AM

Terms like "4-5 times more likely" are meaningless without some idea of the relative magnitude of the actual problem (as opposed to wrong diagnoses) in the population.

They're also pretty useless without knowing "4-5 times as likely" multiplied by *what* base number?

To use an extreme example, contrast 5 boys and 1 girl out of 100 billion to 5 million boys to 1 million girls out of 100 billion.

Two very different situations.

As for dropout rates, I happened to research that very thing this morning :p

The inconvenient fact is that dropout rates for boys have dropped drastically over time. That's right - boys are doing BETTER, not WORSE. And the relative gap in dropout rates for the genders has remained amazingly constant.

So far fewer boys (and fewer girls) drop out now than they did 40 years ago.

That very real difference is evident when the children are pre-school, less so after. After that point, why base it on caregiver? Why not base custody on the just as sensible judgment – "you want out of the marriage then you want out of the family" – petitioner for divorce leaves with nothing but a scheduled weekend custody.

Because that's makes no sense, George. Wanting out of a marriage (while asking to continue primary parenting duties) has NOTHING to do with wanting out of parenting. In fact, it's just the opposite.

You can't infer one from the other reasonably.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2013 10:48 AM

"The inconvenient fact is that dropout rates for boys have dropped drastically over time. That's right - boys are doing BETTER, not WORSE. And the relative gap in dropout rates for the genders has remained amazingly constant."

The even more inconvenient fact is that dropout rates go down under poor economic conditions. As jobs disappear dropouts reappear at school or decide not leave in the first place. Consider the economy is flirting with depression and reconsider the reason for the BETTER.

“Historically, there has been a correlation between the dropout rate going down when the economy is weaker.”
Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (from an article date of January 22, 2013)

"Wanting out of a marriage (while asking to continue primary parenting duties) has NOTHING to do with wanting out of parenting."

Who said it did. Women petitioning for divorce in most cases want their children and want to continue their parenting duties. But why should their wanting to continue parenting duties count as more affecting in court decisions over custody. Haven't men parenting duties? Don't men want their children with them, to raise them? I would think court custody battles would indicate they do. I concede women are greatly better disposed to care giving and nurturing of infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers, and the default custody position should favor them. Otherwise, all bets are off. Petitioner for divorce gets the short end – that goes for men as well – you want out of the marriage, you don't get to keep the fruits of the marriage. Seems fair; actually it seems to brim with common sense at the expense of 'I want'.

Posted by: George Pal at March 13, 2013 12:07 PM

The even more inconvenient fact is that dropout rates go down under poor economic conditions. As jobs disappear dropouts reappear at school or decide not leave in the first place. Consider the economy is flirting with depression and reconsider the reason for the BETTER.

This downward trend spans over 4 decades and you're attributing it to "poor economic conditions"? That's going to take some justification :p

Don't men want their children with them, to raise them? I would think court custody battles would indicate they do.

You may want to reconsider this position given the extremely low number of custody decisions that end up in court, and the extremely small portion of *those* where the father asks for custody :p

Before you advance theories like that, you might want to stop and look at whether the data supports or undermines your point. The vast majority of custody decisions are made out of court by mutual agreement of the parties.

I concede women are greatly better disposed to care giving and nurturing of infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers, and the default custody position should favor them. Otherwise, all bets are off.

I could not disagree more. Statistics show that custodial fathers spend far less time with their kids (and work far more hours than custodial moms). Anyone who has ever raised a teen knows that parental supervision is extremely important. So is time spent - you can't give a kid less than an hour a day of your time and expect good results.

Yet that's how much time the average father spends with his kids (and:

Between 1965 and 2000, men more than doubled the time they spent playing with and teaching their children, from 2.5 to 6.5 hours a week, according to a 2007 study by the Russell Sage Foundation, a New York-based social-science research organization. Mothers spent almost double that amount engaging in such activities, or 12.9 hours a week, in 2000.

Custodial dads also work more hours per week, which means they're not at home with the kids. From my earlier research, only 7 percent of single custodial moms work over 44 hours a week. About 25% of single custodial dads work over 44 hours a week.

Also, the median child support award is 280/month. The median cost of raising a child is about 850/month. So contrary to all the hype, the average child support award covers less than one third of the cost of raising a child. So much for the hype.

The plural of "sensational anecdote" is not "data". It's easy to get all upset over horrifying stories, but none of us has any way of knowing what the typical case is unless we're willing to get in there and do the research.


Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2013 12:50 PM