Is There Really a ‘Boy Crisis’?

Most boys are doing just fine, although some have been getting the wrong message about what it takes to be successful

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American boys are “in crisis.” We’ve been told this for years. We fear the downward creep for boys extends to men. It’s a cultural crisis, we believe, that demands a society-wide response.

But what if it just isn’t true?

Quietly, without anywhere near the fanfare that has greeted the claim that boys have become the weaker, worse-off sex, serious researchers have been arguing for years that boys — a lot of boys, at least — are doing just fine. That — as long as they’re white and from educated families, at least — they’re not dropping behind girls. That when push comes to shove, they still outperform and outearn their female counterparts once they enter the labor market. That the real issue — the real “crisis” in America — is one of class (income and education level), not gender.

(MORE: The Pay Gap Is Not as Bad as You Think)

Now comes a major new report that ought to get some noisy attention. Thomas A. DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann, sociologists at Columbia and Ohio State universities respectively, spent 10 years digging through all the data on boys’ and girls’ academic achievement, trying to figure out what’s true and what’s false in the boy-crisis story. Drawing together all the best research, they found that, indeed, girls now take more advanced college-preparatory classes than boys, and earn higher grades in those classes. They go on to earn more bachelor’s and master’s degrees than men.

Yet they also found that the academic discrepancy isn’t new. Surprisingly enough, girls have been outperforming boys in school for a century — so much so, Buchmann tells me, that when the first U.S. colleges and universities began admitting young women and quickly saw that they were winning the lion’s share of academic honors, some actually reversed their co-educational policies. What has changed, they say, isn’t the relative status of boys (a devaluing of maleness in the classroom) or a feminization of education (that much cursed need to shut up and sit still) or a dearth of men in the teaching profession (boys, it turns out, do equally well with female and male teachers). Instead, they say, there has come to be a real discrepancy in boys’ and girls’ attitudes and effort — backed up by the messages that boys and girls are getting about academic achievement at home.

(MORE: Do Teachers Really Discriminate Against Boys?)

Girls, it turns out, spend more time studying than boys do and are more likely to say that good grades are very important to them. Boys, on the other hand, particularly if they’re from working-class or low-income backgrounds, often suffer socially if they work hard to get good grades. They’re considered “fags” if they do the things that are associated with higher academic performance — participate in music, art or drama, for example. And while girls are hearing the message loud and clear that their hard work in school will lead to success in college and, later, in the workplace, that lesson just isn’t getting through to boys, particularly boys whose fathers didn’t go to college.

(MORE: Does College Put Kids on a Party Pathway?)

“When you look for differences among boys, rather than just differences between boys and girls, the boys who are achieving well are different. They’re more likely to come from families where a father is involved and the father is highly educated and has a white-collar job. The fathers are so important because they help boys understand that being a man isn’t just about acting tough or showing physical prowess but that academic achievement is something that’s very desirable for men, and they make that connection between doing well in school and doing well in today’s economy,” Buchmann says. “These boys haven’t gotten the message or have gotten the wrong message about what it takes to be successful.”

(MORE: The Biggest Barrier to College Isn’t Affordability, It’s Accessibility)

How to fix this? Ten years of research shows that change won’t come through all-male classrooms or more male teachers or a more boy-centric curriculum, the authors say. We need instead to change our schools so that they consistently promote a culture of high academic achievement — a goal that should be obvious but is clearly lacking in many of our sports-obsessed learning institutions. Schools need to promote that culture consistently and evenly for all students. Set high standards and expect students to reach them — and provide extra support for those who need it.

(MORE: Why Kids Under 14 Should Not Play Tackle Football)

The idea isn’t, then, to pit boys’ needs against those of girls or view one gender’s success as a zero-sum game that requires the relative failure of the other. “If we just throw our hands up in the air and say this is just a crisis affecting all boys, that just guarantees that we’re not thinking clearly about what we need to do to solve the ‘crisis,’ ” Buchmann says. The solution is rather to realize that a rising tide of educational expectation will raise all boats. And that a dummy culture drags everyone down.

195 comments
HåvardNorback
HåvardNorback

But the problem is similar in norway.,where sport is not å large part og school.

And my feelings og the article, is that boys troubles are downgraded and called "social" troubles.

School has changed over time,and the subjects that draws boys are seen as a problem.

From the norwegian numbers boys are only on top in engenering. All others are dominated by women. And no one gives å damn.

DanielWhittaker
DanielWhittaker

Interesting article. But it felt as if a source of the problem was hit on than left alone and it was addressed with having "better education" rather than the source confronted. Although there have been major changes within the education system since I graduated high school back in 1998, when I was going there seemed to be problems emerging more. Looking at what is happening, and what is going on with young men in American society right now, and asking how their home life was, who were the influences, etc, often times we see that there was the lack of positive male role models. There can also be the lack of positive female role models. Although depending upon the influences on the child as they grow, the choices they make along, they can make changes they need to grow out of the environment. So to have one sweeping change, like a reform in the education system might not solve the problem. People are human, not robots.

Mapzilla
Mapzilla

I didn't do better in school than the other boys because I was smarter.  Socially and emotionally I was an idiot compared to most boys.  I made good grades because I did not give a damn about being MACHO or fitting in with the moron culture around me.  I cared about getting a good job someday when I grew up, period.  Boys would beat a kid up if he made them look bad on a test.  The pressure to not outscore the class bully was real.  For the boys.

Society as a collective (women too) need to stop rewarding style over substance.  Truth is women/girls would rather have a man/boy who lies, who will joke about being stupid, who will commit violence by proxy on behalf of women/girls, etc.  See the pattern?  When being a mindless brute is no longer cool, boys will aspire to be something else.

hellznrg
hellznrg

So let me get this straight... girls have never been shortchanged in schools. It has always been boys who were shortchanged in school? Is that correct?

nextmonday08
nextmonday08

Does men falling behind in education represent a problem? It certainly does and it's a very big one with huge socio-economic costs as in modern day societies and economies education is everything. This is an issue that has to be taken really seriously.

nextmonday08
nextmonday08

Females mature faster than males both physically as well as mentally and this is critical for the survival of the human race. When a womans body is ready to give a new life she also has to be mentally ready to raise it succesfully because the main responsibility for this is hers from a purely biological point of view. The father might be or not be around but she will be there for sure as she's the one giving birth, so nature leaves nothing to chance in that aspect.

This early maturity of females is perhaps the main reason why girls peform better at schools than boys also keeping in mind that the majority of the education is taking place during childhood and teen years when those differences in maturity exist. There might be other factors too but this one I believe is the one making the most difference. Girls even at a very young age are more able than boys to comprehend responsibility, importance and work on long-time goals. This isn't linked to intellect, IQ or cognitive abilities which are pretty much the same for both boys and girls.

Also girls outperforming boys in school is happening all around the world and it is not linked to race, religion, society or educational system.

DavidBueler
DavidBueler

While I agree with your assessment (or the assessment of the study you cited,) I do believe that there is some bias towards boys. I have encountered it myself while I was in school and this article http://ideas.time.com/2013/02/06/do-teachers-really-discriminate-against-boys/ which cites another study that suggests that there is some bias for teachers to give higher grades to female students because they behave better. While I agree, that it should be a zero-sums game and that we shouldn't pit boys against girls, feminists do it a lot. I don't understand why, if it's girls that are struggling or are disenfranchised it's always because of discrimination and something needs to be done specifically for girls. But if boys are struggling, it's wrong to do anything that helps boys out without also helping girls out.  

BellaMia7
BellaMia7

The liberal press doesn't show the success stories which lie outside their ideological underpinnings - say, for example, a school consisting of 80% disadvantaged minority boys - with a 100% graduation rate, and a 100% college acceptance rate.  Where?  In Chicago, of all places, murder capitol of the US.  There is such a school, but that creates a big problem for liberals.

It's a charter school, with very high academic standards.  Urban Prep Academies, in Chicago.  Liberals don't want to make the other public schools or their teachers look bad, so there was only ONE article about the school's recent graduation rate - impressive by any community's standards.  There were over 2000 new stories about the basketball player who came out as gay.  

See the game the media plays?  They pretend to care about academic achievement but they focus on the trivial.

Actually the Urban Prep Academies have 3 locations and a rigorous program which wouldn't be tolerated in other public schools.  From their website:

"Distinctive elements of the schools program include:

  • A rigorous college prep curriculum;
  • Extended school day and year;
  • Language Arts and math focus;
  • Extra-curricular activities;
  • Community service requirements;
  • Parental engagement expectations;
  • Positive school culture;
  • Regular professional development for teachers. "

 http://www.urbanprep.org/schools

Here are the photos of their 100% graduating classes extending back several years....ever hear about this...?

http://www.urbanprep.org/about/100-percent

Here's the Urban Prep Crreed - something else you won't find in American Public Schools

http://www.urbanprep.org/about/creed

Until we break the stranglehold that government and unions have over schools, school which put children and results first, will be a tragic minority.  And we know who that hurts the most...minorities.  (Doesn't stop minority parents from voting for the very Democrat politicians who so cruelly undermine their childrens' successes in these public school failures. I call them hell zones.)


DanielStaggers
DanielStaggers

So, today's double speak, there's a problem, but there isn't a problem. Kinda like Obama's problems. Yeah, right....

MartyWitbeck
MartyWitbeck

… and what can we do to fix the problem? Spend money on government programs telling boys they are important just as they do for girls. We have heard so much about spending money to help girls because they need to be empowered past their inferiority complex. There should be minority programs for the boys because they are a minority. Give them programs to get them past stereotypes holding them back.

Let’s not forget women get less pay because they group into stereotypically female job classifications and drive the salaries down through over supply. This is the main reason for the disparity of incomes between genders. It is caused by the female gender. If the boys received as much federal help as the girls do the problems they face would disappear and what a great place this country would be, just, right and fair.

RonnieSchreiber
RonnieSchreiber

Typical gender feminism: when women do worse than men, it's men's fault, when men do worse than women, it's men's fault.

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin

Having grown up and gone to public school and community high school in a working-class neighborhood, I can't believe that this is somehow new or surprising. I faced heavy social repercussions for doing too well in school. Even back then it was impossible to be popular or even respected if you performed well in academic subjects, and I expect it's only gotten worse with time.

aliberaldoseofskepticism
aliberaldoseofskepticism

There's also the fact that the distribution of intelligence among males is more platykurtic (that is, more at both the high and low ends). If you look in special ed, you'll see more boys for this reason. You'll also see more boys in gifted classes for this reason.

MikeLand
MikeLand

Having retired from working with kids ages 7 to 17, I put in 30 years into the effort.  I say effort because it was never a job completely done.  But I saw a shift in the 90's that bothered me.  We had never sent a kid home in the facility I helped run.  But then came this kid who tore into our staff like a hyena.  I checked with or camp doctor who told me this kid arrived with a bottle of RITALIN.  I said, really, the drug on Star Trek that was needed to save a planet?  No he said that was Rye Tal In, this is rit-a-lin.  So I asked what was his problem.  He said the mom sent the kid with only a few pills to use in case he went into withdrawal during his drug vacation.  Really mom, send your kid to our camp with him on a drug vacation?  So we called mom and had her pick him up.  That was the start of many calls to moms for them to provide taxi service away from our camp.  So as time went on, we offered less traditional activities like camping, hiking, hobo dinners, smores on the trail, and vespers out in the setting sun.  Kids evidently can't cook outdoors, cant handle hikes, and are not patient enough to just sit for 15 minutes contemplating the day while the sun sets.  So it was replaced with "adventure" games and such.  Then I finally went to the camp management and said I had to get out.  I was not an "adventure" camp leader and I had put in my time.  So I left and it was just three years later that the camp closed for good.  Seems like no kids could handle camp anymore.  The organization bought a much smaller camp near a state highway that had DSL, WIFI, cable tv, and video games.  It was also closer to mom so that boy wouldn't get such a separation complex like they now do even at age 16.

BenderRodriguez
BenderRodriguez

This is the truth:

Before men only had to compete against each other. They didn't want girls in the game because it would make them feel emasculated and it would increase the competition.

Now girls are surpassing, boys have a larger pool of people to compete against and a lot of boys have been found out for where they truly fall on the scale.

But instead of now disadvantaging the girls (in an insane see-saw of flip-flop change), now we can see where everyone falls, we can now pursue helping those left behind (BOTH boys and girls) and continue to encourage the achievers (BOTH boys and girls) and not pit everyone against each other.

glennra3
glennra3

"In the U.S, the education at K-12 and below is the worst system known to science." - CynicalCyx


What a load of unsubstantiated crap.


Everyone loves to pile on the American education system.  How is it then that in spite of a system that is "the worst known to science" this nation is and remains the most prosperous, most inventive, most productive nation in the history of the planet?  


How did this nation earn 338 Nobel Prizes, the most of any nation in the world, if we are producing so many inferior students?  Who built the most productive economy the world has ever seen, but those public educated students?  There are 197,000 + patents that have been granted to U.S. citizens, more than any other country in the world.  Where did those folks get an education?


It is so easy to trash American public education, but you have to stop and think that the vast majority of the inventors, thinkers, business people, and job creators in this nation were educated in a public school.


We (yes, I am a public school teacher) must be doing something right.


CynicalCyx
CynicalCyx

In the U.S, the education at K-12 and below is the worst system known to science. It places emphasis on pointless coursework instead of logical subjects and science. Subjects that kindle interest in boys have been devalued. This discrimination against boys starts from early school and goes all the way to college. Title IX , which was meant to protect women is now being used to cut down men's sports teams under the guise of a "budget cut". It's obvious that there is no need for such a budget cut, this is yet another round of systematic discrimination against boys and men.

Boys have lost their interest in school, some get drunk on video games while others rigorously pursue online courses to achieve their goals. Fortunately fields in high sciences, engineering and computing are a haven for men and will remain that way. There is also a huge surge of men leaving the country and setting up businesses overseas with excellent results. 

AllisonDeJordy
AllisonDeJordy

Let's call it what it is: men are not socially allowed to act like women. This has been true for centuries. Until recently it wasn't a huge problem since the roles of women were usually limited to homemaking and childrearing (although the perception that men can't do these things is also damaging to both men and women). College was largely a man's thing. However, in the past few decades it has become de rigeur for a woman to have a college degree. It's almost impossible to be taken seriously as a woman if you DON'T have one. Ergo, since females now occupy the world of academia, it's uncool for males to be intelligent. 

akiddoc
akiddoc

56% of college freshmen are women. Men are not getting to college, are less likely to graduate from high school, and are less employable. In the long term this will be a crisis for the entire country. When men don't get jobs, they are much more likely to turn to crime than women.

BrianneDeRosa
BrianneDeRosa

At least one of the answers is buried right here in the article.  By basing the criteria for whether or not there's a "boy crisis" on academic achievement and earnings alone, I think we're missing the mark.  There IS a boy crisis in this country, in that boys, as the article points out, are not socially accepted as freely as girls are when they do the things they enjoy doing.  If a boy enjoys music and art and drama and wants to pursue those things, in many cases, he'll have to run a social-emotional gauntlet; he may or may not decide that's worth it, and even if he does decide to go ahead with his aspirations, he may suffer greater bullying and emotional abuse from peers than he would have if he'd played sports.  So is it any wonder that our boys aren't achieving as highly?  They receive multiple messages a day that tell them they can't REALLY choose to be who they would like to be, and if they defy that, they often endure abuse for it.  This stands in stark contrast to the princess culture that tells girls every day that they can do ANYTHING.  Girls can be firefighters!  But boy dancers?  HA!  Girls can be athletes and wear blue and pants and dig in the dirt and play with trucks!  But boys who sing, prefer softer colors, like to play with the dollhouse or nurture their stuffed animals?  The boy crisis in this country is a crisis borne of prejudice, homophobia, and gender oppression; it's not about "boys" so much as it's about our antiquated and misguided ideas about sexuality. 

happyfather
happyfather

Sigh...not many women responding to my offer to discuss giving up some parenting time if needed and when appropriate to allow for our country's sons to experience a more balanced parenting life. So disappointing. So predictable. I hope you women can find men for your daughters. Personally, I am going to find a way to get my son dialed in to the risks involved with being in intimate relationships with a woman in this society, so that he can be more careful then some of my peers and myself. The statistics speak for themselves. I can see a lot of men with dreams of having a close knit family life thinking, the risk is just too great. I can't wait to retire, and go looking for a more inspiring culture then ours to cheer me up on this subject.

jadams
jadams

Say what you want, but would any of you white men want to trade places with any other group or gender?  I thank ______ every day that I am a white male. 

MikeDibley
MikeDibley

I would like to know what is education? who were these writing studies aimed at? let's face it the only real jobs that matters are the trade jobs and medical/health/social care jobs everything else is not important, we're forever spending our time lining someone's pockets,

All these women doing well in maths or English or other rubbish so what? if they want to become a doctor, nurse or psychologist etc great,

But data entry admin clerical pointless business expanding, money motivated rubbish won't get us anywhere,

look around you what do you see, everything is built by man, all the great scientists are men, a lot of the greatest minds that have ever lived have been men, we always find a way,

don't let this article worry you,

And to any feminist readers out there just think about your world and how you can be free in this world because of us men, we give the world protection, safety, we build your homes, we build your televisions, everywhere you walk is built by us,

whatever your reason for joining feminism, think about your fathers your brothers, the police force, the firefighters who put their lives on the line for you "women and children first"

You don't realise how lucky you are.

jbigdunkebay
jbigdunkebay

the problem is boys just want to play video games and stuff and dont care about school anymore . I know I have teenage sons who I cant believe have no interests other than computers, video games and stuff. and it seems all of them are like that. 

ByronNelson
ByronNelson

LOL....well you can always say that a certain number of a group is doing okay. Back when girls were "underperforming" you could have said that SOME were doing just fine. Was that a good reason not to reach out and try to help girls? No. And it's not for boys either. What a bunch of feminist sexism this article is. Do you really just flat-out hate males? Boys are really and truly getting the short end of the stick and that being the case doesn't just hurt males. 

MAGuyton
MAGuyton

I guess if I were a 50 year old single man without any prospects, I would have a lot of time on my hands to rant and rave against "the feminist conspiracy" in the comments section of a Time news article. Thankfully I'm married to a hot feminist wife and we have two very bright sons who aren't going to have any trouble keeping up with the girls in school. I've seen maybe two or three male teachers at the elementary school where my son goes to school and the two female teachers he's had so far have been great. Honestly it really makes me scratch my head that someone would think their gender was relevant. Every uber-conservative homeschooler family has kids that are taught exclusively by a female. Tim Tebow's mama was his teacher and it didn't stunt his masculinity. I hear a lot of baseless ideology in all these comments. If you need to live in a world where feminists are bogeymen, then any woman writing anything at all that's gender-related is a demonic propagandist. Keep on living in your homeschool whitopia.

daremo
daremo

Something that has been missing for a long time now is the concept of a mentor.  It only really exists now in certain circles and its why so many boys struggle. 

professor.prudhomme
professor.prudhomme

Social science data is so politicized today that a good rule of thumb is this: simply do not trust what a woman says about girls. A woman is very, very unlikely to be objective: there is just too much at stake. If they find that boys really are being discrimnated against, that would be fatal to feminism. So that conclusion has to be precluded.

happyfather
happyfather

OK ladies, time to step up to the plate and comment on my posting from last night! If you want us men to be more involved with the son's of our country, would you be willing to relinquish enough parenting time so that our son's can have a balanced parenting experience, roughly 50/50 which my son should have in a couple year hopefully? Anyone want to discuss the pros and cons? I will start the conversation...if Johnny has trouble in English but aspires to play piano well, and his dad is stellar at English (spelling, writing etc) and mom plays the piano beautifully, what is the best parenting experience for him? I think roughly 50/50 in single parent OR joint parent living situations when possible. Okay, let the fireworks begin! Peace ladies, let's work together to raise our children!!!