Boy Vs. Boy: Whitmire Takes On Mathews

Click "Read More..." to check out the vigorous response from USA Today's Richard Whitmire to Jay Mathews' Washington Post article (Study Casts Doubt On the 'Boy Crisis') on whether there is an education "crisis" that's particular to boys.

In addition to calling out Mathews for using an Ed Sector paper that rehashes old data, Whitmire points out -- as he has before -- that the cumulative picture of boys in education makes a persuasive case that there is a serious problem there. Whitmire is working on a book about this topic.

UPDATE: "Most of this year's high school valedictorians had something in common besides being smart," according to this article from Charlotte (Best in school? In 2006, girls rule) from the wekeend. "They're girls."


To the Washington Post:

I'm trying to imagine Jay Mathews taking his argument (that girls overwhelming boys in school is nothing to worry about) to Clark Atlanta University where only 30% of the students are male. My advice: Tell your cab driver to keep the engine running.

Mathew's front page Washington Post story (Study Casts Doubt on the 'Boy Crisis', June 26) relies on a paper from a Washington think tank that offers no fresh data. By citing minor test score gains made by boys in the lower grades, the paper seeds doubt that boys are in academic trouble .

Over the years, Mathews has employed a sharp reporting eye. But in this case he failed to go beyond the think tank paper to ask the right questions. Those include:

-- Does it matter that male college attendance has flat lined? Ask women at a college where the percentage of females has crept past 60% and you'll get a big "Yes!" Ask an economist who weighs the value of education in a global economy and you'll get the same answer

-- Do the modest gains by boys in the lower grades matter? They are hopeful, but all too often we've seen elementary school gains wash out in middle school and high school. What matters in the college process is high school, where the gender reading gap continues to widen. The gender gap in writing skills is huge.

-- Is this really an issue affecting only poor and minority boys?. I just returned from a visit to a nearly all-white, mostly middle class Oregon high school where all seven valedictorians were female. The year before the count was 15 girls, one boy. Year before that it was 16 and zip. The number of private colleges keeping their gender imbalances under control by offering affirmative action admissions to white, middle class boys is one of the best kept secrets in higher education

Mathews suggests the boy issue is being taken advantage of by conservative and liberal authors with their own agendas. I don't fit into either camp, and yet I'm so convinced this is a problem I'm writing a book about the issue: "Boy Troubles: Rescuing Boys from their Academic Slide, Broadway Books.

Richard Whitmire, Arlington, Va.

Previous Posts: The Backlash Against Boys Begins


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clark Atlanta ranks among the bottom five percent of 4-year institutions in terms of the percent of men. It's telling that Whitmire criticizes the data in the report as not being "fresh" as opposed to being wrong, and offers no data in reply--just anecdotes.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Now that my 9 year old reads for enjoyment, as long as i can keep interesting books available, he'll read them. That battle is won. While there might be something like that for science, i don't (yet) see how to do that for math, other than constant pressure to review. (Punishment systems don't work, but reward systems do, so 'pressure' here just means i have to keep at it.)

1:11 PM  

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