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Published:January 22nd, 2006 11:09 EST
Playground America - Boys or Bullies

Playground America - Boys or Bullies

By Joey O'Donnell

There is a demographic trend that is evident today worthy of question. The question is: Why are boys falling behind in school? This declination of boys in school is undoubtedly occurring across the nation.

The data show that in elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. High School boys are also losing ground to girls on standardized writing tests. In addition to that, according to a University of Michigan study, the number of boys who said they did not like school rose 71 percent between 1980 and 2001. The most apparent switch is on college campuses. Thirty years ago, men represented 58 percent of the undergraduate student body. Now they are a minority at 44 percent (that is nearly a 2:1 female to male ratio!).

Educators are searching for new ways to help tackle the problems of boys, and there are books written devoted solely to the topic. Some well-acclaimed works are Michael Thompson`s bestseller "Raising Cain" (recently made into a PBS documentary), Harvard psychologist William Pollack`s definitive work "Real Boys", and Michael Gurian`s The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life ".

The Gurian Institute, run by Michael Gurian himself, has enrolled 15,000 teachers in seminars devoted to helping teachers understand how to help advance the education of boys. In addition, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, which in the last five years has donated nearly a billion dollars to innovative high schools, is making boys a big priority. "Helping underperforming boys," says Jim Shelton, the foundation`s education director, "has become part of our core mission." (The foundation focuses on making every individual equal, and additionally does significant amounts of other pro bono work).

So with all efforts made, why is it still a problem, and where are the origins of the problem? For many boys, the trouble can start as young as five years old. They begin kindergarten and bring to very different physical and mental abilities than girls. Boys typically had better hand eye coordination, whereas girls are more fluent and able to sight-read words better than boys.

It is a genetic thing, that this day in age, when associated with the country`s lack of ambition and laziness, effects boys in a more noticeable way than girls. As mentioned before, the physical and mental abilities males do (and typically always have) possess are not what will make them succeed academically once entering the higher levels of education. They are genetically, in an academic setting, less functional than girls.

There is no overnight panacea for this problem, though we can only hope that with all of the resources and funding today--created to decrease the educational gap between boys and girls--education will begin to become more balanced.