Why are Boys Failing and Who’s To Blame?

Why Are Boys Failing in School?

Thank you to Dad Friend, Adverlicio.us, for sending me this article.  He’s Canadian so he’s follows the news both there and here.  In this case, the story is the same (as it is worldwide); the puzzling yet largely ignored phenomenon of failing boys and the politics over past decades of boys versus girls in terms of  success both inside the classroom and in the boardroom.  It’s a pendulum that seems to swing towards one side or the other, never managing to get both sides to “succeed.”  Who is to blame?  It is parenting?  Is it the images in textbooks?  Are expectations of boys lower in our society? I think we’ll need all six parts to get a handle on this!

The full article is here and this is part 1 of a 5 part series.  Key paragraphs are below.


Failing boys and the powder keg of sexual politics


From Saturday’s Globe and Mail

Compelling statistics show boys rank behind girls by nearly every measure of scholastic achievement, yet the phenomenon is as polarizing as it is puzzling. Part 1 of a six-part series.

  • It’s a controversial shift – fuelling a complex battle of the sexes – but these days boys are the ones making news, for falling behind and flunking out, from the U.S. to China, from the U.K. to the Philippines, from New Zealand to Canada.
  • Theories abound to explain the new gender gap in education – slower brain development, video games that zap away study time, peer pressure, a lack of male role models at school and at home, and sons parented differently than daughters.
  • Here, a hill of data suggests that boys, as a group, rank behind girls by nearly every measure of scholastic achievement. They earn lower grades overall in elementary school and high school. They trail in reading and writing, and 30 per cent of them land in the bottom quarter of standardized tests, compared with 19 per cent of girls. Boys are also more likely to be picked out for behavioural problems, more likely to repeat a grade and to drop out of school altogether.
  • While men and women are enrolling in university in record numbers, the proportion of women attending is significantly higher. Men make up just 40 per cent of university undergraduates, and they’re much less likely than women to graduate from the college or degree program they start.
  • Yet the phenomenon can be as puzzling as it is polarizing. Some see it as proof of society’s forgotten boys – that while diligent efforts went into helping girls learn, boys were disregarded, left to find their own way in a feminized education system.
  • … despite the giant strides women have made in higher education – outpacing men with their degrees and grade point averages – boys grow up to be men and, as The Globe documented in its series on Women in Power last week, it is still a man’s world. Men run the vast majority of countries and companies, and even when women have the same level of education, men still bring home more bacon.
  • Compelling insight comes from Statistics Canada’s ambitious Youth In Transition Survey, which in 2000 began tracking 30,000 15-year-olds at 1,000 schools and 23,000 youths between the ages of 18 and 20. It finds that while overall marks, reading ability and study habits are the top three predictors of which teenager will go to university, parental expectations rank fourth.
  • Nearly 70 per cent of parents said they expected their 15-year-old daughters would complete a university degree. Yet only 60 per cent had the same expectation of their 15-year-old sons.

p.s.  Part 2:  Is the lack of male teachers as role models to blame?

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I am afraid it is not about effort on the boys’ part; also, it is not about having equality in every boardroom, political field, or stem field.
    The belief boys should be strong is allowing much more aggressive treatment of boys by parents, teachers, peers, and others as early as one year of age. This is coupled with much less mental, emotional, verbal interaction and support for fear of coddling. The belief boys should be strong is at a high cost in maintained anger, fear, anxiety, preparation for defense, and more social/emotional distance/distrust of adults. This is creating higher average maintained layers of average stress for boys which hurts thinking, learning, motivation, and mental health. It is creating more activity for stress relief; and higher muscle tension, which hurts writing and motivation to write (not genetic or developmental but socially created). It creates a much lower social vocabulary and higher average stress, which hurts reading and motivation to read. Also boys are not given love and honor unless they have some achievement or status. Boys not achieving are given more ridicule and even more abuse by society to make them try harder and because society allows it. This is sending more boys to other areas of life to receive love and honor instead of school.
    As for equality in the professional ranks. As girls, we are given love and honor simply for being girls. We are given much more kind, caring, verbal interaction and much mental emotional support from infancy through adulthood. This provides us with much lower average stress, more ease of learning, more support from teachers, much better reading and writing support, and more support from others for being girls. We are now surging ahead in many white collar fields over our male peers in any area we choose.
    Since we are given love and honor unconditionally, we are able to go in to any field “we desire and have much fulfillment in our chosen fields” and do much better than our male peers. We are not as driven to achieve as Males for love and honor from society. This is part of the reason we are not in the top political, corporate, and stem areas. Another part is the very few boys who come from more stable, middle to upper class families are given sufficient stability, care, and knowledge to succeed in school, with the exception of still having to achieve in order to receive love and honor from parents, peers, and society. This then causes those few boys to keep succeeding and achieving in order to keep receiving love and honor from society. This is like a never ending drug for those very few boys. So those very few boys will keep trying harder to achieve in those higher areas. It is the innersecurity we as girls enjoy verses the drug of success boys, later men must keep on taking that is creating more men in those higher positions. At the same time, the middle class is dropping in all areas of the world and the number of successful Male students are also dropping. This means there will be more and more girls not just as doctors, lawyers, and engineers, but also more will begin to fill in the top corporate, political, and stem fields. We must remove the myth of genetics and effort from our schools and begin to look at how our individual environments and differential treatment are creating a two class society by gender today.

    • Thanks Lynn for raising a very good point. It’s up to us as parents to give boys the unconditional love that they also deserve and fortify them against the misperceptions that they will face in the world. I feel fortunate that I see this in the parents that I know who are raising boys in my neighborhood. They are raising their sons very similarly to how they are raising their daughters. This is a big issue though. I’ve seen a Black Mens’ organization bring attention to this and it’s so important.
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