Exploring the decline of male achievement
BLUFFTON, Ohio— Since the introduction of Title IX in 1972, there has been a lot of focus on ensuring girls get the same opportunities as boys in public education. However, with so much focus on girls’ achievement many people haven’t noticed that boys are falling behind.
Bethel College (Kansas) professor Dr. Doug Siemens explored the role reversal in educational achievement during a Dec. 1 Forum at Bluffton University. Siemens is an associate professor and director of elementary teacher education at Bethel.
“This is a social justice issue that needs to be addressed” said Siemens. “We have a definite problem in this country that’s not going away.”
His Speech “Boys’ Achievement Gap and the Ethic of Care: Framing a New Discussion about Education and Gender” was part of the university’s 2015-16 Civic Engagement Theme of Gender Roles, Relationships and Realities.
During Forum, Siemens explained he first learned of issues surrounding boys’ underachievement during a Fulbright teacher exchange in England. However, he quickly saw parallels with his own young son and with the students he taught at Bethel College.
Siemens identified several gaps between boys and girls including lagging grades, increased numbers of disciplinary referrals and higher and increased high school dropout rates. The gaps are even more pronounced in students who are minorities.
Citing research from Dr. Leonard Sax, who wrote the book Boys Adrift, Siemens named five factors that have contributed to this decline: the rise in video games, the increased use of prescription drugs such as Ritalin, environmental toxins that are wreaking havoc on hormones, the devaluation of masculinity in popular culture and changing teaching methods.
He says boys often have an attitude about education that is in direct contrast to actually succeeding in school. For example, he says boys want to succeed on their own terms or they don’t think it’s cool to study. “Those are the things we are working against” said Siemens.
Siemens says the solution is not reverting back to the June Clever days for women. He admits women are still fighting for level footing in many areas such as leveling the wage gap, breaking through the glass ceiling and having equal representation in male dominated fields.
However, Siemens says there are ways to reverse the male achievement gap without disrupting female achievement. He proposes using Nel Nodding’s idea of Care Theory. Basically, the more a teacher cares about a student, the more a student will succeed.
Siemens has two simple tips for teachers to better care for students: “Be cool and don’t suck.” All kidding aside, Siemens says “When strong positive relations exist, they enhance learning.”