The statistics are rather grim: Boys are twice as likely as girls to repeat a grade, and 32% of boys drop out of school as compared to 25% of girls. Girls have long been recognized to have a verbal advantage over boys; now in many states, girls do slightly better on math tests as well. Women have been earning 57% of college bachelor’s degrees. It’s no surprise to educators that American boys are lagging behind girls academically.What is a surprise is how slow the education establishment has been to acknowledge this problem, much less identify the causes and enact remedies. A scholar named Richard Whitmire spent the last several years examining this issue, and believes he’s found some of the answers. In his new book Why Boys Fail, he reports that the biggest problem is that kids are now expected to use literacy skills at younger ages. Kindergartners are now expected to do work previously assigned to second graders because of the standards and accountability movement and the “No Child Left Behind” law. Since boys take longer to develop verbal competencies, they start off behind and never recover. In previous years, boys usually caught up by the fourth or fifth grade; today, they never catch up.
What has changed? Whitmire blames the fact that kids are not taught to read by phonics. Instead they are taught the so-called whole-language method that uses guessing at words based on context and pictures rather than using the decoding skills of phonics training. He also criticizes the fact that the books assigned in school appeal to girls, but bore the boys. Boys want action and adventure books and assignments, but teachers discourage those subjects. When limited to topics that girls find interesting, boys dislike reading and writing. Even math classes, once an arena in which boys could discover their strengths, have become more verbal instead of focusing on calculations. That's another disadvantage to boys.
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