Teaching Fathers

Via Instapundit comes a link to this article in the New Republic about the growing gender imbalance in education. Boys are falling behind to the extent that colleges are running a 60/40 female to male graduation ratio. The article’s most significant point isn’t the imbalance itself but rather the fact that the imbalance only opened up in the early 80s and appears to be accelerating. The article mentions many possible factors but neglects one I think probably has a significant impact:

Absent Fathers.

The article mentions the role of fathers only briefly, in seeking to explain why the drop off in boys’ verbal and reading scores in the teenage years is more severe among the working class. However, the article doesn’t even touch on the problem of boys who grow up without any immediate day-to-day role model.

It has long been known that children fare better when raised by a single parent of their own gender. Girls do better with mom and boys do better with dad. In most divorces and never-married families, the mother becomes the primary care giver with Dad showing up on the weekends. As a result, girls have a day-to-day role model of responsible feminine behavior whereas boys don’t have a comparable masculine role model. Many boys are fortunate to get good stepfathers, but even then they may spend several critical years waiting for Mom to shop around.

The absence of masculine role models also leaves boys more susceptible to the popular culture’s portrayal of masculinity, which, frankly, is crap. In popular culture, men are impulsive, childish and violent. In popular culture men do not think, plan or create. No boy raised on a steady diet of MTV and associated media ever comes away with the idea that long-term planning, self-restraint and self-sacrifice are important facets of masculine behavior. They certainly don’t receive any positive reinforcement that education is important or admirable.

We’ve long known that divorce and single parenting negatively impact children across the board. There is no facet of a child’s life that is improved by divorce or single parenting when all other variables are held constant. All other family configurations are inferior to that of married biological parents. A lot of people ignore these simple, empirical facts. I think that boys have suffered more from the breakdown of the family than have girls, and that is reflected in their academic performance. It is not the only cause of the gap, but I bet it is a major one and one that receives precious little attention.

4 thoughts on “Teaching Fathers”

  1. “Boys are falling behind to the extent that colleges are running a 60/40 female to male graduation ratio.”

    By today’s measure probably. However in a more traditional sense of ’college’ are they? Go back a hundred years and check the curriculum. If we check the subjects taught and the degrees awarded and then use those categories to recalculate student population is it going to so gender biased? The universities and colleges have had an incredible explosion in degrees and courses to certify employment paths which didn’t require such levels of education prior. Make the mid-century mark the dividing point. How many ‘professional’ artists had degrees [painting, sculptor, acting, dance]? How many of the reporters and writers of the ‘great’ dailies had degrees in ‘journalism’? Teacher colleges were at one time, two year colleges. Now go count the boys in engineering, chemistry, physics, animal husbandry, math, etc that you found in the old school curriculum. The point I’m trying to get to is that a lot of what passes as academic scholarship is really just a certification process. It has become largely such because the society, particularly one oriented the bureaucracy, finds it easier to use an artificial measure of one’s skills – do you have a piece of paper. The paper in turn imbues the holder with social status regardless whether really enlightenment has occurred. In this concern, are we also counting the wrong piece of paper?

    As to the performance of boys versus girls in the primary and secondary system, I’d be interested in the comparative results of males attending public schools versus private schools versus military academies. Yes, private military academies still exist. I suspect you’ll find a male environment suitable for comparative analysis there.

  2. It occurs to me that the value of a college education may have become so common as to -on average – make the sheepskin less valuable. This dovetails with Don’s comment, I think.

    In terms of simple economics it may be more attractive – for the male especially – to adopt a trade and this may be a factor in the 60/40 ratio.

  3. Don, Tyouth,

    You both make salient points but the divergence is in more than just graduation ratios at the bachelor level. Verbal and reading scores diverge significantly starting in the mid-teens. Even in math, traditionally the masculine strong suit, boys are losing ground both in comparison to girls and to boys of previous generations.

    The effect is much stronger among low income boys than upper income.

  4. This has been noted in Britain too, and some commentators have ascribed it, accurately, I believe, to the feminisation of curricula and exams (less competitive). A lot of classes these days in Britain are “collectivist” rather than competitive. Girls do well working in groups with other girls whereas males, as we know, thrive on competition.

    I also agree that absent fathers must be an important element, but there again, it comes down to the feminisation of society. Single mothers have the same status as married women, and boys are brought up without a male role model. It all hangs together in a curious way, to my mind.

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