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The evidence is growing that boys and young men are lagging girls and young women in many important educational measures.

Some of the details:

  1. 57% of students in post-secondary education are women.
  2. Girls enrolled in gifted and talented education programs outnumber boys enrolled, e.g., 8.1% of girls participated in gifted and talented education programs in 2009 compared to 7.4% of boys.
  3. By a large margin, girls are much less likely than boys to be held back one year. In 2009-2010 across all grade levels, 61% of the students held back for academic reasons were boys and only 39% were girls.
  4. A greater percentage of girls in 7th or 8th grade (20%) are taking Algebra I compared to boys (18%), and girls of every race/ethnicity are passing Algebra I at a higher rate than their male peers.

The really interesting thing to me is that very few people are talking about it. There’s literally a crisis going on here, and almost nobody is talking about it. And even fewer even know about it, which is a separate issue worth discussing all by itself.

Why is that? Well, maybe because our “leaders” in politics, the media, and various lobbying groups have other agendas, and are too deeply invested in goals that are in direct opposition to seeing that boys and young men thrive. While girls and young women are on the rise in nearly every way we can measure, in education, sports, and careers, it is often at the expense of boys and young men. This is not a healthy situation, for anybody.

Ask yourself why politicians, the media, and various special-interest groups demand that we obsess over how rough everything is for women, gays, and minorities, but completely ignore whether we as a nation are meeting the needs of our boys and young men. Because we are not meeting those needs, when you look into the trends and the numbers.

Boys and young men that are not doing well in school means that as they transition into adulthood, they are much more likely to suffer long-term problems with careers, income, relationships, and just about everything else. This is already happening, and is known as “failure to launch”, according to several experts who have studied this issue. 

Yet, nothing. Near-total silence. Somebody want to explain this? A cynical person might say that politicians, the media, and various special-interest groups are actually glad that boys and young men are lagging, because they are so wrapped up in outdated politics from the 1960s built on the corrosive idea that gains for one group of people must necessarily come at the expense of another group of people. Class warfare, in other words.

Actually, a realistic person might say that. Such as myself. Right here, right now.

I have three sons and obviously I want them to succeed in life – actually, you want them to succeed in life too, even if you don’t know why – and it would be swell if we as a nation could take a look around and understand what we are doing different in our culture and our schools that disrupts what should be so natural and simple: allowing boys and young men to flourish naturally. Holding up the virtues of masculinity in our culture once again would help, and I’m far from the first to suggest that.

While we obsess over counting calories expended in gym class to protect the physical health of our boys and girls, and we obsess over the emotional and mental health of our girls, we essentially ignore the mental health needs of our boys.

No media coverage, no national conversation, no questions at presidential debates. This means we either assume they have no needs at all, or that the needs they do have are not as important as the needs of others.

The first is obviously false. Are we ready as a nation to admit to ourselves that we actually believe that the needs of our boys and young men are not as important as the needs of others?

What we’re doing now is not working. We as a nation and as a culture are in the middle of a failure of leadership that impacts boys disproportionately, and we are accountable. Let’s start there.