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Desperate Boys

Posted January. 24, 2006 03:01,   


“Boys will be boys,” people say, shaking their heads. This phrase is also male chauvinistic, used when overlooking the rough or violent tumbles that little boys get into.

But these days in the U.S., this phrase is used to explain the inferiority of males in education, with boys underperforming largely in academics.

Only 44 percent of male students enter college in the U.S. Up to 80 percent of high school dropouts are male students, the same number goes for male students who need supervision due to attention deficiency disorders and hyperactivity.

Even White House first lady Laura Bush, a former teacher herself, points out that “male students are neglected and need care.”

The media is in a frenzy to analyze this phenomenon.

Newsweek pronounced it “The Boy Crisis” in its recent December issue and looked for the reason not in socialization but in innate factors.

It has been known that the process of socialization during prepubescent to puberty years determines the physical and mental “maleness” in boys, but the focus is now on “from the womb.” Male hormones in boys are secreted in the early stages of pregnancy.

With the fierce competition in education, “excellence” is now defined in numbers, like the ratio of students who opt for higher education or test scores. The problem lies in this kind of evaluation method not being appropriate for the brain structure of boys— a structure that is mobile and at times chaotic but produces unique ideas in a flash.

A story of a chemistry teacher in a middle school class in Colorado shows this aspect.

Unlike girls who read instructions carefully and finish experiments successfully, relatively unruly boys would point to the chemical and ask, “Can I eat it?” and show tendencies to try out new experiments. But the current school curriculum ignores this kind of “new” experiment.

Another educational figure gives the example of a standard preschool class. He says, “Go to any kindergarten class and next to the ‘proper’ girl, the boy is treated like a defective girl.” This means that they are not being distinguished.

Meanwhile, in education communities, voices that advocate the separate education of boys and girls are being raised.

Jung-Ahn Kim credo@donga.com