Are we raising our boys to be underachieving men?

The social and economic consequences of letting boys fall behind

Are we raising our boys to be underachieving men?

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The trick to having a baby girl, according to researchers in the Netherlands, is a calcium- and magnesium-rich diet, full of hard cheese, rhubarb, spinach, canned salmon and tofu. It’s also important, claim the authors of the study, for women to steer clear of salty foods, potatoes and bananas. Though the study was based on a small sample, it wouldn’t be a shock if the results prompted prospective parents to stock their fridges accordingly.

As Robert Bly and others prophesied in the 1990s, when they retreated to the woods to beat drums and exhort men to embrace their inner caveman, the modern male is in danger of losing his way. The process apparently begins early. On average, boys earn lower marks, study less, and are more likely to repeat a grade than girls. Young men are more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to graduate university than young women. And while they still dominate in engineering and computer science, men are outnumbered in most professional programs, including law and medicine.

Today, the average Canadian university campus is 58 per cent female. In fact, at some schools, men only make up about 30 to 35 per cent of the students. “Any country allowing 60/40 female-male college graduation rates is not putting its ‘best team’ forward,” argues Richard Whitmire, author of Why Boys Fail. “Men need a degree just to get to the starting line. College has become the new high school; that degree is what employers look for as a guarantee of basic social and communication skills.”

Nobody worth listening to is calling for society to turn back the clock on the advances made by women in the last 40 years. Writing in the Observer last year, Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the London-based Higher Education Policy Institute, warned against simply ignoring the gap. “It matters in the same way that 30 years ago it mattered that fewer girls went to university than boys,” he wrote. “Graduates, after all, tend to form the elites of society and, as women have come to dominate in higher education, we should expect these elites to change gender over time, too. That itself is no bad thing. What is intolerable is that significant numbers of young (and not so young) people are excluding themselves—or perhaps being excluded because of aspects of our school system—from joining these elites.”

Indira Samarasekera, the president of the University of Alberta, was more direct when she described the gender gap at post-secondary schools to the Edmonton Journal as a “demographic bomb.” She went on to say that programs to encourage female CEOs should take a backseat to a much bigger concern: “that we’ll wake up in 20 years and we will not have the benefit of enough male talent at the heads of companies and elsewhere.”

This is not to say that women run the world—yet. There’s no denying that a wage gap—and a glass ceiling—persists in the workplace. In Canada, even a young woman with a university degree earns about 90 cents to every dollar earned by a man with a similar level of education.

But women now experience lower unemployment rates than men, and one large-scale American study showed the start of the kind of change it has taken generations to accomplish. It found that childless urban women under the age of 30 earn, on average, eight per cent more than their male peers. The gap is even wider in places like New York City (17 per cent) and Los Angeles (12 per cent). Whether these same young women continue to lead the next decade will depend largely on how many of them decide to stay home full-time to raise children, or even just get off the fast track by moving to part-time. Still, a lot more young women than men have been able to take advantage of the higher earnings that come with higher levels of education.

As the number of stay-at-home dads has tripled in the last three decades, women are more and more the family’s primary breadwinners, a trend sped up by the recession, which struck male-dominated industries, including manufacturing and construction, the hardest. Men accounted for an estimated 71 per cent of the 400,000 jobs lost in Canada during the downturn. Thanks to a commitment to education, young women seem better positioned for the knowledge- and service-based economy of the future. The majority of the job sectors expected to grow the most in North America during the next decade are ones traditionally filled by women, such as nursing.

And as boomers retire in the coming years, causing the labour pool to shrink, the demand for highly educated workers is only going to increase. University graduation rates among women in Canada are 18 percentage points higher than men (43 per cent versus 25 per cent). So there will be a lot of women there to answer the call. And men, who have not earned nearly as many undergrad and professional degrees in recent years, will have to play catch-up. Experts say the average guy is going to have to adapt. And perhaps learn a lesson or two from the women’s movement. “Men are going to get the signal that women got 20 years ago, that if you get the education in the field that’s in demand, the money will come,” says Beata Caranci, TD Bank’s associate vice-president and deputy chief economist. “Education and building as much experience as you can are lessons that men need to take away.” All of which, experts say, is leading to something of a new world order. And it’s left some wondering if we’re raising a generation of underachieving men.

Maclean’s asked a small group of Canadian educators (from elementary school teachers to university professors), “Who are the more driven and ambitious students in your class, boys or girls?” All but one answered girls. Experts say that girls mature physically and emotionally faster than boys and are better able to focus on assigned tasks. A recent large-scale study of brain development, conducted by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., shows very dramatically that the brain of a five-year-old boy is roughly equivalent to that of a 3½-year-old girl. In other words, the brains of a male kindergartner and a female kindergartner differ from each other much more than the brains of adult men and women. This means most girls start school with a very significant academic advantage: they can sit still longer and self-regulate better and earlier.

Consequently, they are more likely to be praised by teachers, explains Dr. Leonard Sax, author of Boys Adrift, while boys are more likely to be corrected and scolded. “The boys develop a notion, which they would not have developed in a kindergarten 30 years ago”—when there was less emphasis on academic skills and pencil and paper work—“that doing what the teacher wants and being good is unmasculine. That’s their first impression of school. And research shows that these attitudes, that kids form very early, are very stable: once a boy decides that school is stupid and the teacher hates him and trying to please the teacher is something girls do, four years later he still has the same beliefs. They’re set, like concrete.” It makes sense, then, that boys who turn off school at an early age don’t see much point in going to university.

One of the problems for boys, say Sax and others, is that the public education system has put an increasingly greater emphasis on reading comprehension and verbal skills in an effort to engage girls. Whereas 30 years ago, the average preschooler would have been dancing, fingerpainting, singing and horsing around on the playground, today, the Baby Einstein ethic has entered the classroom, and there’s considerably more didactic instruction of the sort that used to start in Grades 1 and 2. In part, this is because many parents demand it, and it’s also just another one of those cyclical corrections in education: a return to the three Rs after a decade of extended emphasis on building self-esteem. The results, however, have been anything but positive for boys, according to some experts.

While the numbers have been decreasing, more Canadian boys (10.3 per cent) drop out of high school than girls (6.6 per cent). Three decades ago, says Sax, women were much more likely to leave school, often to get married and start a family. Today, men quit high school at higher rates. “And it’s not because they’re staying home to raise a baby,” says Sax. “It’s often because they’re going to their parents’ home to play video games in the basement.” He says a key to getting boys on track is to create an “alternative culture in which it’s cool to be smart.”

One solution, which Sax advocates, is single-sex schools. Supporters say dividing the genders provides environments that are more conducive for each to flourish. Leslie Anne Dexter, vice-president, academics, at the Sterling Hall School, an all-boys’ elementary school in Toronto, points out that at her school boys are allowed to stand in the classroom, because they can’t sit very long. In contrast, says Dexter, at an all-girls’ school students would likely be sitting quietly. And the academic program at Sterling, she adds, is based on the understanding that boys’ brains are compartmentalized, and therefore the curriculum breaks subjects down into discrete steps. Girls’ brains, in contrast, are less rigid. “It’s two completely different types of curriculum,” she says.

The same-sex model also takes away some of the pressures that occur when you get boys and girls together. “The boys can feel proud of their poetry, they can act and sing, they can join cooking clubs,” says Ian Robinson, the principal at Sterling. “In a co-ed situation that tends to be more challenging for boys, particularly when you get to the ages of 12, 13 and 14. When you put likes with likes—boys with boys, or girls with girls—the temptations and confusions that might occur in the co-ed class just don’t exist.”

Not everyone’s sold. Charles Ungerleider, a sociology of education professor at the University of British Columbia, argues that there’s no concrete proof that single-sex schooling is an equalizer. He also says that the gender gap, especially when it comes to reading, is being addressed in public schools, and cites several examples of efforts aimed at engaging boys with regard to literacy, an often-cited divide between the genders. Teachers are offering more options in class, he says, so not everybody is required to read “the same basal reader” but can choose from books about superheroes and sports, as well as comic books and gaming magazines. He also says teachers are intervening “earlier and often” when signs of trouble arise. A couple of decades ago, he adds, teachers would have waited for failure before stepping in. He also says teachers are increasingly being taught to pay close attention to how they treat boys and girls differently in the classroom—everything from how questions are asked to dealing with behavioural problems.

Ask twentysomething women—the real experts on young men—to compare their level of drive with that of guys their age, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find very many who say men have more. Aside from her Bay Street contemporaries, “Lisa” (who agreed to speak to Maclean’s on the condition of anonymity) sees little that resembles ambition among her male friends, most of whom have no idea what they want to do with their lives. “I have a lot to accomplish before I’m 30 and the whole family stuff comes into play,” says the 22-year-old. “A lot of guys don’t feel like there’s a rush.”

Of course, boys and girls have had quite different gender role models. The mothers of young women encountered discrimination and obstacles in the working world, and had to push that much harder to get ahead; many raised their daughters to capitalize on opportunities, and consciously instilled in them a notion that they could do and be anything they wanted. Meanwhile, men have increasingly felt under siege at work and at home, where they’re expected to invest more effort in fathering and domestic responsibilities. Boys have grown up with the idea that men must share power and opportunities; girls have grown up with the idea that they have a duty to “go for it.” These animating generational principles have positioned girls to cope better than boys when the economy craters.

This may be why young women like Lisa say laziness is another key factor in men’s failure to launch. Young guys she knows are spending upwards of seven years to complete four-year degrees. And they don’t exactly pick up the pace after graduation. A couple of her male friends who studied theatre in the hope of becoming actors still haven’t hired agents, despite graduating two years ago. “They keep saying, ‘I’ll do it later, I’ll do it later,’ ” says Lisa. “Of the girls I know in the same program, every one of them has an agent.” Then there’s the high school student she knows who is in line for a sports scholarship to an Ivy League school but doesn’t seem willing to work hard enough to pull his marks up sufficiently to earn it. “Any girl I know with that opportunity would be there in a heartbeat,” she says. “It’s shocking.”

“Alysse,” a 23-year-old political science grad at UBC, has seen similar trends. While many of her male friends are smart enough, she says most would opt for a menial job over grad school. “They never challenge where they are, even if it’s a place they don’t want to be,” says Alysse, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. While her female friends are constantly looking to improve, her male friends are more concerned with the here and now. “They just say, ‘I get paid enough and that’s all I’m concerned with.’ ”

While many in this cohort fit the stereotype of the slacker who would prefer to spend his days and nights playing Halo, there are indicators that the societal shift has prompted some positive changes. For many men, having a wife who earns more money allows them to play bigger parts in their kids’ lives. Between 1976 and 2009, the number of stay-at-home dads in Canada jumped from 20,000, or one per cent of all stay-at-home parents, to nearly 60,000, or 12 per cent. Caranci, at TD, says if families make the decision about who should stay home based on which parent is the bigger earner, the economy will be better off.

The key, of course, is for men not to let ego get in the way. For some, that’s easier said than done. Many young men say they’d like their wife to earn more than they do, but Gary Direnfeld, a Dundas, Ont.-based social worker and expert on family matters, observes that it can be a source of tension. “For many, it’s perceived as a power imbalance,” says Direnfeld, the host of Newlywed, Nearly Dead? on Slice, “and their perceived inadequacy.” Furthermore, he says, the guy’s family might ask, “ ‘Why aren’t you keeping up?’, fuelling the flames of his inadequacy, when there’s nothing inadequate.”

In many ways, just as gender roles are changing, so is the definition of masculinity. “There is confusion,” says Peter Cornish, director of the University Counselling Centre at Memorial University in St. John’s. “Men aren’t certain now how to be men.” Cornish thinks young men are especially ready to tap into the emotional intelligence required of them. “When I started at Memorial in 1994, most of the men I saw came in when they were having an academic crisis, or had broken some rule and were in trouble,” he says. “I’ve done a therapy group for the last 12 years or so that’s focused on relationships. It used to be all women. This year, the majority are men. There’s less fear that it’s unmanly.”

Still, many women can’t be bothered waiting for guys to figure themselves out. Marriage is already on the decline in Canada, and there is no indication that’s heading in the other direction any time soon. Though not apologizing for it, Alysse wonders if by putting their careers first, women are actually part of the reason men are holding off “buckling down until later in life.” Whatever the case, finding a “marriageable mate,” says Whitmire, of Why Boys Fail fame, is the biggest implication of this shift. “There just aren’t enough to go around,” he says. “Will [women] marry ‘beneath’ them, not marry and not have children, or not marry and have children via sperm banks?”

Lisa, for one, doesn’t expect young men her age to be husband-worthy until they’re about 30 and done with their “lazy” phase. “Some of them may get out of it by the time they’re 25,” she says. “Fingers crossed. Because if not, it’s slim pickings.”




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Are we raising our boys to be underachieving men?

  1. We have had this problem developing for a number of years right across the western world. There is no easy solution.

    One research finding is a Dad who reads to his son at least twice a week increases his academic success.

    ABout time the academic world faced up to this issue and found some solutions that worked. Too often public time and money is spent trying to deny what stares us in the face. The fact that SOME males do well doesn't hide the fact that the sons of auto workers and textile workers are in dire straits

  2. Discrimination against white males is the law.

    • we've just been coasting on dreams and bullsh*t pal. we believed our own press clippings and the idea that we controlled the world. instead of just denying the hard realities – that the deck used to be stacked in our favour against chicks and non-whites – while quietly enjoying the benefits, we should have been recognizing a determined competitor who was willing to sacrifice, work hard and strive for success, instead of playing video games, watching tv sports and perfecting the slacker style.

      • No, have a look at many company websites. "Preferential treatment will be given to: x, y, z minority (and definitely not white males)"

        • I've never seen a job posting that says this. Could you point one out for me please?

          • My friends in the public service point out that it has been a long accepted normative value that the public service should, to the extent possible, be composed of people from the various demographic profiles that comprise our country. Therefore, these job postings employ a not so new selection process that first includes postings that are properly advertised so that all communities are aware of them; then they test all candidates agaisnt objective selection criteria, tests and interviews; then, AFTER they have a list of eligible, qualified candidates, they may, if their unit is lacking in either certain asset skills OR demographic characteristics, make their final selection based on a skill or demographic trait that meets their gaps.

            Without this kind of sensitivity, ingrained patterns of subconscious bias would likely result in White Male supervisors selecting White Male employees, to ensure their personal, biased comfort zones aren't challenged or threatened. That's basic human psychology.

          • So discrimination is ok?

          • That's a non-sequitur. Nothing in what is described above involves discrimination. It involves allowing common sense choice from among qualified candidates for a variety of reasons.

            If you disagree with the public service being roughly reflective qualified employees from the very broad demographic profiles invovled, say so. Don't hide behind puffed up pouting about discrimination.

            I'm a middle aged, middle class white male. I have open eyes and can see that all you are worried about is protecting the privileged, unspoken bias that used to permeate society. Thankfully, your kind of small, bitter resentment is simply that of a vocal minority.

      • Google "white men promoted" since you appear to be delusional about bias towards white males in the workforce. Actual facts state that all things being equal (seniority, experience, skills), white men get promoted first over all others. Quit your whining, you big baby.

  3. I think a bigger problem, for both young men and women, is a lack of self-motivation. Many young people who excel in secondary school are doing so because they want to please their parents. The only drive they feel (academically at least) is to see their parents happy when they bring home their report cards with all 'A's (this is particularly true in households where the parents are emotionally unstable). If and when these young people leave for university, they are dropped into a world where nobody gives a flying fig if they get an 'A' on their essay or exam, and their parents only see their marks at the end of term (if that). Their motivation to advance their own lives is almost non-existent, and the impetus to try hard evaporates.

    That's my theory, but it's based on a lot of observation and experience (including my own).

    • My experience is different – not more valid, just different. One of the phenomena I have witnessed is that high schools and grade schools have been catering more and more to helicopter parents who make life so difficult they end up caving and giving extra marks, extra time, extra everything in order to placate mommy or daddy. At uni, parents are told, in no uncertain terms, that no matter how much they pay, they don't get to see anything unless junior shows it to them. Junior is on his/her own and no-one is hovering to make it all better.

      Now, neither of our observations, however, address why we have this growing difference in outcomes for boys vs girls. But it is a definite issue and I think Erkel above makes a point, if rather cynically, that boys are following patterns and models stereotyped by popular culture and not identified or corrected as negatives by their equally-easily manipulated parents.

      • Honestly I would say both statements are very true.

        I don't very much like the term "helicopter parent" but education has very much become about placating the parent rather than helping the student. Whether it's inflating grades or putting students at levels they don't belong. Many students also don't see the value of their grades and achieve based on their parents wishes. If the parents don't care, the student generally won't either.

        How does this make a difference for boys compared to girls? Parents have different expectations for their kids depending on their gender. Mothers expect girls to be studious and hard working but if a boy screws up or gets in trouble, hey, boys will be boys. For example: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/0

        • With respect, I'm not sure I'm buying an anecdotal "blame it on Mom" story. I have boys and girls, most grown up and out of university. My wife, bless her, rode each of our kids hard. She never let up on their homework requirements and never bought into their ployus. Left to me, they'd all be digging ditches.

          But her job was easier with the girls. For whatever reason, it was far more acceptable for them to spend time on homework, compared to the peer influences on the boys. They all played competitive sports and had extra-curriculars. They all had good social lives. But the overwhelming impression I had was that boys were not to be seen trying too hard. For each of my boys, the turnaround came when they came upon friends who bucked the norm and made indulging their intellectual curiosity OK. That came late in high school for them and it was the same for me in the mid 70s, when i graduated high school. Without that change in environmental pressure, none of my wife's work would have paid off, but without her hard work, it probably would have been too late anyway.

          • I honestly don't think it's a "blame mom" thing. I mean how can you blame a mother for encouraging a child to take a strong interest in their studies; or blame them for encouraging their child's sense of fun? It isn't about what's wrong, but about what's different. And to be fair, any study done on how women feel about their children is going to have to be anecdotal, it's not ethical to create a control groups on these types of things.

            I do think it is interesting that you mention your wife was primarily responsible for getting your children to succeed. In my family it was my mother who pushed my brother and myself. Maybe part of the problem is we are placing too much pressure on women to raise "successful" adults. This might explain the "helicopter" phenomena as well.

            Peer group is often very important, other people have touched on it as well in this thread. Unfortunately young males often pride themselves on things don't prepare themselves for future success and openly shun aspects of intelligence.

  4. I think the story misses some obvious reasons as to why boys are falling behind. Firstly, the divorce rate is much higher now, something like 50% of marriages fail and because the mother becomes the default primary caregiver under the court system boys are losing a fathers influence in their day to day lives. If the mother remarries or enters another relationship and the boy doesn't connect with the stepfather, there is still no positive role model.
    Further, the elementary school system and to a large extent the high schools too have fewer male teachers as they are less able to deal with young children without being accused of perverted behaviour. A single accusation can destroy his career so they avoid it.
    So what we have is fewer male role models for boys and it's no coincidence they're confused and without motivation. I don't know what the answer is but a start would be to put less emphasis on a university education for boys and bring back the trades training. Boys like to figure things out and conquer problems with their hands. The country will need more of these skills in the future so it's a win – win.

    • Actually, peak divorce rates in Canada were reached in 1987 and had dropped by 1/3 by 1995 as a measurement against a standard of divorces per 100,000 people or by 20% if measured against married couples. http://divorce.lovetoknow.com/Historical_Divorce_… or here http://www.divorcerate.org/divorce-rates-in-canad

      Your post is a victimology report about how society is against male role models and offers a stereotyped solution of men being predisposed to manual labour. Man up and buck the trend instead of bleating about it and sell your manual labour nonsense to the pantheon of male scientists and philosophers and artists and writers who have enriched our lives. Those are the lines usually spouted by the kind of schizophrenic tough guys who like to cry about how tough they have it while denying the validity of the stats that show how deeply disdvantaged real minorities are.

      • Is it possible that the divorce rates have dropped due to the significant increase in common law relationships.

    • If you think males can't succeed in a single parent home you are disrespecting men as well as the mother's you mention. Men, like women need positive role models, regardless of gender and with positive role models comes more self esteem. You are perverting stereotypes that people have been fighting for years. Men don't become lesser people or less motivated because there aren't men around them. If thye ar elike you, they ar eless motivated because they are threatened or because society has told them they are supposed to act a certain way, which generally included smoking weed and skipping school to pick up ho's n' junk!

      Your comment is disrespectful to both men and women.

  5. All this emphasis on university, university, university. Maybe the boys aren't there because they're at trade school, where they know they can start earning good money as soon as they graduate. I know I'm going to encourage my son to take a good, hard look at the trades instead of working crappy white collar jobs for years to pay off his endless,soul-sucking student loan, like his poor, stupid mother. Edited to add: Or maybe they're at technical school, working towards a career in male-dominated areas such as the computer, internet, or video game sectors, where many lucrative positions do not require a four year degree to get started in. I wouldn't ring the death knell for male power and privilege just yet. The playing field has shifted and traditional areas of male dominance like law and medicine are perhaps no longer where the elites of the future are to be found.

    • “The playing field has shifted and traditional areas of male dominance like law and medicine are perhaps no longer where the elites of the future are to be found.”

      In my opinion you reached the point. The knowledge areas are in great transformation, law and medicine also are in great changes, and people that are profissionals of this and other areas are losing ” social power and recognition and money incomes in average”. In  my country the largge majority of lawer are female, but they struglle for survive, insted the great and very lucrative layer societies are almost exclusively male with profits and profits. The medicine is the same. And biology is an area of strong grouth, but woman in laboratorys will be sonner paid as textil employees in textils factories. Man are in a transition era, but world is also in a transition era, in the end the power will be where the man will be, like always is mankind history. If man haven´t a university degree, the university degrees don´t will have great significancy or prestige in the future. If woman invades computer science, this are will stagnate and other areas will be in  vanguard. In the last 40 years, in all western world woman taked the humanities sciences, but instead of a revolution we aldays read about ” the crisis in humanities sciences”. Woman only was an advantage to man, is cheaper !

  6. A UN report released today indicates that the present rate of species extinction is comparable to the rate 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs died off.

    Perhaps a little less materialistic ambition is just what this planet needs.

    • good one

  7. Discrimination against white males has been going on for so long it is considered normal. Even women (52% of the population ) managed to achieve 'minority' status to get special rights and privileges. Ads on TV have show storng women/minorities with the white guy either stupid, lazy or a goofl for 30 years now. Even ad execs will admit this is true but go on to indicate they get criticized every time they treat so-called minorities that way. To deny it is to be a complete liar or totay stupid

    • "Ads on TV have show strong women/minorities with the white guy either stupid, lazy or a goof for 30 years now."

      Would this be a case of life imitating art or art imitating life?

      •  No, this is a case of discrimination ! Woman never let that they will treated like this by tv shows and movies.

  8. what the hell did they expect! For forty years they have been telling boys that thier instincts are something they need to surpress instead of celebrate and that all they accomplishments of thier forefathers was either A)a fluke or B)only due to the oppression of some pathetic minority of some kind.I left school in grade ten joined the military started a general contracting buiness where i now make over 6 figures and am dept free and waitng to go overseas all because i didnt lisen to a damm word those teachers said.But to all you lost boys still stuck in that socialists,feminists camps they call school these days stay strong and dont believe a word they say you owe them nothing.

  9. It's now time for a Mens Movement, so that boys are no longer marginalized and men aren't marginalized too. Sexism is directed both ways. 40 years ago girls and women were marginalized or not emphasized in education. Well guess what? 40 years later, boys are now the gender that's being marginalized and not emphasized in education! And this current disinterest in boys is still wrong! So girls have grown up into career achieving women and sometimes the main earner in their families, but now it's time to refocus and help boys develop their self-esteem and purpose in the schooling system, restructure the curriculum for their needs too, so that they will grow up into what their grand-fathers and great-grandfathers were, or men who had a confident identity as men, or as professionals and dads. …And I'm a mom of a daughter writing this. So don't target me and say I'm being sexist here. I call garbage on that because there's such a thing of being sexist towards boys and men too. Anyway, if I have a son, I personally will not have him be marginalized by public education and current societal attitudes towards men.

  10. *1) Boys Need postive male role models.
    Most of my peers and myself who were born in the mid to late 80's have a lack of male role, due to be concived via unprotected sex, and parents who were too young. Boys need to be taught by postive male role models how to be a man and own up to your actions, value of good education, also being their own person despite peer pressure.

    2) If boys learn at a diffrent rate then girls then knowing this information should then be applied to teaching so we can bring this ship around. Boys in there early ages of education need to associate school with self improvement and fun this is really in the hands of their parents and teacher.

    3)Boys are taught to surpress true emotion and due to "clicks" they feel peer pressure to use a default persona than their own, participate in drugs, sex and alcohol. Inspred by culture found on TV, Internet, and negative male influences.

  11. There are definitely issues that need to be addressed, but I really question some of the concerns.

    Take this New York Times article for example: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/09/education/09col

    Yes women are the majority in pure campus numbers, but that's been a trend for over 25 years now.

    Also men are not really "falling" anywhere. They are attending and graduating from post-secondary education at record levels.

    Women are simply more motivated right now. And although that does come down to teaching and education on some level, we need to understand what it is that will motivate these young men before we try to randomly throw things at the board to see what sticks. I don't think it's as simple as more male teachers or banning the video games.

  12. There are indeed lots of comments by men on these issues. Trouble is, the crazy guys get the most attention from the media. I'm hoping for some more serious attention from the current discussion here and in Globe and Mail. I'm following all this from Australia. But around the world, mums and dads are worried about their sons. A few patterns persist:
    - we can't find enough good male teachers who will stay in primary (elementary) classrooms
    - many boys gravitate to sport: they want to follow their hockey and football heroes
    - UK research says teachers prefer girls: they "work harder, look nicer, and smell better" the boys say
    - too many teachers just let boys go do guy stuff, but they expect great things from girls
    - schools, universities, and teachers have been told they must give special encouragement to girls. The teacher unions are full of such things. Who encourages boys to read and achieve academic success?
    - Elite school boys will always do well. But around the world, both white and black working-class boys are facing lives of homelessness, drug use and crime. Their dads are often out of work, depressed or unemployed. Boys are not getting a good lead from significant males anywhere they look- just sports stars and rappers. Do you see good examples of male behaviour on TV? Or guys goofing off?
    I discuss all these issues in my website http://www.boyslearning.com.au and also on http://www.onlineopinion.com.au
    Canadian mums and dads, get moving if you want your sons to achieve something in life!

    Peter West, PhD

  13. Every year for the last few years around the time school begins we get articles like this. There are no experts quoted because no real research has been done only anecdotal stuff or stuff that has an air of "TRUTHINESS" but cannot be proven in an actual study. If men and boys are falling behind I doubt it is because they all of a sudden need different curriculum. In my era boys read so called girly books and girls read manly books and point being kids read. It is hard to believe that if it is true that a girls brain matures earlier than a boys that this would explain a failure rate for men over the last few decades and not over all of history. Everyone has an agenda to push and lots of people are getting rich selling books about gilrs failing, about boys failing about the sky falling. At the same time other " researchers" are worried about the low rate of women in math and engineering programmes at uni level.

    •  You are right! The feminism taked the education system of all western countries and girls are the only priority of the school systems and international education organizations, boys simply don´t exist in their speeches or concerns or policies. Why ? It´s easy, because girls don´t like concorrency, so they must put boys aside of the system. This article speeks of the fast maturation of girls brain in yearly ages, but the reality is that girls brain mature sooner in certain areas ( good to school skils) and boys brains mature sooner in other skils that are not “good” to this school system. So boys are lefted behind sooner in school and lose their motivation. But after 15 years old the brain of boys catch-up the girls and surpass then, but in this moment half os school boys population was left behind, and only few boys can compete at same level with girls. By the other hand, girls work harder, why ? Because they needed to, if girls don´t work harder than boys they simply are catched up by boys. You see, you ask a boy and a girl that had the same marks at a school prove, the same marks, and ask how much time they stay studing for the prove, and the girl that taked the same mark of boy studied 3 times more than the boy. That´s the pure truth!
      Other question is that in university the studies that are male dominated are the areas of great grouth and much better paid, the girls dominated areas are less paied and are losing, day by day, power, influency and money. They are, day by day, cheaper and cheaper.

  14. Observations: It has nothing to do with female teachers. I went to elementary school in the 50's and was unaware that male teachers even existed until grade 8, when I met ….2. Yet boys in that time sat down, learned the lessons and behaved. Anyone who didn't was considered a jerk.

    However, the culture has changed amongst kids so that boys now consider it 'cool to be a fool' or that 'school is for fools'. It's self-defeating but they do it, and regard it as 'macho'. This comes from the home…. It's an exaggerated version of 'boys will be boys'. The boys aren't learning because they aren't being taught. Simple as that.

    This leads boys….at best….into 'macho' jobs that are brawn, not brain. However we are now in the knowledge age, and it's brain that counts. No one tells boys that men are scientists, neuro-surgeons, lawyers, poets, archaeologists, veterinarians……all they get is a steady diet of Rambo-like characters and 'super-heroes'.

    You reap what you sow.

    • As you know I usually don't agree with you on most topics, but I do on this one. You are totally right.

    • I have thought this running around allowed in classrooms was detrimental in some way, maybe the girls are ok with this freedom but probably the boys would do better with some 'sit down, sit up straight and get at it' authourity. my kids teachers told me it was to allow for the creativity that some research had proved was needed in classrooms

  15. I question this article's definition of success.

    Education is not success, it is just one of many achievements. Society likes to associate success with wealth and supposedly higher education leads to higher paying jobs. So what?

    In the same article, it points to the 12x increase in the number of stay-at-home dads. How you define success is personal, but staying at home with your child should never be associated with anything but success.

    Men that decide to balk societal pressure to 'succeed', and instead stay at home with their kids, impress the hell out of me.

  16. There are fewer male teachers because fewer men are going into the profession. In the US teachers are paid so poorly that no self-respecting man would work for those wages. As with many professions that have been historically done by women, such as nursing, even white men don't really want to do the work. Let's face it, not too many men are willing to clean up fecal matter and vomit or collect sputum. Where as actually, that is pretty much just another day in the life of a mother.

    • So men aren't too lazy; they're just too proud?

  17. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opin

    Please let us all calm down about the fact that there are more women than men in university programs.This has been the case in medical schools for a while that women are outnumbering men but if anyone cares to look at what happens a few years post graduation the women are working part time having families and the male doctors are in the field full time. That explains why it is so hard to find a family doctor. Didn't this mag write exactly about this phenom? Women are graduating but are not taking over the world.

    • Even more so with law – the female attrition rate is astounding.

  18. I had a similar feeling regarding sources.

    Lines like this: "Ask twentysomething women—the real experts on young men—to compare their level of drive with that of guys their age, and you'll be hard-pressed to find very many who say men have more." remind me of studies where they ask people if they think they are 'above average' drivers and get >>50% to say so!

    Come on!

    • Yes. More stellar journalism on social issues from Macleans. If I recall correctly, just this past August our daughters were all wild, uncontrollable harlots whose only ambition was to be sex objects. Now they're studious saints. Quite the turnaround in only two short months.

      • Good point.

      • Great observation!

    •  What woman knows about driving to examine man´s driving ? If you ask to a woman who are the best astronauts they say woman. Woman needs to think that thenselves are better, but the reality is that the achivements of woman still are very, very poor. Woman don´t have great capability to work machines, even computers.

  19. One comment in the article absurd. That school principal talkiing about putting like with like, boys with boys and girls with girls as the answer. He discounts the diversity within populations. Lets lump all boys together? How does that help the boys who don't fit his stereotypical image of what a boy is? Temptation? In an all boys school? Is not present? What tempation is he talking about I wonder.
    And to top it off he claims like with like are more comfortable to be themselves and sing and dance and be poetic. School I went to had drama and you can bet your ###### that we had lots of singing dancing boys and girls singing and dancing together. Good luck to his kids. How are they ever going to be able to present in a room full of women? Life has both men and women.

  20. I blame it on cradle to grave government that undermines the natural independence of men. The progressive elite are turning us iinto adult children, for our own sake of course…

  21. As a white male, I feel that blaming such trends on 'white male discrimination' is a poor excuse that will reinforce the negative trends that are taking a toll on white males. After all, if the system is stacked against you, why make the effort, right? It turns into a cycle and is self-fulfilling

    'Preference given' is a preference only. If I go to a restaurant with a preference for a cheeseburger, I am not disappointed if I find something on the menu that is more appealing. Companies worth working at will weigh experience above most other considerations and most candidates have roughly equal qualifications. If you can make a good connection with people, gender and ethnicity become much less important.

    The Federal Government is a whole other beast (living in Ottawa anyways). Special interest as hiring practice is destructive, and as many young white males immolate themselves as their parents and grandparents prepare to retire en masse, such interests will work against themselves in the near future and be unsustainable.

    That's my biased, non-researched view of it anyways. And i'm even a former slacker…

  22. Does anyone else think the kid in that picture is too big for a stroller?

  23. Good article and surprisingly good comments. Except mine of course.

    • i agree with you i think your comments is the most construtive

  24. Three thoughts:

    1) Trades jobs allow for a relatively high income very early after high school graduation. Many of these jobs aren’t as easily available to women. As a woman I link no university education to being stuck low-paying, unchallenging work. Basically the costs-benefits push me to do well academically. It may not for men. So technically there may be no “problem” IF we’re only interested in money and IF trade jobs are stable, rewarding employment.

    2) We have a very ‘lowbrow’ culture. Our media promotes and trades on very basic ideas of status: conspicuous consumption, and over-the-top attractiveness. I don’t think these concepts come to mind when someone says academics. Most media ‘models’ for young men are ridiculous macho types, hedonistic partiers, and sitcom child-adults. It takes a strong and independent personality to resist the peer pressure to fall into one of those categories.

    3) What’s going on in Europe? Men are supposedly ‘underachieving’ in the UK but in my experience European men still link intelligence with social status and aren’t afraid to show off their brainpower in public.

    • I was with you up until the comparison to European men… In France "men" are torching cars and rioting because the bankrupt government increased the retirement age by two years. Those "men" are shutting down the countries infrastructure to protest a miniscule cut to their government handouts. I would think real "men" would be more concerned about their countries finances and their childrens future than two less years of lazy time.

    • As a high school teacher, I cringe when I walk into my son's elementary school. There are two male teachers and the rest are females with B.A.'s in languages. Females typical exceed males in language skills and the curriculum is heavely slanted in that direction. Pick up any elementary math text and you will struggle to see a page with any numbers. Pages of word problems requiring written responses are evidence of how most curriculum is language based. I'm sure that there isn't a single teacher in my boy's elementary school that has either a degree in math, physical education or science. I regularly hear about certain teachers who avoid science and math and are terrified to enter a gymnasium. No wonder girl's are excelling. Schools are made for them. Step number one would be to attract more male elementary teachers into the profession by bringing back real discipline and accountability to education. I'm sad to say that I am embarrassed by our profession and its lack of leadership at the administrative level.

  25. Men were created by God to be the spiritual leaders of our families and communities.
    Take that away and this is what you get. A bunch of men in perpetual boyhood with no purpose or direction.

  26. catholic schools in ontario are co-ed.

  27. I agree. I was looking forward to the article, knowing it was in MacLeans I assumed the research would be credible.

  28. well, I've been up and down on my opinion of males over the years. always trying to figure them out. my son made me wonder more about men than all of the boyfriends and the one husband I've had. I have a 22 yo son and a 23 yo daughter. us parents created a 2-home family and neither Dad nor I found another spouse. my daughter became affected by 'clinical depression' while in residence at university (insomnia) after she had many accomplishments and a well developed self esteem, my son on the other hand was 'noticed' to fall into this category around age 11, but in retrospect was in it from a very early age, maybe 2. he was not able to attend school with any regularity and seemed confused even by his backpack and the contents thereof…imagine…'where is the homework'…never mind…he didn't even get it that he was to go home after school and I'd spend 45 minutes looking for him every day…
    I am beginning to think our boys need a Mother that can take care of them properly and not drop them into daycare. remember that old saying the way to a man's heart…, well that was in a day when we thought men responded to being taken care of, maybe there is more to that than we know. my Dad was out in the field all day and came home to sit by the kitchen stove in all his authourity when I was growing up, my brothers did as well as us girls in the long run but I remember my little brother needed a kick start from time to time. so, was it our Mother who brought us up then? I'd say so.

  29. Geez, somehow the problem of boys falling behind is written away as they are just plain "lazy", "confused" and have "no drive". And, then the end of the article laments on how this affects women – i.e. boys falling behind is really hurting women because they are no marriagable men for all these well educated, high earning women. What a joke of an article.

    • True lot of assholes in the world but that doesnt make the women more mature too, like it says in the article, anyway maturity is not something concret it cannot be measured and everyone has a different meaning for it, i think that article is obiously ridiculous

    •  Yes, you are absolutly right. That´s the point, this article was made in womans perspective and interest, but exaggereted, because you put a woman with an university diploma side by side with a man without it, and you develop a conversation with both and you can´t identify which of them are the universitary. Woman are ” booksmarts” all they know must be in a book, but they don´t learn with life experience and testing. So, education school systems are  at girls measure and for their way of leaning and forget that boys learn differently, but they learn.
      If if proved that boys are not stupid, and girls are not more intelligent, on the contrary, is the education system that is wrong.

  30. How about finding some REAL answers about why boys are falling behind, and treating this problem with real concern, not just tallying it up to lazy boys concluded by the one women quoted here.

    What about the decline of the family? The high divorce rates and the slim chance that fathers can be anything more that "visitors" every other weekend after a divorce? What about the huge increase in public sector jobs, most taken up by women? What about the lack of male role models as teachers in schools? What about the high suicide rate of boys? And 71% of all jobs lost in the recession were to men, not because women are more adaptable in the "new economy", but because men do most of the hard labour, and are not well represented in the public sector jobs. This should be HUGE news! 71% of job losses were to men, and this is mentioned as a mere after-thought?

    This article does not dig deep enough, or offer anything for people to work with. You could just print a t-shirt "boys are stupid" and walk around with it on, it would serve the education on this topic as well as this article does.

  31. I think… n00bs you d00ds are sexists, that all lies! ROFLROFL PWNT!

    • i'm sorry Mortuus, but this is a real thing, serious business… I'm sure that you're a guy…

      • and im sure you are a n00b, i will shack your wooshing blit with my ubar 1337 hax FTW?

  32. What happens to those males/females who really aren't that smart?

    Not everyone is meant to "climb the ladder" and in fact, many people just don't cut it in post-secondary or as leaders.

    I fear for all those kids…as these types of manual labour jobs are becoming extinct.

  33. In this generation there is no guarantee that by going to college/university and getting a degree you will get a job. In previous generations this was the case. A degree or diploma is becoming the extension of high school and there are a lot of places that will not take a second look at your resume without one of these two things on it. At the same time, what motivation is there to complete a three or four year degree while going into massive debts knowing at the end of it all you could still be unemployed and living at home.

    Not to mention the fact that when you are applying to college or university you are supposed to know what it is you want to do for the rest of your life. I believe the statistics say that the new generation of workers will have up to seven different jobs/careers in their lifetime.

    There are no quick answers to these issues, but at least by talking about them we can acknowledge their existence and try to understand the pressure these young adults are under. It's a whole other ballgame. Unless you're in it, you don't know what it's like.

  34. -girls are more likely to be a future-oriented, they will have a greater need of security (money, hire-ability, need to work towards something tangible that shows them and others there self-worth)

    -boys live in the present where live is about self-gratification. We don't want to grow up and take on responsibilites because that sounds a like self-sacrifice.
    -As a mildly successful young man I see being a successful women is a negative attribute, because it blurs the lines of whats expected in the relationship. Nurses or lower is my personal turning point.

  35. Horrible article.

    It doesn't even mention what are probably the two main reasons why men are struggling in education:

    1) There are high paying jobs in fields that don't require education that are predominantly occupied by men, which is a disincentive to staying in school.

    2) The over abundance of female educators especially at the elementary level. This isn't an issue of needing strong male role models (which is an issue) but rather the methods used by respective genders in teaching. Teacher's present and structure information in manners that are logical and intuitive to themselves – a female teacher will present information in a way that is more consistent with how females learn.

    Since males are primarily being taught by females, especially during their formative years, they are at an inherent disadvantage to their female counterparts.

    As a male student, the teachers who have had an impact on my personal and educational life have all been males. That is not to say that males are better teachers than females but rather that the style of teaching of one gender is more consistent with the method of learning of that respective gender.

    Creating male and female schools or separating genders isn't going to address this issue. Instead, there has to be a greater push to get men to become educators, especially at the elementary level.

    This article amounts to nothing more then a circle jerk of female superiority under the guise of exploring modern social dynamics, complete with an ad nauseum of male stereotypes fittingly brought on by anonymous females.

    • The educational system has been predominantly taught by females since the get-go. Not a new thing. I agree that a male teaching style does change the educational game for boys. More men should consider going into the classroom as a career. (I’d bet there are a host of reasons why they do not/are not already doing so… all justifiable. ie. are males being accepted into teacher colleges at a 50/50 ratio? Is a teaching salary enough income to be a sole wage earner for to raise a family? Is it still considered socially as “women’s work”? I don’t know the answers.)

      Maybe as women/male gender roles have changed over the years, the educational system needs to reflect this? As a parent of young children, I see many fathers very involved in their childrens lives. Maybe as a result of this positive change, children need to have/see this male role model in the classroom setting to better reflect the dynamics they are experiencing at home?

  36. Lots are signing up to be forensic scientist, like a lot of what is seen in Prime Time TV. Few sign up to be preachers! A consideration of the decline males in Church leadership would also be an interesting case study.

    When are virtues and masculinity held up together? When is there the wisdom of a male deliberately and patiently cultivating a healthy community? Not the way that Canadians are doing life anymore… Kids still have Fathers, but communities dont.

    In this information age where anything can be googled, when will we learn that education is now more about social / moral / community development? Yet our culture does not do this deliberately. We don't lead it. We lead with CSI Miami and making Big-Coin. God help us?

  37. Once again Macleans offers us reasons to fear the social empancipation of sectors of the population whom the white male elite would prefer to see staying 'in their place'. The changing demographics of campuses become a platform for spreading paranoia and the desire to defend imagined national values. With any luck, Macleans' days as a beneficiary of widespread respect are numbered, if not passed already. You have turned journalism into propanda of the most grotesque and yet sophisticated kind, and I find it repulsive and ethically reprehensible.

  38. As a male professional I have encountered sexist hiring policies advocated by "older" management men, whom are only more interested in having a female to work for them because they prefer their company or "presence". Has anyone put any thought into the fact that most of the powerful positions in todays work force are occupied by golden years gentlemen who plan to live out their years, rulling their positions as they see fit, which I would argue leaves little room for young male professional development and/or success

  39. With such a naive perspective on excellence and success, it's no wonder males are unmotivated.

    Justin Frankel, teenager, cuts class to work on a computer program, AOL hires and buys him out for $100M. He later quits not because he wasn't making enough, probably not even because he wasn't challenged, but because he said everyone there was clueless.

    James Cameron, an avid sea-diver, films the Titanic because he wanted an excuse to dive to the wreck itself for himself.
    He also sits on the NASA advisory board, is a member of Dr. Zubrin's Mars Society, and has even drawn-up his own plans for building a colony on Mars.

    Those examples don't fit the model of excellence implied by this article.

    Lisa says,
    “Some of them may get out of it by the time they're 25,” she says. “Fingers crossed. Because if not, it's slim pickings.”

    There's that ugly sense of entitlement again. As long as we continue to believe that human beings are objects on display at a buffet, marriage will continue to decline, men will continue to "disappear," and any reason to live will at all continue to corrode.

    Lisa is setting herself-up for a lifetime of bitterness.

  40. I agree with what you are saying in principle, but my oldest son had 3 male teachers through elemetary (K, 4 and 6). This is much higher than normal from what I gather. But my son is still doing so badly now in grade 7 (with 2 more male teachers) that we are talking about holding him back a year. I would desperately love to have answers to this problem for my own boys, so I read everything I see on this topic – but nothing really seems to apply. Unless the discipline issue that you also raise is more to the point. (My son has neither behavioural problems or an IQ issue – which makes knowing how to deal with the problem VERY challenging. In my experience it is simply that he just slips through the cracks.) He is often just quietly failing at the end of a term and nothing has even been said.
    I sometimes wonder if the problem is, not so much related to individual classrooms or teachers or even school boards, but systemic. Are the current "methods" for teaching – just bad? Are those who educate the educators teaching methods that are theory based and do not work (for boys especially)? Are teacher's unions promoting and endorsing an environment that focuses on the teacher and not the student?

    • This is just a thought. Have you had your son tested for learning disabilities? Sometimes children with normal IQ's and no behavior issues have problems reading questions or staying focused. The quiet kids get over-looked. My nephew has dyslexia. He was not formally diagnosed until grade 9. My daughter had ADHD but not the hyperactive component so she was overlooked. If you aren't in the teacher's face and disrupting the class but rather daydreaming in corner, they don't notice. If you look up ADHD & the DSM IV, it will provide you symptoms of those people with difficulty attending and focusing. See if your son has the symptoms. It can't hurt to request an assessment with a psychiatrist.

  41. Stop to see man by womans eyes. Is man, not woman, that has to define their role and their masculinity. We are in a transition era, but in the end, like always, is woman that gone lose. Woman thinks they don´t need man, they are so wrong and they will pay a high price for that. Because woman will have more grades, but man without grades will eran more and will be, as always, in the top elites of society. A feminized university, as everything is feminized, will be in discredit, so the knowledge will not pass through universities in the future, but through where man will be. So don´t worry, we are in a transition era, and male is very adapable, is like a cameleon. And is this article we read that in early ages brains girls mature sooner, but forgot to say that after 15 years old the male brains outperform girls, like every study sais ( but like is not a good news for girls you don´t said it).

  42. Yes, Males are falling behind, and society is content to keep raising up little soldiers and “not information age students and workers”.

    Until we begin looking at differential treatment from an early age and show just how our individual environments create different mental/emotional/social conditioning; how average stress is made up of layers of mental frictions that take up real mental
    energy, and how differential treatment creates real advantages for girls today, we will continue to be at a loss to explain the growing Male Crisis. Please do not buy into the genetic models, for they will only make it much worse for Male students.

    The problem is more complex than school curriculum or boy
    chemistry. The problem involves two entirely different treatments of Males and Females beginning as early as one year of age and increases in differential treatment through adulthood. This is creating the growing Male Crisis in the information age. The belief Males should be strong allows more aggressive treatment of Males beginning as early
    as one year. This is coupled with much “less” kind, stable, verbal interaction and less mental/emotional/social support, knowledge, and skills for fear of coddling. This increases over time and continued by society from peers and teachers to others in society. This creates more social/emotional distance from parents and other authority figures who have knowledge; higher average stress that hurts learning and motivation to learn; more activity due to need for stress relief; more defensiveness and wariness of others further hindering emotional and social growth; and higher muscle tension (creating more pressure on pencil and tighter grip) that hurts writing and motivation to write. It creates much lag in development creating a learned sense of helplessness in
    school. This differential treatment continues on through adulthood, almost fixing many Males onto roads of failure and more escape into more short-term areas of enjoyment. Also the giving of love based on achievement that many Males thus falling behind academics then turns their attention toward video games and sports, risk taking to receive small measures of love/honor not received in the classroom.

    Since girls by differential treatment are given more positive, continual, and close
    mental/emotional/social/ support verbal interaction and care from an early age onward this creates quite the opposite outcome for girls compared with boys. The lower the socioeconomic bracket and time in that bracket the more amplified the differential treatment from a young age and increased in more differentiated over time.

    This does pose a very real, potential bomb for society, as those boys, later men will be increasingly be denied employment and increasingly, synergistically, facing more abuse from the media, society, schools, and peers for perceived genetic weaknesses. I fear this will create over time a tremendous Male backlash that could hurt “very much” all of society and women.

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