American boys are short-changed in school

On college campuses, in high schools, and even elementary schools across the United States, male students are falling through the cracks and being left to face a dismal future.The cause is gender bias in the classroom, as well as a societal influence, which holds males to different standards then their female counterparts.

“Any honor society or honor roll list will show about 75-to-80 percent females,” Deborah Waggett, education professor, said.

This statistic holds true for nearly all of CSC’s graduating honor rolls, as well as the students named on the dean’s list and the president’s list.

For example, in the spring of 2004 at Castleton, 182 females were on the dean’s list while only 55 males were named. In that same semester, 35 females were named to the president’s list and 12 males. Interestingly, those same males scored higher on the SAT tests than the females.

Dean Joe Mark has uncovered many disturbing facts regarding this issue, which may cause many males to be more cautious of their educational pathway. He has found men are twice as likely to drop out of college as women of equal ability at CSC.

The Beginning

“Literacy is an important issue to consider,” said Mark.

Statistics that Mark has researched, indicated that by the twelfth grade male literacy scores were 24 points lower than female scores – three-fourths of this gap had been opened up by grade four.

“To put this difference in perspective, it equals the gap between African-American and white students at the twelfth grade,” he said relying on previous research.

Mark has also learned that boys are twice as likely as girls to be labeled ‘learning disabled,’ four times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious emotional disorder.

And in Vermont, Mark said, that one out of every five males between the ages of 17 and 22 is in the custody or under the supervision of the Department of Corrections.

The Reasons

Many Americans may be wondering why this trend is occurring among our males.

Mark supports these facts with what he believes are the key contributing factors to the demise in male education.

First is the lack of positive male role models.

Bringing up a slide with images of casts from popular family shows during the ’50s and ’60s such as Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show, Mark reflects on a time when the male role models were career oriented.

“It inspires a certain kind of ideal,” he said.

However, those ideals have changed drastically in today’s society.

Mark then switched to a slide depicting what he considers the male role models of today’s generation-Kevin James of King of Queens, Ray Ramano, Homer Simpson, and Charlie Sheen on Two and A Half Men.

Mark believes that males don’t want to be like the educated, smart characters on shows, but the so-called “bad boys” who have all of the “fun.”

Mark also compares today’s public figures with those of his generation. Instead of having intelligent, successful leaders like John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, today’s generation has “high-priced drug users” and a president who admits he doesn’t like to read.

Other important factors in this gender gap are the ways literacy is taught to males and who is teaching them.

Mark finds many teachers are not acknowledging the differences between what males and females like to read.

“They need to learn how to recommend books for both males and females,” he said and “be aware of their natural tendencies.”

Since females dominate the education field, it is especially important for them to become aware of their natural tendencies. Mark said even the way the classroom is decorated – the walls and the bulletin boards can hinder students’ performance because they can’t relate to it. Instead, classrooms should remain neutral.

Mark brings up another valuable reason for this gender gap – the biological deficits of our culture. Males in the American culture are brought up with the notion they are tough and shouldn’t cry, while the females are considered weaker. However, research indicates that females actually have more “emotional toughness,” said Mark.

In addition, Mark discussed how the over-diagnoses of disorders like ADHD in students have greatly impacted what’s considered “normal” in our society.

“Our society is moving normalcy in from the ends,” Mark said.

The problem of course is students have little chance to be considered “average” and more of a chance of being labeled “behind” or “above.”

Mark’s final reason for the occurrence of this gender gap is technology-specifically computers, the Internet, and video games.

Young males are the dominant users of video games, which is a solitary activity that hinders the development of social skills and academic skills.

“They become completely lost [in video games] . girls text but at least that’s social,” Mark said.

He has even linked students’ academic performance to the changes occurring in the United States’ economy. The manufacturing economy is way down, the service economy is up, and the “Knowledge Economy” is the hope of the future, Mark said.

There is also the phenomenon of “outsourcing” and globalization that is taking more jobs away from American workers.

Males are not going to find manufacturing jobs that allow them to make a living, Mark said.

“Males in our society are still held to the same expectations as before but the changing economy and job market does not reflect those same ideals,” he said. “Given the changes taking place in our economy, boys and young men couldn’t have picked a worse time to lose interest in education.”

Student Opinions

When approached with the question of gender biases among professors on campus, which could account for the decline in the male’s academic performance, Castleton students had plenty to say.

Out of the 15 students interviewed – nine females and six males, seven believed that Castleton professors did not display a gender bias. However, four of those students found that professors pick their favorite students, but not on the basis of gender. And two of those seven students didn’t see any favoritism.

“In my experiences, each professor has opened the lines of communication between all of the students and anyone looking for extra help is able to get it,” senior Colleen Rupp said. “I’ve never felt as though I was being treated unfairly or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, receiving special treatment as a result of my gender.”

Freshman Brady Downey, the only male in this grouping, doesn’t think that professors are impartial, but that they treat males and females in a way that allows both sexes to feel comfortable in the classroom.

“A male teacher will joke and poke fun at guys and be polite and respectful to the girls. A female teacher does the opposite with guys and girls,” he said.

Two of the 15 students believed that professors created biases based on students’ performance and behavior in the class.

“I think teachers are more lenient and possibly impartial to students that get good grades and show up for class,” said senior Steven McNulty. “I think professors notice male and female students that put effort into their work and in effect, form a better relationship with them.”

The last grouping of six students, dominated by male voices, find that gender biases do exist in CSC’s classrooms, but it depends on the professor.

“In my opinion, human beings are naturally inclined to be more partial towards their own gender, that is, if you were to remove sexual draw to the opposing gender, in terms of support that they would provide for the other person,” said junior Justin Morris.

“I do believe that there are a few professors of this school who go above and beyond a normal level of bias for one gender and carry that on into their classroom,” he said. “Teachers who express their bane for neutrality cause me to lose out on very important aspects of whatever I’m studying and that hinders my education greatly.”

Junior Jeffrey Giegler also acknowledged the impact on his education due to professors’ gender biases.

“Over the years, I have noticed that male and female professors, not all but some, help out the girls a lot more,” he said. “I feel like the females are put at a higher standard then males and that the professors try to put pressure on males to reach that standard . it throws off the class making it a competition all the time.”

Two of those six students, laughing, replied that they could name a few teachers who they believe demonstrate a gender bias.

“I have a teacher who hates males,” said senior Andy Brolsma.

Senior Robert Vannoordt also believes that some professors seem to favor females over males and vice versa. He said professors give more help and tend to favor some students’ answers.

What we can do

With the variety of responses and voices, it is difficult to change or implement strategies to eliminate gender biases in CSC’s classrooms.

However, Mark believes that in order to remedy the gender gap in education, it needs to become a public concern. As well, teachers need to be educated on the situation and help make schools more “boy-friendly” without introducing “girl-unfriendly approaches.” In addition, society needs to find a way to promote positive, education-minded male role models.

And finally, “Hide the video games!” Mark said

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