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Meanwhile, males dominated in school and went to college in disproportionate numbers. Whitmire points to a lower density of neurons in the male temporal lobe cortex, which is “associated with verbal skills”; laments that boys use both sides of the prefrontal cortex, “a less mature pattern of brain activity.” Both articles worry that when it comes to school learning, girls aren’t the second sex, boys are.
The percentage of females between 18 and 24 with high-school diplomas, too, held steady—at about 85 percent; in 2001, the percentage of males with diplomas dropped slightly below what had been a pretty stable 80 percent.
Compared to rather blurry educational trends, PET scans and MRIs not surprisingly beckon as irrefutable support for keeping gender differences in the spotlight—except here data don’t quite match up with dogma either.
The recent media coverage would make you think that there has been a pendulum swing in the academic plights of the genders—and that the time has come for the “boy brain” to be seen and saved, now that girls’ “voices” have been heard perhaps all too well.
Until the 1980s, this story goes, girls struggled in America’s classrooms (especially in math and science).
As experts shift their attention from girls and their academic disadvantages to the lagging educational achievement levels of American males, adults should perhaps take a cue from kids’ skepticism about the latest vogue in gender-based learning labels.
Instead, diagnostic zeal runs high in the current media flurry.The desire to push the boundaries has been a motivator in many a daring expedition, testing the human spirit and physical abilities to the utmost.Indulge your adventurous spirit by exploring some associated ‘extreme’ vocabulary.(Black women now receive twice as many college degrees as black men.) Gender equity may be the sexier goal to push for, but right now socioeconomic inequality is the greater obstacle to overcome.In the meantime, both sexes—as international comparisons show—could stand to make more progress in math and verbal skills in our competitive global world.But now blames roughly the opposite atmosphere for boy trouble: the competitive, cut-and-dried, standardized-test-obsessed (and recessless) pedagogical emphasis of the last decade.So much speculative certainty doesn’t really shed much light on the puzzle of what’s deterring young men from college.What’s truly at stake for American children may not be the intricacies of neural wiring, but the rudimentary habits of working.Citing a recent study by two psychologists (one of them Martin E. Seligman, author of education reporter Jay Mathews called attention to evidence that self-discipline—in particular, a capacity for deferred gratification—may be the best predictor of academic success, better than IQ: Do your homework, and plenty of practicing, before you watch television or sit down to play Xbox.Will you have the survival skills to master our quiz?“It’s OK, guys, being a haptic learner doesn’t necessarily mean you have ADD,” a teacher reassured a group of ninth-grade boys who were duly filling out a survey designed to assess their “learning styles.” Telling me this story as she flipped through a recent issue of my ninth-grade daughter laughed.