Why Boys Fail

Mickey Muldoon

Richard Whitmire
AMACOM Publishing
2010

Most current commentary focuses on two disturbing achievement gaps in American education: between our socioeconomic classes, and between the United States and its international peers. This book makes a considerable case for a third: between the sexes. It’s a cause on which the author has focused intensely in recent years—especially through his blog, whyboysfail.com, now at Ed Week—and this book is a lively and important culmination of years of research. The statistics speak for themselves: Even in white, affluent suburbs, boys are far more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems, to do poorly in school, and to drop out of high school and college. But stats are more alarming for poor and minority communities. Only 48 percent of black boys ever get a high school diploma, compared to 59 percent of black girls. An astounding 60 percent of black male high school dropouts spend time in prison by their mid-thirties. And it’s nearly impossible to find a public high school where black male students perform equally as well as their female peers. Perhaps the most important exception is (surprise, surprise) KIPP, about which Whitmire writes, “when you refuse to let even a single student slide by, you end up helping boys the most because boys are the big sliders.” He also finds hope in Australia, where the federal government has declared the gender gap a major problem and is implementing a targeted program to counteract it. In the process, he hints that the U.S. Department of Education would be wise to do the same. Above all, he says, it’s the intense reading demands of the modern curriculum that hold boys back, and doing more to help boys learn to read early would go a long way to narrowing the gap. Purchase the book here.

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