>WAll Street Journal, June 13, 2000
>Teaching Those Little Protosexists How to Behave
>A few years ago, a teacher in a fourth-grade class in Maryland asked her
>students to imagine themselves as advice columnists for the local
>Their task was to answer a distraught mother who'd written for advice on
>coping with her nine-year-old son, who wanted a doll. For the teacher, the
>exercise was not merely a game. She was pursuing what's known as "nonsexist
>child rearing" and hoped the boys in her class would reach beyond the male
>stereotype. But the boys rebelled. They were hostile to the idea of a boy
>with a doll and became disruptive. Reluctantly, they agreed the boy could
>have a doll -- but only if it was G.I. Joe.
>Their reaction, suggests Christina Hoff Sommers in "The War on Boys" (Simon
>& Schuster, 251 pages, $25), was perfectly natural. From birth, boys are
>different from girls, so it's normal for them to recoil when adults try to
>make them act like girls. But rather than dissuading teachers from efforts
>to make boys less aggressive, instances like the one in Maryland have
>prompted the education establishment to intensify its drive to "rescue"
>from their masculinity. "Routinely regarded as protosexists, potential
>harassers, and perpetuators of gender inequity," Ms. Sommers writes, "boys
>live under a cloud of censure, in a permanent state of culpability."
>become politically incorrect.
>How did we reach a point where boys are feared and "male culture" is
>denigrated? Ms. Sommers argues that it's the result of feminist dogma now
>popular among educators, and she makes a compelling case. "It has become
>fashionable to attribute pathology to millions of healthy male children,"
>she asserts. This false diagnosis denies boys what they need: respect,
>discipline, moral guidance.
>The first step toward pathologizing boyhood, according to Ms. Sommers, was
>the creation of the myth that girls are being shortchanged in America's
>schools. This notion was spawned by Carol Gilligan, a professor at
>Graduate School of Education, then trumpeted by the American Association of
>University Women, which had financed its own study in 1991. Soon the U.S.
>Education Department was on board. And in 1994, Congress passed the Gender
>Equity Act, which labeled girls an "under-served population."
>In truth, Ms. Sommers notes, most educational yardsticks indicate that
>are doing far better than boys in school and have been for roughly a
>Girls get better grades, take more advanced-placement classes, display more
>musical and artistic ability, and study abroad more often. By 1996, they
>outnumbered boys in college enrollment by 8.4 million to 6.7 million. True,
>boys average higher scores on college-placement tests. But Ms. Sommers
>that more girls from low-income homes where parents didn't go to college
>actually take the tests, and this reduces the female average.
>The second step in the gender war was the refusal of educators to
>acknowledge the academic plight of boys. The Education Department puts out
>300 books, pamphlets and papers on gender equity, but none is aimed at
>helping boys achieve academic parity with girls. But boys have genuine
>problems in reading and writing. They're becoming "significantly less
>literate than girls," Ms. Sommers writes. "By the time they reach college
>age, many American young men are outside the culture of the written word."
>Instead of developing programs to upgrade boys academically, educators
>on plans that treat boys as dangerous aggressors. Not only have
>antiharassment curricula been adopted by many schools, "normal youthful
>exuberance is becoming unacceptable," Ms. Sommers says. "Many educators
>regard the normal play of little boys with disapproval and ban it
>Recess, already eliminated in some schools, "may soon be a thing of the
>How can boys be helped? Ms. Sommers says Britain is on the right track.
>"British educators are ten years ahead of Americans in confronting and
>addressing the problem of male underachievement." The Brits stress
>classes, a structured environment, frequent testing, strict homework
>more teacher-led work and high expectations. The results, especially in
>improving male literacy, have been dramatic.
>In this country, however, educators are bent on taming boys' innate
>rambunctiousness and continuing what Ms. Sommers calls "the exact opposite
>of what the British headmasters are recommending for boys." It's the usual
>progressive stuff: less emphasis on competition and grades, less
>memorization and absorbing of information, less individual learning but
>group activity. In place of moral codes, boys are taught to be more open
>about their emotions.
>Ms. Sommers reveals how much that's being done in the name of aiding boys
>based on junk science. There's no evidence, for instance, that boys are
>better off being emotionally "open" rather than "repressed." Studies
>purporting to show that girls are intimidated in class once they become
>teenagers are dubious. And the idea that all boys, not just a
>well-publicized few, are raised to be violent and thus maintain male
>dominance is pure feminist propaganda. Ms. Sommers is an alarmist, for
>but there's much to be alarmed about.
>Mr. Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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