Of gender, education, and spin

There's been a lot of talk in recent years about a growing gap in
elementary and secondary education to the detriment of boys.  The basic
idea being that our educational system is not as geared to the success
of boys, so that they are falling behind girls.  This week, the
American Association of University Women (AAUW), released a report arguing that the “crisis” in boys education is a myth
Based on the evidence presented in the report, it is definitely fair to
argue that there is not a “crisis” for boys.  Boys lag girls in literacy, but the size of the gap is not increasing, and both boys and girls are improving.  The take-away point is that, education is not a zero-sum game, i.e., girls gains are not coming at the expense of boys.  So, just because girls may be gaining faster than boys, is not a problem.  On the other hand, how would people react if we said, whites' scores are going up faster than Blacks, but that's not a problem.  Still, definitely fair to say its not a crisis. 

What really bugged me about this was the spin of the report (and the Post article).  As the article says, “The most important conclusion of “Where the Girls Are: The Facts About
Gender Equity in Education” is that academic success is more closely
associated with family income than with gender, its authors said.”  No s***.  Please!  Anybody who know anything about social science knows that socio-economic status tends to dwarf all other variables in explaining practically anything.  Again, it's like saying, well, sure there may be racism, but blacks have low incomes, so we're not going to worry about racism because income status explains more.  So, I don't doubt the empirical findings of this study, but it strikes me as intellectually dishonest to try and place the emphasis on socio-economic factors and ignore real gender differences as a result.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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