From the moment they step into the classroom, boys begin to struggle. They get expelled from preschool nearly five times more often than girls; in elementary school, they’re diagnosed with learning disorders four times as often. By eighth grade huge numbers are reading below basic level. And by high school, they’re heavily outnumbered in AP classes and, save for the realm of athletics, show indifference to most extracurricular activities. Perhaps most alarmingly, boys now account for less than 43 percent of those enrolled in college, and the gap widens every semester!
The imbalance in higher education isn’t just a “boy problem,” though. Boys’ decreasing college attendance is bad news for girls, too, because admissions officers seeking balanced student bodies pass over girls in favor of boys. The growing gender imbalance in education portends massive shifts for the next generation: how much they make and whom they marry.
Interviewing hundreds of parents, kids, teachers, and experts, award-winning journalist Peg Tyre drills below the eye-catching statistics to examine how the educational system is failing our sons. She explores the convergence of culprits, from the emphasis on high-stress academics in preschool and kindergarten, when most boys just can’t tolerate sitting still, to the outright banning of recess, from the demands of No Child Left Behind, with its rigid emphasis on test-taking, to the boy-unfriendly modern curriculum with its focus on writing about “feelings” and its purging of “high-action” reading material, from the rise of video gaming and schools’ unease with technology to the lack of male teachers as role models.
But this passionate, clearheaded book isn’t an exercise in finger-pointing. Tyre, the mother of two sons, offers notes from the front lines—the testimony of teachers and other school officials who are trying new techniques to motivate boys to learn again, one classroom at a time. The Trouble with Boys gives parents, educators, and anyone concerned about the state of education a manifesto for change—one we must undertake right away lest school be-come, for millions of boys, unalterably a “girl thing.”
Tyre presents years of research and reporting from schools around the country and arrives at a gut-punch of a conclusion: Education in the United States is not geared to boys. Teaching methods favor girls. Boys disengage as early as pre-school and never quite recover. Tyre has the numbers, studies and interviews to back it up. The Trouble with Boys is textbooky in style and form, but its conclusions are striking.