John Leo

How do you get your opinions on Page One of The Washington Post? Do you phone the editor and say, "Here's what I think ..." No. You type up your thoughts and label them a "report" or "study." Reports and studies are authoritative. So they have a shot at the front page, even if they lack report-like qualities such as fresh evidence and independent research.

This has just happened to "The Truth About Boys and Girls," a few debunking thoughts about the education of boys by Sara Mead of a Washington think tank called Education Sector. Mead doesn't like the rising consensus that boys are in trouble in our schools. She thinks it's "hysteria," linked to "Americans' deepest insecurities, ambivalences and fears about changing gender roles."

Many of us, however, think it's linked to the fact that boys drop out of school more often, are left back a grade more frequently, are suspended or expelled more often, are more discouraged and less optimistic about their education than girls, and now account for only about 44 percent of the students at colleges, with the number apparently destined to head even lower in the years ahead.

After 15 years of announcing that girls are being shortchanged in education, the mainstream media and some educrats have at last looked at some obvious evidence that girls are doing well while boys are lagging. Major media outlets have signed on to the new mandate to pay more attention to boys. A Newsweek cover story in January carried the headline, "The Boy Crisis. At every level of education, they're falling behind. What to do?"

Mead dismisses this rising consensus by announcing that boys are doing well and they seem to be doing poorly only because girls are doing better. This ought to have provoked some media interest, since virtually nobody made this argument during the long frenzy over the "shortchanging" of girls. That frenzy produced the expensive and one-sided Gender Equity Act at a time (we now realize) that girls were actually doing quite well in relation to boys.

Alas, if one big media outlet falls for a "report," others will too. So "CBS News With Bob Schieffer" said, "New report finds it's a myth that boys are falling behind in school." Lori Leibovich chimed in at Salon.com with "Shocker! 'Boy Crisis' in education is overblown," and Bonnie Erbe at Scripps Howard announced that the whole issue is now closed. "So much for the boy crisis," she wrote.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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