Maggie Gallagher

Moreover, it is boys who are seriously disadvantaged when it comes to education. According to a 2003 Business Week cover story, the statistics are shocking: Girls outstrip boys in reading scores and have pulled nearly even in math. Boys are more than twice as likely as girls to be in special ed programs, four times as likely as girls to be put on Ritalin. Girls dominate every extracurricular activity except sports (63 percent of boys are on athletic teams compared to 49 percent of girls). Boys are 30 percent more likely to drop out of high school than girls. Girls are substantially more likely to graduate from college than boys. In 2000, 133 women received a bachelor's degree for every 100 men. By 2010, the education department predicts the gap will grow to 142 women college graduates for every 100 men? man.

Why the gap? One likely reason is that boys and girls are affected differently by growing up in a fatherless home. The negative effects of fatherlessness on boys' education achievement can be seen in the relative gender gap in college degrees in different ethnic groups. The gender gap in education tracks perfectly ethnic variations in rates of divorce and unmarried childbearing. In every racial and ethnic group, girls are more likely to graduate from college than boys. But boys are more nearly equal in Asian families (which have the lowest rates of fatherlessness), followed by whites, Hispanics and African-Americans (who have the highest rates).

These problems are exacerbated by schools that do not take seriously the needs of boys in our fatherless neighborhoods. In a fatherless world, the danger is that good citizenship, leadership and academic success are stereotyped as girl stuff, and boys are left to find masculine role models on MTV and "Grand Theft Auto."

I don't have all the answers. I know that finding them depends on treating the reality of gender seriously. Both our boys and our girls deserve what they need to flourish.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.