The surest way to get attention in American society is to become a crisis. Boys are now on their way to achieving this dubious but indispensable distinction with the new cover of Newsweek, "The Boy Crisis."
It is to be hoped that the crisis establishes a simple truth that is astonishing anyone ever forgot — boys and girls are different. Or as Newsweek puts it, "Boys are biologically, developmentally and psychologically different from girls — and teachers need to learn how to bring out the best in every one."
A crisis always needs its own politically correct argot. A neurologist quoted in Newsweek takes a step toward establishing one here with his statement, "Very well-meaning people have created a biologically disrespectful model of education." Thus, the boy-in-crisis has a rallying cry, "Don't disrespect my biology!"
That's what has been happening for years. Feminists have wanted to believe that, given the right socialization, boys would give up their stubborn fascination with earth-moving equipment. As someone once said, "You can have your own opinion, but you can't have your facts." Similarly, you can have your opinion about what gender should be, but you can't have your own brain chemistry. Newsweek notes how in the womb, the brain of a male fetus is bathed with testosterone.
As any parent knows, that makes him different from a girl. If pedagogy systematically ignores those differences, it will be a disaster. Newsweek recounts the indices: Boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities than girls in elementary school; the number of boys professing a dislike of school has risen 71 percent from 1980 to 2001; men constitute 44 percent of undergraduates on college campuses, down from 58 percent 30 years ago.
If school overemphasizes sitting quietly and language skills; if recess is eliminated; if discipline is eroded; if the books feature consciousness-raising instead of action-packed narrative — then boys will be bored, disaffected and disruptive. Classrooms have to be made more boy-friendly — with more discipline, more competition and more activity — so that boys are no longer treated, as one expert put it to Newsweek, "like defective girls."