WHERE HAVE ALL THE BOYS GONE?

February 20, 2016


The latest issue of Material Handling and Logistics has a fascinating article written by Adrienne Selko.  Ms. Selko is a senior editor for that very fine publication.  In her comment: “ I’m very concerned that the number of young me seeking higher education is dropping”.  She is correct.  The unemployment rate for Americans with bachelor’s degrees or higher is 3.2 percent, compared to a national average of 6.1 percent. So why, then, did college enrollment last year fall by nearly half a million?

Between 2012 and 2013, the Census Bureau reported 463,000 fewer people were enrolled in college. In fact, this is the second year enrollment has fallen by that much, bringing the two-year total to 930,000 fewer college students, bigger than any drop before the recession. The Census Bureau has been collecting this data through the Current Population Survey since 1966.  The facts are plain, if not very puzzling: Not only do women enter college at higher rates than men, but they’re less likely to drop out once they get there. Female grads now account for about 60% of U.S. bachelor’s degree holders. This is an absolute disgrace with significant consequences. The ratio should be at least 50/50.  We are doing something wrong with public education.

According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors, if males graduated college in the same proportions as women, there would be about fourteen percent (14%) more college graduates each year.  As it stands now, though, we could be facing a shortfall of two million workers over the next decade.  This is a very significant shortfall and one that will weigh heavily on commerce and the ability to hire qualified workers.

One probable cause—schools are NOT teaching the way boys like to learn.   Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens of the Gurian Institute and piloting a two-year program in the Missouri School System aimed at greater retention of high school students and a great number going to and remaining in college.  Their program will include the follow:

  • Project-based education in which the teacher facilitates hands-on kinesthetic learning.  Learning will be project-driven as opposed to strict memory.  This type of learning seemingly has a focus and a desired goal in mind.  Successfully complete the project.
  • Teachers move around their classrooms as they teach.  The idea being, physical movement increases engagement from the boys. Years ago, and I do mean years ago, I had a typing teacher, Mrs. Spitzer.  She moved around constantly.  She was quite as a mouse and would  hang over our shoulders watching every key stroke we made.  It was really annoying but she found and corrected issues and problems that made the outcome very productive.
  • Students are allowed to move around as needed in the classrooms.  They are taught how to practice self-discipline in their movement.   If what you need is over there, why  not go over there?  Students should be allowed to move.
  • Teachers provide competitive learning opportunities, even while holding to cooperative learning frame-works.  Competitive learning includes classroom debates, content-related games and goal-oriented activities.  Students, particularly boys, are competitors.  They like challenges.

I have one thought not considered by Ms. Selko.  Ever watch television?  Ever notice how the “guy” is ALWAYS portrayed as the “dummy”.  The loser.  The fall guy. Ever notice?  If you tell a youngster he is stupid and repeat that pronouncement day after day, he will consider himself stupid and stop trying to excel.  It’s merely human nature.  Even worse, he will do stupid things.  “Dumb and Dumber”, “Caddyshack”, “The Jerk”, “Stepbrothers”, “Anchorman series”, ”Zoolander”, “Jackass”.  Notice a trend?  All guys.  OK, these are funny movies but we seem now to worship “dumbness” and forget that sometime the laughs translate to activities in real life—including dropping out of school.    We have to get over this.

One HUGE and disturbing static is the suicide rate for this country.

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2013 CDC WISQARS)
  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18. (2013 CDC WISQARS)
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation there is an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12.
  • Four out of Five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.

Kids who drop out of high school are more prone to try suicide.  That IS A FACT. Look it up.

I certainly hope Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens are on to something and their program in Missouri is a tremendous success.  Our public school system is desperately in need of changes.  The challenges that will present themselves over the next twenty years are huge.  We need the brightest adults to meet those challenges.

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