F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
June 4, 2000
Boys Vs. Girls, or One-of-a-Kind Kids?

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

If girls are the ones who are being discriminated against in the schools, why is it the boys who are falling behind?

"In December, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights met and voted to release a 200-page gender equity report, alleging widespread bias against girls throughout the educational system, specifically in math and science," recalls Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute. "It is inadequately researched," she charges, "and continues to be biased against males."

In a recent issue of Ex Femina, the newsletter of the Independent Women's Forum, Sommers complains that the Civil Rights Commission has "defined discrimination to include any educational outcome that favors boys. For example," she notes, "when more boys enroll in computer camp or honors physics classes, that is 'evidence' of discrimination and there are calls for government investigation, perhaps intervention. But, when girls enroll in more honors English classes or go to college in far greater numbers, that raises no civil rights questions for the commission."

Sommers worries that the misleading conclusions of this report will prompt schools "to achieve gender parity" by eliminating all course offerings in which boys excel. She wonders why the girl-coddling commission "seems to be completely blind to the deficiencies of boys in our educational institutions. Boys are behind girls academically," she asserts, citing an Education Department finding that "American boys are a year and a half behind girls in their literacy skills, are less committed to school, and less likely to go to college."

Sommers points out that the gender gap in favor of girls is "most extreme in the case of African-American students. It shows up dramatically in college enrollment. African-American young women now vastly outnumber males in higher education," she observes. "In historically black colleges women comprise 60 percent of enrollment and are 80 percent of the honor roll."

Sommers says "certain lobbying groups have been so effective in creating a false picture that girls are shortchanged victims [that] the serious and real problems of boys remain unaddressed." She concludes that the Civil Rights Commission "badly needs oversight. Its research and policies are biased. The taxpayers who fund it are being poorly served, but, more important," Sommers emphasizes, "the children who are supposed to benefit from a fair and sound policy are paying a precious price."

I am a white, middle-aged, American, Catholic male who loves soul food, kids' cartoons, British satire, Baptist preaching, and Broadway musicals. In some ways, I am typically white, typically middle-aged, typically American, typically Catholic, and typically male -- but in other ways, as noted above, I am completely atypical. The point is, I am more than the sum of my parts. I am an individual, and reducing me to a collection of racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, and other associations is both inaccurate and insulting. The pigeonholing of schoolchildren is likewise unproductive and dehumanizing. Boys and girls are different (Praise the Lord!), but so too are boys and boys, and girls and girls. No two boys are alike, no two girls. Each one is a unique being created by God. Let's treat them that way.

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