Why Do More Women than Men Graduate College?


USA Today throws down the following reason in a back-and-forth on the topic:

According to the most recent data from the Department of Education, only about three in every 10 boys who enter four-year colleges emerge four years later with a bachelor's degree, compared with four in every 10 girls….

Although university officials tend to point to inadequate preparation in high schools, the problems begin far earlier. In preschools, more boys than girls get booted for bad behavior. In elementary schools, boys slip behind girls in reading skills. In middle schools, the gender gap widens. By high school, girls are so far ahead the boys don't feel like playing catch-up. At that age, trying too hard is seen as uncool….

Poor motivation and lackluster academic backgrounds follow many boys into college, where they find a mostly unsupervised living environment. Plenty of time for drinking, chasing girls, staying up all night and playing poker and video games. Not a recipe for academic success….

Whole thing here.

Manhattan Institute stalwart and disliker of god talk in politics (scroll down) Heather Mac Donald responds thusly:

Here's a … suggestion for the alleged gender gap in education: Do nothing. Or rather, do nothing in the name of boys per se. If boys are lagging in undergraduate enrollment, it's up to them to study harder and stay more focused. They don't need the inevitable new consulting boondoggles in order to pull up their own bootstraps.

To be sure, there is a clear culprit in the boy shortage: feminized progressive education. Teacher education programs preach contempt for competition and fact-based learning; K-12 classrooms follow suit. When schools place more importance on group collaboration than on achievement of mastery in a subject, many boys are going to tune out.

But the costs of creating wall-to-wall victim groups outweigh the benefits of using boys' new victim status to overthrow progressive pedagogy. Let's get rid of the knowledge-crushing banalities of progressive education because it drags down all students' learning, not because it hurts boys.

Her bit here.

I don't doubt that ed schools suck–my friends who went through teacher certification programs both in college and afterwards stress the general uselessness of such coursework, averring six months of on-the-job training coupled with mastery of subject matter would be far better–but I'm also wary of invective against competition and "fact-based learning." I've got a 12-year-old son who has gone to two very different public schools and the one thing I can say is that he's been tested constantly on fact-based stuff (and skill-based stuff too). And while he's had to do some stupid group projects, they strike me as no different in kind or quantity than what I was put through 30-plus years ago in parochial school. Similarly, education in America has always been attacked as "feminine" at least since Brom Bones had his fun with the effete Ichabod Crane.

And a note about student learning being dragged down: That's not clear from the best long-term data, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which has been tracking student achievement since the early 1970s. Basically, students are performing about as well as they were back then (to be fair, they have not been doing that well for the entire span of the NAEP). Check out that data here. The main difference is that inflation-adjusted education costs have tripled or more over that timespan.

And which isn't to say that U.S. education isn't one of the most confining, annoying, and banal institutions going. As every other service industry develops more and more personalized and tailored offerings, it's way past time to, as we put in our December 2005 issue, to "Let a Thousand Choices Bloom" in education.