As Graduation season hits us full force, it only seems fitting that we take a look at our education system. For years the mantra has been that we need more women in higher learning. Many people believe, even today, that education favors men over women. Unfortunately this is not the case and many studies are beginning to show the opposite, in fact. One of the driving factors behind this supposition is the supposed wage gap which has already been discussed here in a previous post. When looked at closer, however, it turns out that the American public school system is far more beneficial to women and girls than men and boys.
To begin tackling this topic, the history of American education needs to be addressed. Although public school versed in specific fields had been established years prior, the first general education high school was established in the City of Boston in 1821 . Although compulsory schooling laws were slowly being adopted by the individual states, the first state to actually enact such a law was Massachusetts in 1852 .
It is important to note at this point that although the federal government can provide funding for public schools, public education falls under the domain of the individual states per the 10th Amendment of the Constitution so it’s harder to find Federal laws regarding education as they technically can’t pass any. Yet one of the loopholes the government has managed to exploit, is withholding funding from states that don’t necessarily adhere to their commands, as seen in the case of South Dakota v. Dole . To briefly summarize the ruling, because it isn’t a tax, the government can choose who to relegate funds to and that the small amount in the funds wasn’t coercion. Since South Dakota v. Dole the government has been more than willing to support similar objectives through similar means and this includes education. In relation to the South Dakota v Dole decision is the Title IX amendment. This law essentially states that any school receiving federal funding must not discriminate based on sex . For all intents and purposes this is a good thing. This means that boys and girls will be granted the same rights and responsibilities in public schooling.
At this point there should be no problem legally, but in practice there is an epidemic of boys being pushed out of academic spaces simply for being boys. One of the biggest problems arises in the early education in Elementary school. As of 2009 the amount of boys prescribed Ritalin was nearly double that of girls . AHD does occur more often in boys than girls , but as of 2007 there were nearly 600,000 prescriptions for Ritalin alone . Not only that but by 2010 nearly 40 boys in 1,000 citizens were prescribed the ADHD medication . The disproportionate amount of ADHD medication given to boys than to girls speaks to an inherent bias in the system regarding boys. The simple solution is to take time before seeking medication for inherent rambunctiousness.
Studies have shown that especially in the younger years, boys have more energy and tend to move more . Throughout the years in school we are taught to sit still and listen. With the exception of recess and maybe science, there are very few active learning opportunities. Girls are more naturally predisposed towards the “sit still and learn” environment  and so they end up earning higher grades than boys by average . This sit and learn by lecture and note taking approach is favored particularly by universities where class sizes can range from 20 to 200 students. In universities the differences in learning styles are much more subtle but at younger ages this teaching method reaches girls more easily than boys.
With the rates of medication in young boys and the method of teaching that favors girls, it is no wonder that more women earn bachelor’s degrees than men . This is because much of the admission criteria for colleges are based on grades and SAT/ACT scores . Not only that, but there is a lot of focus on getting women into higher educations. One such push is to get women into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields because the general understanding is that women are underrepresented. In actuality, women tend to favor degrees in fields such as education and social work as opposed to the STEM fields . This is the main result of underrepresentation, not because women have the degrees and are being denied employment.
The education system as it is needs to be reformed or we are going to end up losing more and more boys. Girls and women already have an inborn advantage due to the fact that their biology allows them to focus more in the current environment than boys. Solutions are readily available but in order for change to happen the narrative needs to change. One of the things that absolutely needs to change is the rate of ADHD diagnosing and prescription of Ritalin and Adderal to young boys who are simply young boys. In the schooling system that says, “sit and listen” boys natural rambunctious natures will work against them and it’s easier to medicate against it than change the classroom around the needs of all the students. The method of teaching must change as well. I’m not saying do away with the lecture format, but there need to be more interactive ways of learning the material and more ways for the young children to be more involved in their own education. These are a starting point but the narrative needs to change in order to reach true equality in the education sphere.