There are many reasons why boys aren’t performing as well in education as girls, especially in rural areas, but one important factor in the lack of educational attainment for boys is the idea that it is fashionable to be stupid. Yesterday I overheard a young man bragging that he routinely didn’t do his homework and that when he took a test, he just filled in whichever bubble “looked right.”
I couldn’t help myself. I jumped on his case.
It has been made too easy for far too long for young boys to just shirk their responsibility to live up to their maximum potential. We accept bad behavior from boys more readily than girls in general. This young man was bragging about purposeful ignorance, and his peers were reinforcing the behavior. The fact that this is a socially accepted phenomena in young men boggles my mind. What person would work toward being an idiot?
And it is work. Modern education requires little real effort to get a diploma. The internet has served as a great equalizer. With few exceptions, any teen with a computer has access to the same information as top scholars. There are tutorials and homework help videos. There are extensive articles written on topics as diverse as can be imagined. But yet boys continue to be left behind. Is it our teachers? Is it our education system? I think both of those explanations are too convenient to be true.
No, boys are left behind because of poison in our culture. Teenage boys who brag about skipping school or being stupid should be chastised by their peers. And let’s be clear, the young men that I’m talking about, they don’t come from the best stock. Their parents, in general, work low-skill, low-wage jobs. These students live in trailers, cramped apartments, or homes with extended family.
And these students never make the connection between educational attainment and economic opportunity. The most direct path out of poverty is still education. That’s not to say everyone who gets a degree will travel to a higher class, the degree has to still be in demand. But in our modern service based economy, young people with no skills have fewer choices than ever before.
And as a teacher, who isn’t blinded by youthful avarice or just plain stupidity, it’s sad for me to see so many young men sabotage their lives before they even get started. They skip school, refuse to study, and bury their noses in their phones, and then they wonder why they can’t score high enough on the ASVAB to get into the military. A young man came to me yesterday asking for an opportunity to pull his grade up after refusing to turn in any work the entire semester. I accommodated him. I gave him all his work and told him if he turned it in I would grade it. But I knew he’d never turn it in and the only reason he was asking for it in the first place was because a parent demanded it. It’s a profound sadness I feel for these boys. It’s been made so easy for them to give up that giving up is what’s fashionable.