The Detroit Free Press column also addresses a critical problem that has
been ignored - the reading and writing gender gap. According to "Trends in
the Educational Equity of Women and Girls", released last month without
fanfare by the Department of Education, the largest gender gaps are in
reading and writing. In the case of writing, the gap is the equivalent of
three years of education at the end of high school. These two subjects are
also unique in that they are the only areas that have not shown
improvement. The gaps have remained consistent over the last thirty years.
Unfortunately, nothing has been done to resolve this problem in the United
States. It has reached the point where I wonder if teachers and schools
are even trying to teach boys to read and write. While there are a number
of programs (Title I, America Reads, Reading Excellence Act), the overall
data shows that these primarily benefit girls. In fact, the NEA's "Read
Across America", was designed almost exclusively for girls as can be
readily seen by the participating organizations. The two relevant
professional organizations, NCTE and IRA have not even mentioned this
problem outside of a few obscure journal articles. This should be
contrasted with the case in math, science, and technology.
I believe that it has become time to think outside of the box. There have
been several proposals for dealing with this including:
1) An editorial last October in the Boston Globe suggesting that Title I
programs be restricted to boys and minority students to reduce with the
racial and gender gaps. Caucasian females already receive extra help from
teachers, and including them simply increases inequity.
2) Great Britain has addressed this problem by increasing the amount of
non-fiction and popular works in the secondary education curriculum. There
was also a proposal to ban works by the Bronte sisters, Jane Austin and
other female authors since these do not promote an equitable learning
environment and reinforce the stereotype that reading is primarily a female
3) I am presently working with several state legislators on a bill which
would allow parents to sue schools and teachers if a statistically
significant gender gap in reading/writing exists and schools cannot show
they are making exceptional effort to deal with the problem. This would
allow parents without resources to procure outside tutoring and assistance
if the school system is not willing to help.
Ideally, educational issues should be addressed by educators without
politics. However, when they refuse to acknowledge a problem, parents have
no choice but to resort to the political process.
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