201440 Fall GRST 500-B12 LUO
The Failure of Boys within the American Educational System According to most sociological analyses, women constitute the disadvantaged group along the demographic axis of gender. Whitmire (2010), though, in his book Why Boys Fail, has put forth the controversial thesis that it is actually male children who are overwhelmingly disadvantaged within the American educational system. The present essay will discuss this claim in light of Whitmire's argument. The essay will essentially agree with Whitmire that the school system is in fact failing boys; however, it will suggest that a broader sociological analysis needs to be addressed and more studies on the national level to truly address the problem. The essay will thus have two main parts. The first will express agreement with his point that the educational system is by and large failing to cultivate strong literacy skills in boys and that this is in fact the more the cause than the effect of widely noted boys' issues such as social delinquency and obsession with video games. The second will identify three macro-level sociological factors that need to be taken into account in order to gain a clear picture of the situation. Firstly, ideological misandry may play a stronger role than acknowledged by Whitmore in maintaining silence and creating false notions of justice regarding the failure of boys. And secondly, social constructions of masculinity must be examined in order to get to the bottom of the failure of the educational system to cultivate strong literacy skills in boys.
Discussion of and Agreement with Whitmire's General Argument The central thesis of Whitmire's (2010) argument is the failure of boys is directly attributable to poor literacy skills and that the educational system is responsible for this failure. The basic point that boys do in fact lag behind girls in literacy skills is clearly confirmed by the extent of research literature on this subject. For example, Clark and Burke's (2012) report on behalf of the National Literacy Trust in England bluntly found that "girls outperform boys on all National Curriculum reading tests" (p. 6) and that "girls enjoy reading more, they do it more often, they hold more positive attitudes towards reading and they seek out more reading opportunities (e.g. library visits) than boys" (p. 4). Insofar as it is the role of the educational system to ensure that all children develop strong literacy skills, this kind of gender disparity in literacy is strong prima facie reason to believe that Whitmire (2010) is correct in contending the educational system is failing boys. Moreover, it is clear that Whitmire is also correct in identifying poor literacy skills as the single key factor that causes the failure of boys. As Whitmire (2010) has pointed out, "in the Information Age college has become the new high school" (p. 15). The meaning of this statement is that an increasing percentage of available jobs in the economy require employees to have the kind of literacy skills that have historically been associated primarily with college graduates. The Information Age corresponds to what one sociologist has called "liquid modernity”, and this era is characterized by a shift away from the industrial economy of classical modernity (Bauman, 2000). In the past, boys who were poor readers could have (for example) graduated high school and then gone to work at a factory. Now, though, a high school degree and nothing further would actually qualify one for very little, and in order to obtain the kind of credentials needed to meaningfully participate in the economy, boys would need to have stronger literacy skills. The failure of boys and the problem of poor literacy skills they need to be understood within the context of the emerging economy. If schools were simply trying to