Orlando Sentinel

Get this, folks: Boys need our attention

By Kathleen Parker
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on June 9, 1999.

They just don't get it.

Remember when women said that about men? Fast forward a decade or so. Here at the turn of the millennium, the roles are reversed. Women just don't get it.

They don't get that the war is over. They don't get that girls have more than equal the opportunities of boys. They don't get that boys more than girls are in trouble today. No matter how many new studies -- or news magazine covers -- attest to the tragedy that is The American Boy, they just don't get it.

During any given week, I hear from dozens of readers blasting me for betraying The Plight of Women and Girls. One in the past week accused me of really being a man. Another lamented my failure to understand that I'm a victim of the patriarchal society. A female student wrote asking for help on a paper about inequities in education for women. Oops, wrong columnist.

Alas, my hankie is dry. One need only be the parent of a son to know that boys are the underdogs these days. Absent a son, one need only watch the news or read any of a half-dozen new books that attempt to make a case for saving our boys.

Here's some of what you may have missed while taking your daughters to work:

Four boys are diagnosed as emotionally disturbed to every one girl; two boys are learning-disabled for every one girl; six boys are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder to every one girl; two teen boys die for every one girl. (Source: Dr. Michael Gurian's book, The Wonder of Boys.)

Fifty-five percent of college students are female, according to a 1991 U.S. Department of Education report. Although women still lag behind men in earning doctoral degrees, more than half of all bachelor's and master's degrees are awarded to women.

On standardized tests administered to 17-year-olds, boys still outperform girls by three points in math and 11 points in science, according to the same DOE report. But girls outperform boys by 13 points in reading and 24 points in writing.

Girls outnumber boys in all extracurricular activities except for sports and hobby clubs, according to the 1996 Digest of Educational Statistics. That, too, is changing. By 1987, 26 percent of girls participated in high school athletic programs, compared with only 4 percent in 1972, according to a 1992 report by the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.

More boys than girls drop out of school, according to the 1992 Digest of Educational Statistics. Boys are more likely than girls to be robbed, threatened or attacked. Just about every pathology, including alcoholism and drug abuse, hits boys harder.

It is true that girls are four to five times more likely than boys to attempt suicide, as reported by the Wellesley Report. It is also true, however, that boys succeed more often. Current figures show that 21.9 boys per 100,000 between the ages of 15 and 24 kill themselves; for girls in the same age group, the number is 4.2 per 100,000.

Finally, no one needs reminding who brings guns to school and kills classmates. No one needs reminding which kids were ceaselessly bullied and tormented. No one needs reminding that girls are more special than boys. If in doubt, just ask a boy.

Which suggests that we do need reminding that elevating one segment of society at the expense of others is always unfair, inevitably counterproductive, and in the absence of hope or remedy, often fatal, as recent events compel us to note.

It's time to get it.

Kathleen Parker's column also appears Sunday in the Sentinel's Insight section. She welcomes your views and suggestions. Mail: The Orlando Sentinel, MP-72, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando, Fla. 32802-2833.
E-mail: Kparker@Kparker.com

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