Irish Times

Monday, August 27, 2001

The horrors of feminised education

OPINION/John Waters
Irish Times

The of media discourse on gender matters is roughly this: when something is bad for females, the fault lies with the society and/or State; when something is bad for males, it lies with the affected men or boys.

Thus, in the wake of the Leaving Cert results, we were subjected to the scintillating analysis that the growing academic gap between boys and girls is the consequence of laddism. This allows us to believe that the problem is unconnected to any fault in the educational system or the thinking that informs it.

Boys, the "logic" goes, do less well because they have become infected with some form of virus which causes them to be more interested in football, sex, drink or, one supposes, telling dirty jokes. It might be interesting sometime to examine the intellectual gap between those who advance such theories and common sense.

Boys fall behind long before they surrender to so-called laddism. As Joe Foyle and other authorities in reading skills have been pointing out for some time, the literacy gap between boys and girls is visible from the age of five or six.

Of children diagnosed as dyslexic, 80 per cent are boys. This should not surprise us. Between the ages of four and 12 or 13, boys throughout the English-speaking world have less than a one in 10 chance of being taught by a man.

Thus, they are deprived of appropriate role models for about half their waking hours through the most critical of their formative years.

There is clear evidence also that boys do less well in mixed classrooms. Moreover, as has been highlighted by, among others, Christina Hoff Summers, Lynne V. Cheney and, recently, the novelist Doris Lessing, the ethos of the education they receive is such as to persuade them that they are morally and in other ways inferior to girls. (Note, it is not men who, by and large, point out these realities, but enlightened, decent women.)

Of course, it is not the case that all boys do less well than girls. It was noticeable, for example, that the best Leaving Cert results - nine A1s - were received by a male student, Fergus Denman of Maynooth.

Last week we heard about six-year-old Arran Fernandez, who became the youngest person in Britain to pass the GCSE exam.

The time may not be far off when many parents of boys may, like Arran's parents, have to teach their sons at home rather than inflict on them the horrors of a feminised, misandristic education system.

One of the many distortions currently being propounded in an attempt to avoid having to help boys is the notion that girls are now, as a result of "equality", beginning to catch up.

This is rubbish. Biologically, whether feminists like it or not, boys are genetically more disposed than girls to achieve academically.

On average, men's brains are 15 per cent larger than women's, which is roughly twice the difference in physical proportions. The brains of babies grow at about an equal rate until the age of three, but between three and six the male brain expands until it reaches its full size.

There are vast in-built differences between the capacities of males and females.

Previous differences between the academic records of boys and girls had nothing to do with the alleged oppression of women, but a lot to do with the different ordering of male and female brain circuits: traditionally, girls have been better at language skills, boys better at maths, and so forth.

Male achievement tends to be on an all-or-nothing basis, whereas females tend to remain in the middle band.

Christina Hoff Summers: "On almost any intelligence or achievement test, male scores are more spread out than female scores at the extremes of ability and disability: there are more male prodigies at the high end and more males of marginal ability at the low end."

If it is the case that, while some boys are still capable of the most astounding academic achievement, whereas the generality of boys are showing massive academic slippage, what we need to be looking for is not the explanation for the sudden surge in the female intellect, but the factors which cause many boys to opt out, to go for the nothing rather than the all.

It is staring us in the face.

Boys are increasingly opting out of earnest academic endeavour because the odds are stacked against them; because nobody is seeking to address the issues which adversely affect their performance; because the system is geared towards handicapping them (and celebrating as they are eclipsed); because they are in danger of the humiliation arising from constant comparison with girls; and because they are taught that male values are bad and female values good.

Laddism, therefore, is the chicken, not the egg, the stick, not the limp. In his brilliant ebook, What Men Know That Women Don't (www.geocities.com /Athens/Oracle/5225/), Rich Zubaty writes: "Machismo is not masculinity. It is the warped ego-aspiration of a deeply-shamed, uninitiated man.

A man raised by women. Macho behaviour by boys and young men is not an innate, natural response, but an exaggerated defence-mechanism designed to lessen humiliation.

It begins in the shrug and sneer of the eight-year-old who, finding himself behind in reading and writing, dismisses such things as 'sissy stuff'.

It is the retreat of the scorned and the shamed into what appears to be voluntary idiocy, just as the hedgehog's extended spines are evidence of his sense of approaching threat."

jwaters@irish-times.ie

© 2001 ireland.com