by Laura McFarland, MCN Communications Director
A gender difference in behavioral skills, seen as early as kindergarten, is hurting boys’ academic prospects and their earning potential:
In an economy that rewards knowledge, the academic struggles of boys turn into economic struggles. Men’s wages are stagnating. Men are much more likely to be idle — neither working, looking for work nor caring for family — than they once were and much more likely to be idle than women.
My son is six, and though he reads at a middle school level and figured out on his own that if the square root of sixteen is four, the square root of four must be two, it would probably take him two hours to put on his pajamas or brush his teeth if left unattended. Why? Because of the pirates he needs to battle, or the book he can’t put down, or the Legos that come across his line of vision. We talk about how one of my jobs as mommy is to help him learn how to focus on the task at hand.
Frequently I think it must be hard to be a six-year-old boy and constantly be told not to touch something, put that down, leave it alone. He is, after all, amazing. I wouldn’t want him to be anyone other than who he is, and I am just beginning to see how lucky I am to know him. Is what we are teaching him enough? Is he too young for us to worry about his economic future? Articles like this one, “A Link Between Fidgety Boys and a Sputtering Economy” give me pause, to say the least.
I also have a four-year-old daughter, so part of me is celebrating what I’m reading – wasn’t this the goal, to reach a point where the school system did not reward one group of people based on the behaviors they were allowed solely because of their membership in a group, one which no one else could join? Isn’t it wonderful, the opportunities in store for her?
But clearly we have not reached our goals if people are not learning the skills to be able to support themselves and feed their families. This is true whether we’re talking about education or peace in the Middle East. As author David Leonhardt is wise to note, every group faces their own challenges. And the points he makes are well worth addressing regardless of which group of people he means:
The problem doesn’t simply involve men trying to overcome the demise of a local factory or teenage boys getting into trouble. It involves children so young that most haven’t even learned the word “gender.” Yet their gender is already starting to cast a long shadow over their lives.