Sorry to jump in on this (considering I have zero bone fides to talk about education), but I feel too personally compelled to not respond. I am a boy that failed at school, and per Honor Code by David Brooks I dont think I would have been better served.
I have listened to David Brooks and find him to be generally thoughtful, though I've read about him in Wonkette enough to know that anyone would probably anticipate I would have disagreed with his article out of hand. I did read it, didn't look at the author until after, but I'm not sure why he's worried about what bothers him. Here's the generalized failure as I see it wherein boys floundering through education is not a pathology but a symptom.
Me myself, I find this to be more troubling than the performance gap itself:
"Some colleges are lowering the admissions requirements just so they can admit a decent number of men. Even so, men make up just over 40 percent of college students. Two million fewer men graduated from college over the past decade than women. The performance gap in graduate school is even higher."
Isn't that glossing over a huge point?
Why are we dumbing down our education system? Women should be penalized with lackluster education because some boys are too lazy or disobedient or poorly-motivated to get an education?
I think it's terrible that boys aren't receiving the education we as tax-payers or tuition-payers have purchased. Having boys not get a college education will diminish their lifetime earning potential and compromise their ability to be the bread-winner.
However, this is not inherently problematic. Women can be bread-winners, they can be the primary income of a household, men can be parents. As such, it seems that diminishing the tools afforded to better performing women and better motivated men hurts everyone. Otherwise, if women can't be those things, why has America been lying to her daughters?
So we're raising a generation of men who won't be getting college degrees? Maybe they can try out for a new job: a co-equal, or even primary parent. Men can be more than primary income sources. Women can be more than primary parents. We've been talking the talk for a few decades, anyway, and I was raised on the words. The verbs and deeds are less present though.
The men and women who choose or fall into these roles responsibly remain outliers in the data. Insofar as they remain outliers, so do we sensationalize the least deviation from either the norm or the narrowly construed acceptable extreme. The sooner we get there, the sooner we will have children engaged and actively advocated for in schools.
- Parent caring for his schizophrenic daughter - http://www.janisjourney.org/
- Do you really think you should [keep/expect to be] paying for a collegiate education that is of a lesser quality just to spoon-feed degrees to boys who won't try to be men (are these really the men you want your son or daughter to imitate in living, or date)?
- Or more perniciously, do you think you should be forced to pay exorbitant prices to firewall your motivated children from the "oppression of lowered expectations?"
According to Brooks:
"The basic problem is that schools praise diversity but have become culturally homogeneous. The education world has become a distinct subculture, with a distinct ethos[*] and attracting a distinct sort of employee. Students who don’t fit the ethos get left out."
Without getting into what he is insinuating with [*] distinct ethos, or the screedish part about values, the conclusion includes some serious presuming of premises without support. The citing the lack of competition and the prevalence of cooperation as primary factors in boys' miseducation is an obvious, clumsy, and poorly veiled rhetorical attack on behalf of capitalist-individualism over socialist-collectivism. This allusion however he lets dangle, and so will I.
The author implies that the most compelling factors in boys not being engaged revolve around a lack of competition, boot camp, and heterogeneity in the class room. He conflates terms; when he asserts that boys can't compete ("performance gap" measures competition) it is because they aren't taught to compete. However, he does not ever prove that competition improves what the test is even measuring. Same for the other proposed deficiencies in our system.
While all of those things are good and fine and dandy, and help to broaden the pupil as a person and enrich his (sexist language per the example) life, many other compelling reasons, not least of which being socio-economic, a lack of college degrees in the family, a lack of valuing a [college] education, and a lack of money to afford going to college are substantially more disengaging.
Brooks deliberately uses vague language to make vague points while passing niceties to the other side of this "culture war" (when he says that yes we need the culture of cooperation), and fails to make his presumed point, yet convincingly leaves the reader wondering why military values aren't a thing in their school.
When you forget that you ever read this bland article about nothing, citing nothing, proving nothing, you may still be worried that all we have are "programs that work like friendship circles, [and not enough that] programs that work like boot camp."
Personally, when I was about 16, I realized I wouldn't get a full-ride scholarship for being smart; that I would never again get rewarded in any substantial way for intelligence. I also assumed that college wouldn't get paid for. [Fortunately I had the family and mother to kick my ass into gear.] So what did I care about college? Would boot camp or competition or heterogeneity of class rooms have gotten me over that disenchantment?
Aside: homogeneity is determined by locale and class (ability to afford a home and cost of living in a community), so is David Brooks complaining about the white people who all fled the city for the suburbs? Cultural diversity is largely limited to a reference frame of white and Christian, which is frequently geographically determined. I don't understand what his solution would look like such that it c/would overcome geography and class differentials?
Like most, I can't imagine all pasts and futures, but I'm sure those things might have helped earlier on in my education, and they may equally likely have hindered. Still, faced with the failure of a school system to work around me, and me to integrate, I don't think those elements would have held much for a promise.
Takeaway: Brooks' conditions (lack of competition, boot camp, and heterogeneity in the class room, and assuming that what he's talking about is actually backed up by statistics of any kind) may be part of a necesary set of items that lead to failure of males, but they are not together sufficient.
- Brooks' interpretation of this is a serious treating of the symptoms and not the disease.
- I am sure Brooks is responding to how schools failed him, or his children, or how he sees them failing; and I honestly believe that he should affect the change he believes in. I just think that this article is truncated and not a focused solution or even a decent summary of the problem.
- Culturally, for me there is an underlying claim that men who aren't a good fit for college education must necessarily have the bar lowered for them so that college is a good fit for them; that claim is based on the assumption that men must necessarily be the primary earner in the household. If I don't restrain Brooks' opinion to that, it rings hollow and insincere.
- Brooks seems to be offering a red herring of a problem which is in fact a symptom.
- I have a particular bias against false advocates, and it appears Brooks is offering cultural critique while donning the guise of an education advocate.