True or false: Our educational system gives boys an academic advantage.

Answer: A resounding yes, when Leave It To Beaver was the TV ratings champ. But Richard Whitmire, author of Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons From An Educational System That's Leaving Them Behind (Amacon Publishing, 2010), makes a compelling, well-documented case that the opposite is now true. According to Whitmire, male students have been at a disadvantage for at least a generation, and the academic gender gap is widening.

Whitmire, a former editorial writer for USA Today, marshaled an impressive amount of research to support the thesis of his book: "The world has gotten more verbal, boys haven't." He insists that instructional trends ranging from whole language reading instruction (emphasizing the recognition of words in context versus the decoding skills employed in phonics training) to math education that focuses on analyzing and solving word problems play to girls' strengths.

The grim stats cut like a machete through every demographic: urban, rural, wealthy, and underserved boys alike are lagging behind their female peers. Whether it is an abnormally high percentage of elementary-age boys labeled "behavior problems," or the 60/40 percent female-male imbalance as the status quo on many college campuses, the female academic advantage has been a game-changer for an entire generation of children, says Whitmire.

" … I bought into the reports that schools were treating girls unfairly, shunting them aside in favor of aggressive boys thrusting their arms in the air to answer teachers' questions … by hindsight, we now know that research was flawed. I was wrong to write those stories." Why Boys Fail is more than Whitmire's mea culpa, however. It profiles ...

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