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Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That's Leaving Them Behind Hardcover – January 13, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“…thorough, thought-provoking look at the increasing achievement gap between boys and girls…engaging read…offers arguments that could be used by…youth advocates to fund literacy and related programs for boys.” -- Voya

“… parent of a son, school reform advocate, elementary school teacher, or, most importantly a school administrator or member of …school boards…you need to read this book.” -- TucsonCitzen.com

“This is why we need reporters…an unbiased look at what is and isn’t working in schools. Plenty of real stories and real journalism.” — guysread.com

“…subject matter is compelling…sound advice—recommended for parents, educators, and others advocating for innovation and flexibility in their educational situations.” — Library Journal

"…excellent starting point for examining a problem that could have long lasting consequences if it’s not addressed soon….insightful look into a serious deficit in our educational system…" — Bismarck Tribune

“…addresses an important, and neglected, problem in our schools. Teachers and administrators should pay close attention to what Whitmire has to say.“ — Washington Times

“The gender gap will certainly be a difficult problem to overcome…but hopefully this book will help pave the way for a better understanding.” —Geekdad blog on wired.com

“… brilliant new book… I don't know of a clearer or more balanced examination of this issue…recommendations at the end of the book are sensible, creative and overdue…” — Washington Post

“…provocative and useful new book…” -- Diverse Issues in Higher Education

“…backed by extensive body of research about the gender gap that exists from prekindergarten through college worldwide…straightforward, fun, and void of educationese.”–The School Administrator

Book Description

Chosen by The American School Board Journal as one of 2010's Top Education Reads.

The signs and statistics are undeniable: boys are falling behind in school. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the biggest culprits are not video games, pop culture, or female-dominated schools biased toward girls. The real problem is that boys have been thrust into a bewildering new school environment that demands high-level reading and writing skills long before they are capable of handling them.

Lacking the ability to compete, boys fall farther and farther behind. Eventually, the problem gets pushed into college, where close to 60% of the graduates are women. In a time when even cops, construction foremen, and machine operators need post-high school degrees, that’s a problem.

Why Boys Fail takes a hard look at how this ominous reality came to be, how it has worsened in recent years, and why attempts to resolve it often devolve into finger-pointing and polarizing politics.

But the book also shares some good news. Amidst the alarming proof of failure among boys—around the world—there are also inspiring case studies of schools where something is going right. Each has come up with realistic ways to make sure that every student—male and female—has the tools to succeed in school and later in life. Educators and parents alike will take heart in these promising developments, and heed the book’s call to action—not only to demand solutions but also to help create them for their own students and children.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: AMACOM; 1 edition (January 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814415342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814415344
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #977,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Jones on January 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, the author provides an excellent and very interesting study of the modern day educational gender gap. This gap is the considerable disadvantage that boys now face compared to girls in educational outcomes. The author points out that not only are college students and those receiving degrees almost 60% female, but that preceding the college years is a record of poor educational performance by boys going back to pre-Kindergarten. In 10 well-organized chapters, the book develops a number of important concepts. Not only does it provide the thesis of why boys are doing so poorly (not only relative to girls but also overall), but it also provides indications of what the solutions are. These proposed solutions include improved teaching techniques to address the problems, as well as necessary policy initiatives. The 10 chapters provide a logical flow through the subject area of the book. The first chapter looks into how the basic issue presents itself, using examples such as an awards presentation at a school where almost all of the award recipients are girls. This leads to the question, what happened to the boys? The second chapter then points to the ultimate underlying factor, poor literacy among boys, pointing out that strong literacy is absolutely necessary not only for success in college, but in many other areas, such as being able to read manuals. The third chapter then explores some of the reasons why reading is taught so poorly; pointing out that good teaching methods are especially important when students are doing poorly. The fourth chapter then looks at the deficiencies of boys with regard to writing ability.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book gives a good overview of the problems boys are having in school, particularly with literacy. Having already read other books on the subject, such as Peg Tyre's "The Trouble With Boys", Christina Hoff Sommers' "The War Against Boys" (both applauded and derided by Whitmire), or "Work Hard, Be Nice" by Jay Matthews, a lot of "Why Boys Fail" was familiar.

Most helpful were the examples of schools that get things right, mostly by making sure no one, boys or girls, are falling behind.

Whitmire keeps coming back to the idea that the US government and the Department of Education has to get into the act by commissioning a major study into the boy problem. While I would agree that this might break the dam holding back serious consideration of boy-friendly education techniques, I don't see it as either a panacea or as a necessary step. The schools that are doing well by boys that he describes in the book are not doing so because they are responding to a government study; they are simply looking within their own student body and seeing the glaring inequalities. Any and every school can and must do that--without an outside kick if necessary.

More effective would be involved parents, principals, superintendents, school boards, and state legislatures insisting that schools report results by gender, and address any problems that show up in those results.

Whitmire only briefly and obliquely touches on the ed-school problem.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the parent of a daughter and a son, I found the book immensely reassuring. I now understand why my very smart and fabulous son did not excel as well academically as he has in life outside the classroom. I wish I had known this years ago. It would have saved me sleepless nights and lots of worry. I hope the book impacts those who are in a position to effect change in the way we teach our boys.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recently read Hanna Rosin excellent book The End of Men: And the Rise of Women. She uncovers how young women are thriving in college and grad schools as they account for nearly 60% of college students and earn an equal share of college and graduate degrees in most disciplines. This 60%/40% ratio in earning university degrees is causing young women to dominate the ranks of young professionals and managers everywhere.

Times have changed. Unionized blue collar middle class manufacturing jobs for the uneducated have been replaced by information based service jobs requiring a much higher level of education and people skill. College has become the new high school as a path to the middle class. Far more women are following that path than men.

While Rosin focused on the divergence between men and women's fate starting with the 60%/40% in college, Whitmire explains how that radical divergence emerged over time due to strong causal gender differences since day 1 of kindergarten.

Girls have more developed linguistic skills than boys at an earlier age. Young girls have 11% more neurons devoted to language. Brain scans show girls language areas at three and a half year old being as developed as boys' five year old. Until recently this huge development gap did not matter. This is because the early grades learning curve was slow enough that everybody over time would catch up. It also did not matter because one could do just fine with just a high school degree. But, those days are long gone.

In 1989 the k-12 educational environment accelerated the learning curve. Schools curricula were upgraded to follow a rigorous college preparation track.
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