Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Volume 10, Number 2, 2008                           Boys and the American Educati...
Boys and the American Education System                                                    81                      to recen...
82                                                                                    Stolzer             activity and oth...
Boys and the American Education System                                                  83                      explained ...
84                                                                                                      Stolzer[AuQ11] TAB...
Boys and the American Education System                                                    85                         There...
86                                                                                      Stolzer             it has been hy...
Boys and the American Education System                                                      87                         It ...
88                                                                               Stolzer        money is needed in order t...
Boys and the American Education System                                                    89                      with lea...
90                                                                                     Stolzer                Evolutionari...
Boys and the American Education System                                                             91                     ...
92                                                                                              Stolzer             • Acti...
Boys and the American Education System                                                                 93                 ...
94                                                                                                    Stolzer             ...
Boys and the American Education System                                                           95                      P...
[AuQ1]   Please supply an affiliation for the author.              [AuQ2]   Please supply 4 to 6 keywords for this article,...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5

Boys and the American Education System: A Biocultural Review of the Literature


Published on

Published in: Health & Medicine, Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Boys and the American Education System: A Biocultural Review of the Literature

  1. 1. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Volume 10, Number 2, 2008 Boys and the American Education System: A Biocultural Review of the Literature[AuQ1] J. M. Stolzer, PhD Over the past 15 to 20 years, feminist scholars, the media, and various governmental agen- cies have asserted that girls are facing an unprecedented crisis in the American education system. According to this relatively recent feminist-based theory, the American public school system is built on an oppressive, patriarchal foundation, and as a direct result of this foundation, an innate and measurable masculine bias exists in schools throughout America. This article challenges feminist theory constructs and instead focuses on male children and the problems that they are currently experiencing in the education system throughout the United States. Political, economic, neurobiological, contextual, phenom- enological, cultural, and evolutionary corollaries are explored in depth in order to gain new insight into the gender differences that exist in the American education system. The goal of this article is to offer a theoretically sound alternative to current feminist theory[AuQ2] and to challenge the existing perceptions of maleness in the American school system. C arol Gilligan (1990) published a series of case studies that purported that girls were facing an unprecedented crisis in the American education system. Based on a limited number of qualitative data sets, Gilligan hypothesized that an innate masculine bias is permeating the American school system and that because of this bias girl children are suffering severe psychological and academic repercussions. Because of the unprecedented exposure of this hypothesis, policymakers, academicians, public school teachers, public school administrators, and the general public have accepted as fact that girl children are at a distinct disadvantage in public schools. Over the past decade, a measurable paradigm shift has occurred as governmental agencies, school administrators, and women’s groups have parlayed their efforts in order to demand that the “girl crisis” be addressed in the American education system. As a direct result of these concentrated efforts, government-funded programs are now in place that ensure that girls will get the extra help they need in coping with institutionalized masculine bias. Women’s groups routinely lobby Congress in order to get additional funding to aid in the girl crisis, and gender equity workshops have become mandatory in public schools throughout the nation (Hoff Sommers, 2000). It is a commonly held belief that female children are at a distinct disadvantage in the American education system, but there exists very little peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support this claim (Hoff Sommers, 2000; U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Cur- rent data from the U.S. Department of Education confirm that girls receive better grades from kindergarten through 12th grade, are enrolled in more rigorous academic programs throughout high school, and outnumber males in advanced placement classes (Dwyer & Johnson, 1997; Hoff Sommers, 2000; U.S. Department of Education, 2000, 2004). According 80 © 2008 Springer Publishing Company DOI: 10.1891/1559-4343.10.2.803072-118_03.indd 80 8/28/2008 8:03:33 AM
  2. 2. Boys and the American Education System 81 to recent governmental statistics, females have higher academic aspirations, are more likely to study abroad, and are more likely than males to attend college (Higher Education Research Institute, 1998; Hoff Sommers, 2000; Peter & Horn, 2006; U.S. Department of Education, 2004). The majority of honor society inductees and honor roll participants are female, and females are more likely to receive high school diplomas, and bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees (Hoff Sommers, 2000; Peter & Horn, 2006). According to the U.S. Department of Education’s (2003) annual report to Congress, 7 out of 10 students who have been officially classified as learning disabled are male. Eighty percent of students who have been diagnosed as emotionally disturbed are male, and the vast majority of children who have been diagnosed as having attention deficit/hyperactiv- ity disorder (ADHD) or as conduct disordered are male. Male children are significantly more likely than female children to be suspended from school, to retake a grade, and to drop out of high school (Hoff Sommers, 2000; U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Fur- thermore, male students are more likely to engage in criminal activity, have higher rates of substance abuse, and are five times more likely to commit suicide (Hoff Sommers, 2000; National Center for Health Statistics, 1999; U.S. Department of Education, 1998). While it is absolutely certain that females were at a distinct academic disadvantage in the past, it now appears that male children are facing a crisis of their own in the current- day American education system. In spite of the prevailing political climate in America, there exists a number of probing questions that require our collective attention. Why are males dropping out of high school in unprecedented numbers? Why are they unable to keep up with their female cohorts in the areas of grades, advanced placements, and academic aspirations? Why are the vast majority of special education classes filled with males? Why are 80% of “emotionally disturbed” children and adolescents male? Why are males underrepresented in American universities? Why are the majority of college degrees awarded to females? (Freeman, 2004; U.S. Department of Education, 2003). No matter how politically explosive they may be, these questions must be asked. Governmental data clearly suggest that male students in America are now immersed in a crisis of their own and are suffering academically, socially, and psychologically (Freeman, 2004; Hoff Som- mers, 2000; U.S. Department of Education, 2003, 2004). In the following sections, political, contextual, economic, neurobiological, phenom- enological, evolutionary, and cultural correlates are explored in depth in order to gain insight into this newly emerging boy crisis in America. EVOLUTIONARY CORRELATES Evolutionary psychologists have postulated that gender differences are innate in the human species and have been perfected over millions of years of human evolution (Bjorklund & Pellegrini, 2002; Buss, 2004). Across mammalian species, across time, and across cultures, males have been documented to be more active, more combative, and more likely to engage the fight-or-flight response (Buss, 2004; Gurian, 2001). It is a dis- tinct possibility that after millions of years of hominid evolution (and perfecting particu- lar male characteristics), males are at a higher risk of failure in institutions that require docility, passivity, and sedentary learning styles (McIntyre & Tong, 1998). Perhaps the reason that males are diagnosed with a plethora of behavioral disorders in the current-day education system is because their evolutionary heritage predisposes them to high levels of3072-118_03.indd 81 8/28/2008 8:03:33 AM
  3. 3. 82 Stolzer activity and other distinctly male attributes that have, in the recent past, been classified as pathological. For the vast majority of human existence, typical male qualities (i.e., aggression extro- version, high activity levels, and so on) were highly prized, as these traits ensured the survival of the human species (Buss, 2004). It is scientifically plausible that the most com- monly diagnosed disease in young males today—ADHD—may in fact be the result of mil- lions of years of hominid adaptation since, according to evolutionary-based hypotheses, the most active of the species would almost certainly be the genetic line that survived throughout the course of evolutionary time (Jensen et al., 1997). The behavior of males across mammalian species, across cultures, and across historical time seems to have remained relatively constant, and although scholars subscribing to behavioristic theory continue to insist that human behavior is the direct result of par- ticular socialization processes, there exists mounting evidence to support the hypothesis that males and females are inherently very different (Buss, 2004; Gurian, 2001). While some theoreticians are adamant that the environment is the sole cause of male-typed behavioral patterns, the fact remains that male attributes have been documented for thousands of years across diverse geographical locations and across mammalian species (Stolzer, 2005). It appears that with regard to the current-day boy crisis in America, we have lost the wisdom of our ancestors who knew unequivocally that boys and girls were very, very differ- ent (Stolzer, 2005). Never before in the history of the American education system have we accepted a theoretical premise that suggested that males and females would follow similar developmental pathways. It appears that recently the female “way of learning” has become the gold standard in public schools and that those who deviate from this standard are assumed to be developmentally delayed, behaviorally disordered, and/or learning disabled. Perhaps we should consider reexamining our historical theoretical stance that supports the postulate that gender differences are valuable, quantifiable, and innate in the mam- malian species. As it stands now, Americans are content to demand that males behave and learn according to the criteria set forth by their female cohorts. Evolutionarily speaking, it is highly unlikely that institutions (i.e., schools) will be successful in their endeavor to force young males to develop according to traditional female norms, so we can, in the future, expect that even more males will be labeled behaviorally disordered and/or learn- ing disabled when in actuality they are following normal, historically documented male developmental trajectories (Stolzer, 2005). Bowlby (1988) hypothesized that culture was a potent enough force that it could actu- ally override evolutionary predisposition. For millions of years, males have been perfect- ing the art of “maleness,” and this maleness was considered throughout historical time to be extremely valuable to the functioning and maintenance of society (Stolzer, 2005). What are we to do now that, for the first time in the history of humankind, we have defined these ancient and uniquely male traits as pathological? The answer is that we have constructed a myriad of disorders (i.e., behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and so on) that are currently rampant in the education system and in many instances require that male children use pharmaceutical drugs in order to alter their behavioral patterns so that they will conform to the scripts set forth by their female constituents (Stolzer, 2005). Evolutionary theory clearly distinguishes why males and females follow divergent devel- opmental trajectories and emphasizes that the differences in males and females can be3072-118_03.indd 82 8/28/2008 8:03:33 AM
  4. 4. Boys and the American Education System 83 explained by the original environment of adaptedness (Santrock, 2005). Evolutionary theory supports the hypothesis that males evolved in distinct ways because of the external pressures they faced in primitive environments (Santrock, 2005). Distinctly male hor- mones such as testosterone and androgen have also been linked with differences in male versus female behavioral patterns, and data confirm that although human behavior is not entirely hormonally regulated, hormones do have the potential to influence gender-typed behavioral patterns (Lippa, 2005; Reiner & Gearhart, 2004). Evolutionary developmental psychologists have proposed that male children are innately different from their female cohorts behaviorally, physiologically, socially, and neurologically (Bjorklund & Pellegrini, 2002; Bear, Connors, & Paradiso, 1996; Buss, 2004). According to evolutionary-based theory, male children exhibit more frequent and intense activity levels and more violent play scripts because this evolved tendency ensured the survival of the hominid species (Bjorklund & Pellegrini, 2002). While evolution- ary theoreticians purport to explain distinct male-typed behavioral patterns, it must be stressed that evolutionary-induced behaviors can and often do predispose male children to a myriad of official labels in the current-day education system (Bjorklund & Pellegrini, 2002; McIntyre & Tong, 1998; Stolzer, 2005). NEUROLOGICAL CORRELATES For decades, neurobiologists have hypothesized that brains differ by gender because of the environment in which they evolved (Bear et al., 1996; Burian, 2001; Kandel, Schwartz, & [AuQ3] Jesse, 1995). Neurobiological theory suggests that throughout human evolution, males and females divided tasks according to gender so that the species would survive. Accord- ing to this neurobiologically based hypothesis, millions of years of hominid adaptation resulted in distinct and measurable male and female brain differences (Bear et al., 1996; Kandel et al., 1995). Males were required over time to develop spatial acuity, to be highly active, and to be physically aggressive. Females, on the other hand, needed to acquire intense verbal skills and had to learn to multitask as their day-to-day activities involved not only gathering and maintenance of the familial sphere but also the nurturing of her offspring (Buss, 2004; Gurian, 2001). It is a scientific fact that all human fetuses begin life as a female. Sex differentiation occurs only when the maternal ovaries flood the fetus with large amounts of testosterone, thus resulting in the biological male. The flood of testosterone dramatically alters the neurological makeup of the fetus and “changes the brains very architecture from female to male” (Gurian, 2001, p. 41). During puberty, distinct hormones once again flood the body, and for the second time in the course of human development, the brain itself undergoes immense physiological changes (Gurian, 2001; White, 2005). Although feminist scholars vehemently object to the evolutionary-based neurobio- logical hypothesis and have for decades insisted that gender differences are the direct result of socialization processes (Eagly, 2001), mounting empirical evidence confirms that the majority of male and female brains are “hardwired” quite differently. The advent of high-tech brain imaging has recently taken the neurobiological hypothe- sis from theoretical speculation to scientific fact (Gurian, 2001; Kandel et al., 1995). Table 1 demonstrates the quantifiable differences detectable in the majority of male and female brains.3072-118_03.indd 83 8/28/2008 8:03:33 AM
  5. 5. 84 Stolzer[AuQ11] TABLE 1. Part of Brain Function Differences Impact Amygdala Emotional processing Larger in males Increases aggression in males Arcuate Nerve fibers in central Develops earlier in Females speak in fasciculus nervous system females sentences earlier than males Basal ganglia Controls movement Engages more quickly Males respond faster in males to demands in physical environment Broca’s area Processes word More active females Improved verbal production; communication in female grammatical structure Cerebellum Connects to other parts Stronger connecting Superior language and of brain; facilitates pathways in females fine motor skills in precise movement, females; males less intui- balance, and speech tive, as fewer parts of brain involved in tasking Cerebrum Controls conscious and Females use more Greater capacity to voluntary processes; the volume and particular multitask in females; “thinking center” of brain areas to do some tasks female cerebrum always active Estrogen Hormone that shapes Much more present in Lowers aggression, com- female brain females petition, self-assertion, and self-reliance Frontal lobe Facilitates speech, Highly active in Advanced verbal com- thought, and emotions females munication skills in females Pituitary gland Secretes hormones Directly related to Males’ fight-or-flight fight-or-flight data response more rapidly from hypothalamus engaged to endocrine gland system in males Temporal lobe Memory storage; recog- Stronger neuron Produces superior nizes tones and volume connections in communicative tasks females Testosterone Male sex hormone Much more present Increases aggression, and functional in competition, males self-assertion, and self-reliance Cerebral Promotes higher intel- Thicker in males on Males tend to be cortex lectual functions and right side of brain; right-brain dominant; memory; interprets thicker in females on females left-brain domi- sensory impulses left side nant Right Interprets emotional Boys use right side of Males superior at spatial hemisphere content; social, visual, brain to work on relationships spatial, and environmen- abstract problems; tal awareness girls use both sides Note. From Boys and Girls Learn Differently: A Guide for Teachers and Parents, by M. Gurian, 2001, San Francisco: [AuQ12] Jossey-Bass. Copyright 2001 by M. Gurian. Reprinted with permission.3072-118_03.indd 84 8/28/2008 8:03:34 AM
  6. 6. Boys and the American Education System 85 There is no question that differences exist with regard to the structure of the male and female brain (Bear et al., 1996; Gurian, 2001; Kandel et al., 1995). Magnetic resonance imaging and computerized axial tomography clearly demonstrate that statistically signifi- cant differences are detectable and that these differences are strongly correlated with gen- der (Bear et al., 1996; Gurian, 2001; Kandel et al., 1995). While it is certain that not all male–female differences can be attributed to the physiological functioning of the human brain, the fact remains that measurable and detectable differences exist and that these differences affect both learning and behavioral processes (Bear et al., 1996; Gurian, 2001; Kandel et al., 1995). Decades of standardized test scores across cultures indicate that males tend to be more adept in the mathematics and science areas, while females tend to demonstrate higher reading, writing, and verbal acuity (Gurian, 2001; U.S. Department of Education, 2003, 2004). Although males tend to score higher on standardized math and science tests, female students are far superior students all around as indicated by classroom testing, grade reports, and teacher evaluations (Coley, 2001; Hoff Sommers, 2000; Santrock, 2005; U.S. Department of Education, 2000). Girls are not only outperforming males in the academic arena but also doing better when it comes to socioemotional functioning. Eighty percent of “emotionally disturbed” chil- dren are male, and the vast majority of “behaviorally disordered” students are male. Male students are significantly more likely to participate in deviant behavior, to be suspended from school, to abuse chemical substances, and to commit suicide (National Center for Health Statistics, 1999; U.S. Department of Education, 2003, 2004). Neurological data have indicated that males are more impulsive and less mature than their female cohorts (Bear et al., 1996; Gurian, 2001; Kandel et al., 1995), and this impulsivity may in fact precipitate the “disordered” behavior often exhibited by young males across cultures and across historical time. GOODNESS OF FIT/TEMPERAMENTAL CORRELATES “Goodness of fit” refers to the match between a child’s basic needs and the environ- mental demands the child must cope with (Santrock, 2005). Across cultures and across time, young males have been documented to be more active than their female cohorts, yet males are currently expected to curtail this high activity level once they enter into the public school system. Male children evolved in an environment in which roaming large areas, unstructured play, and frequent and intense physical activity were common (Wilson, 1993). Today, American children are immersed in artificial light, are expected to be sedentary learners, and are surrounded by four walls with no exposure to the earth or to the sun—elements that they have been immersed in for millions of years (Stolzer, 2005; Wilson, 1993). For decades, researchers have understood the importance of “fit.” It has been well documented in the literature that the lack of fit between a child’s biological needs and environmental demands often produces cognitive, emotional, and physical stress for the child (Matheny & Phillips, 2001; Rothbart & Bates, 2006). Rarely do we assume in the modern-day school system that a child’s difficulties may be the result of a lack of fit. Rather, the assumption is made that there is something “wrong” with the individual child. The vast majority of American school children are taught by female teachers, and3072-118_03.indd 85 8/28/2008 8:03:34 AM
  7. 7. 86 Stolzer it has been hypothesized that this lack of fit between male students and their female teachers may be one of the factors contributing to the increase in teacher-initiated refer- rals for special education classes (McIntyre & Tong, 1998). Pediatric neurologist Fred Baughman (2006) states that “in the overwhelming majority of cases, the underlying issue is either a clash between a normal child and the requirements of his adult-controlled environment, or the product of a diagnostic zeal in a newly depu- tized teacher-turned-deputy brain diagnostician” (p. 215). Baughman insists that normal- range child behavior encompasses a wide range of territory and that schools have become overzealous in their attempt to classify normal-range boy behavior as pathological. It is possible that the millions of male children who now carry an official label as behavior- ally disordered may in fact be exhibiting behavior that has, in previous generations, been defined as “normal.” Baughman suggests that there are many normal-range behavioral characteristics that might clash with adult expectations, but that does not make the behavior any less normal—just inconvenient for adults and the environments that they wish to maintain. Many children have temperaments that fit very nicely with adult controlled institu- tions (i.e., schools), and these children can expect to do relatively well in the school environment. Other children—particularly male children—exhibit evolutionary induced behaviorally and/or learning characteristics that may predispose them to a multitude of recently constructed labels (i.e., behavioral impairment, learning disabilities, and so on) (Baughman, 2006). Understanding the goodness-of-fit theory does not preclude expecting and implementing specific rules of conduct, but it does require a basic understanding that boys and girls often exhibit divergent learning and/or behavioral patterns (Baughman, 2006; Bjorklund & Pellegrini, 2002). Perhaps social scientists should begin to challenge the prevailing Western ideology that suggests that “masculinity” and “femininity” are merely social constructs that require spe- cific environmental conditioning (Hoff Sommers, 2000). It is plausible that we as human beings are more than lumps of clay that can be shaped at will. Perhaps there are innate and distinguishable male and female attributes that need to be taken into consideration. Writing in the early 1900s, education pioneer Fredrich Froebel insisted that forcing a child to conform or indeed intruding on a child’s innate growth patterns had the potential to severely impede development. Froebel chastised his contemporaries for treating children as mere mounds of clay that could be molded at will and suggested that the education system should be nonresistant, attentive, and protective rather than dictating, circum- scribing, and interposing (Froebel, 1904; Hoff Sommers, 2000). Froebel predicted that the education system would fail if it continued to interfere with nature and that institutions that are apathetic to natural laws would logically produce limited and injured individuals (Froebel, 1904; Hoff Sommers, 2000). Over the past 10 to 15 years, the American education system has been methodical in its efforts to stress that diversity must be understood and respected. Ethnic, racial, sexual, and cultural diversity is stressed, and a conspicuous effort has been made to take into account diversity in the public classroom. However, what is noticeably absent from the current diversity curriculum in the American education system is esoteric gender diversity. The public school system has been inundated with behavioristically based theory that stresses that gender differences are the result of socialization processes, so efforts thus far have focused on “training” male children to learn and to behave as their female cohorts (Hoff Sommers, 2000; McIntyre & Tong, 1998).3072-118_03.indd 86 8/28/2008 8:03:34 AM
  8. 8. Boys and the American Education System 87 It is common knowledge that the vast majority of public school systems in the United States do not require that teachers and administrators are educated in gender differences (i.e., brain differences, learning styles, activity levels, and so on). Instead, educators have been deluged with theories that purport that male and female children are inherently the same—neurologically, intellectually, behaviorally, and emotionally. Perhaps the time has come to reexamine the American school system’s basic theoretical premise. Conceivably, boys and girls really are different, and these differences need to be reflected in theory, policy, and application. Data confirm that the majority of female children read sooner and better than their male cohorts, yet the public school system continues to demand that males follow similar developmental pathways lest they risk being labeled learning disabled (Gurian, 2001; U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Female children are much more likely to express emo- tions with their words, while young males are more likely to express intense emotions with physical movement; again, the American education system demands that the female style is the only appropriate style, and if males deviate from this culturally preferred style, they risk being labeled as emotionally disordered (Gurian, 2001; Hoff Sommers, 2000). It is imperative that gender differences be examined using scientific theory rather than politi- cally correct cultural dictums. It is crucial to examine how fit plays into the phenomenon of the “disabled” and the “disordered” American boy. It is clear that the majority of boys and girls learn and behave differently, and in order to respect diversity in its entirety, we must take into account scientifically verified gender differences and restructure our educa- tional institutions accordingly. ECONOMIC CORRELATES In 1975, special education legislation was adopted that ensured that children with dis- abilities would have unlimited access to public education in America. Early on, the special education legislation covered children with physical disabilities such as blindness, deaf- ness, and other physical impairments. In 1991, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was amended to include children with behavioral and/or learning difficulties (Effrem, Hegg, Jackson, & Jacobs, 2005). The 1991 amendment set forth by the federal government in defining children with mental and/or learning disorders is extremely vague and provides a financial incentive to label children who have difficulty within the struc- ture of the school system (Effrem et al., 2005). Since the inception of the 1991 amend- ment, mental and learning disabilities have skyrocketed—particularly among young males. Prescription of psychotropic drugs has reached epidemic proportions, and an estimated 6 million to 8 million children (the vast majority are boys) take daily medication to con- trol behavior that has been defined as “abnormal” (Breeding, 2002). Under the IDEA, the more children are diagnosed with learning and/or behavioral problems, the more federal money the individual school receives (Baughman, 2006; Effrem et al., 2005). Male chil- dren are disproportionately represented in the areas of learning and behavioral disabilities, as U.S. governmental data indicate that approximately 70% of learning-disabled students are male and that 80% of students with a behavioral and/or emotional disorder are male (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted so that schools would receive the mon- ies needed in order to accommodate disabled students. While it is certain that additional3072-118_03.indd 87 8/28/2008 8:03:34 AM
  9. 9. 88 Stolzer money is needed in order to properly educate the blind, the deaf, or the physically inca- pacitated student, why is additional money granted to schools who have children labeled with behavioral disorders? The parent is responsible for the cost of the medication, while the school system expends little to no additional money on the child with a behavioral disorder (Effrem et al., 2005). [AuQ4] The World Health Organization (2001) has stated unequivocally that childhood and adolescence are normal developmental stages; therefore, it is difficult to draw clear bound- aries between “abnormal” and “normal” child behaviors (Breggin, 2001; Effrem et al., 2005). The surgeon general of the United States has reported that diagnoses of mental disorders are problematic at best, as there are no definitive medical tests or abnormality within the brain that can substantiate the existence of such disorders (Baughman, 2006; Breggin, 1999; Effrem et al., 2005). In spite of these findings, an estimated 6 million to 8 million American boys are currently diagnosed as mentally disordered, and these diagno- ses will remain with them throughout their academic and professional careers (Breeding, 2002; Effrem et al., 2005). Proponents of the disease model postulate that behavioral and/or emotional disorders are the result of an atypical brain even though no scientific evidence exists to support this hypothesis (Baughman, 2006; Breggin, 1995, 1999, 2001; Cohen, 2004). In the 1950s, emotional disorders such as ADHD did not exist. In 1970, approximately 2,000 children (mostly boys) were diagnosed as hyperactive, and behavior modification techniques were the standard treatment. By 2005, 6 million to 8 million American children (the vast majority are males) have been diagnosed with a “brain disorder” called ADHD, and the overwhelming majority of these children are prescribed addictive and dangerous psycho- tropic medications to control their undesirable behaviors (Breggin, 1999, 2001; Levine, 2004). If indeed the proponents of the disease model are accurate in their characterization of behavioral problems as brain disorders, what physiological mechanism could possibly account for the restructuring of the biochemistry of the male brain in the course of less than one generation? Why is this “brain disorder” most commonly diagnosed in American boys? Why is this disorder not documented across cultures, across time, or across mamma- lian species? (Levine, 2004; Stolzer, 2005). In the past decade, there has been a 700% increase in the number of American children who take psychiatric drugs (Breeding, 2002). Ninety percent of the world’s methylpheni- date (Ritalin) is given to Americans—the vast majority of those being male children— in spite of the fact that methylphenidate use has been associated with cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, and central nervous system malfunction (Breeding, 2002; Breggin, 1999). Swanson and colleagues (1992) found that methylphenidate use is correlated with cognitive toxicity, drug-induced compliant behavior, somberness, and stillness and often produces social isolation. At therapeutic doses, methylphenidate has been associated with a 23% to 30% drop in blood flow to the brain and can cause permanent neurological changes and cell death (Breggin, 2001; Melega, Raleigh, Stout, Huang, & Phelps, 1997). Other possible side effects of methylphenidate include severe withdrawal, irritability, sui- cidal feelings, disorientation, personality changes, cardiac arrhythmia, weakened immu- nity, liver dysfunction, insomnia, agitation, heptic coma, growth suppression, and toxic psychosis (Baughman, 2006; Breggin, 1999, 2001; Novartis, 2006). Interestingly enough, the vast majority of recommendations for psychostimulant drugs in pediatric populations come directly from the U.S. school system (Baughman, 2006; Breggin, 1999). Teachers and administrators have a vested interest in managing children3072-118_03.indd 88 8/28/2008 8:03:34 AM
  10. 10. Boys and the American Education System 89 with learning and/or behavioral problems and often refer the child to a physician for further psychiatric evaluation (Phillips, 2006). Often, familial attributes, evolutionary predisposi- tion, overcrowded classrooms, lack of fit, teacher-to-child ratios, lack of physical activity, and/or cultural perceptions are overlooked. Increasingly, the “problem” is assumed to lie within the individual child, while systemic problems are ignored and the use of psycho- tropic drugs increases dramatically among American male schoolchildren. Furthermore, teachers in the current-day American school system are now assuming the role of psy- chologist, psychiatrist, and/or neurologist. Let us not forget that teachers are not now, nor have they ever been, trained as psychologists, psychiatrists, or neurologists. Teachers are trained in curriculum and instruction—not in diagnosing “neoneurological” disorders of the brain (Cohen, 2004; Stolzer, 2005). Governmental statistics indicate that behavioral and/or learning disorders in child populations vary considerably from school to school. Private schools do not receive fed- eral monies for behavioral and/or learning disorders, and data indicate that these schools have extremely low rates of “disordered” children when compared to public schools (Cohen, 2004). It appears that there is an economic incentive to label students (espe- cially male students) with a myriad of disorders—in spite of the fact that children by their very nature are inattentive, spontaneous, active, messy, and easily bored (Breggin, 1995). In the current climate where American school children are forced to sell magazine subscriptions in order to supplement school budgets, it should come as no surprise that behavioral and/or learning disorders are skyrocketing in public schools throughout the United States. The time has come to question both the reliability and validity of these diagnoses (Stolzer, 2005). DISCUSSION Throughout recorded history, males and females have followed divergent developmental trajectories. Across mammalian species, across cultures, and across historical time, males have been documented to be more active, independent, combative, physical, and territo- rial (Bjorklund & Pellegrini, 2002). In spite of behavioristically oriented theories that suggest that male and female behavioral and/or learning patterns are the result of distinct socialization processes, data indicate that there are in fact substantial quantifiable neuro- logical differences between males and females (Bear et al., 1996; Buss, 2004; Kandel et al., 1995). Employing an evolutionary perspective, males were designed by millions of years of natural selection to be very different than their female contemporaries. Recently, the advent of high-tech brain-imaging studies has demonstrated that these differences can be detected in the physiology of the human brain. The amygdala—the region of the brain associated with aggression—is significantly larger in male populations (Gurian, 2001). The arcuate fasciculus and Broca’s area account for females’ advanced verbal skills (Gurian, 2001). Hormones such as testosterone have been scientifically documented to produce aggression, competition, self-assertion, and self-reliance (Gurian, 2001). It is a fact that the majority of male and female brains function quite differently, and these differences may account for the divergent behavioral and learning styles documented in male and female children across cultures and across time (Bjorklund & Pellegrini, 2002; Buss, 2004; Gurian, 2001; Kandel et al., 1995).3072-118_03.indd 89 8/28/2008 8:03:34 AM
  11. 11. 90 Stolzer Evolutionarily speaking, it is certain that the structure of the male brain has not been physiologically recalibrated over the past 15 to 20 years. Furthermore, bioevolutionary mechanisms and distinct male-patterned learning and/or behavior have not been biologi- cally altered in the recent past (Baughman, 2004; Levine, 2004). What has been altered is America’s collective perception of boyhood. What was once considered typical boy behavior has, over the past 15 years, been defined as pathological—particularly in the American education system. Perhaps Americans have come to a place where they actu- ally prefer the chemically altered boy brain over the non–chemically altered brain as his- torically documented, normal-range boy behaviors do not fit in with recently constructed cultural scripts (Breggin, 2004). Do millions of American boys actually suffer from unprecedented disorders of the brain? What biological mechanism could possibly account for the millions of boys in America who have been labeled as behaviorally disordered and/or learning disabled? Is there actu- ally something physiologically wrong with the boy brain? Or could it be that American’s perception of boyhood has been dramatically altered, thus perpetuating the mass labeling and drugging of American boys? While it is relatively certain that evolutionary and/or neurological changes have not occurred in males over the past 15 to 20 years, many systemic processes have been altered in a relatively short time. For the first time in American history, individual schools receive money based on the number of children that are labeled as behaviorally and/or learn- ing disabled. It is now common for boys to remain sedentary throughout childhood and adolescence, as computers, video games, and televisions have replaced the unstructured, outdoor roaming of the past. Boys are expected to conform to the standards set forth by their female cohorts within the education system, and many boys are failing miserably (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Uniquely masculine traits (i.e., protectiveness, high activity levels, assertiveness, and so on) that have been perfected over millions of years and that were, for the course of human existence, considered highly valued and essential for the maintenance of society are now not only devalued but also in fact pathol- ogized (Levine, 2004; Stolzer, 2005). Historically documented boy behaviors are currently being scrutinized across America. “Recess” is no longer deemed as a necessary component of the curriculum, and cuts in physical education classes have become widespread in the United States (Stolzer, 2005). In spite of the research that documents that children who have access to recess (i.e., unstruc- tured outdoor physical activity) exhibit fewer behavioral problems and increased cognitive performance, schools continue to eradicate opportunities for physical activities and often use “staying in for recess” as a punishment for undesirable behavior (Pellegrini, 1988). It appears that in the quest for gender equity, Americans have inadvertently confused the words “equality” and “sameness” (Hoff Sommers, 2000). Boys and girls are equal in that both are human beings and, on the basis of that status, should be accorded every opportunity for societal advancement. However, to asseverate that males and females are the same in predilection, aptitude, disposition, behavior, and/or learning styles is to per- petuate a grievous scientific error (Moir & Jessel, 1990). While it is now a fact that we have psychotropic drugs available that can suppress and contain typical boy behavioral and/or learning styles, we must not forget that our male children have innate tendencies to act as boys. Many boys resist structured, boring, mundane, sedentary activities. This does not indicate pathology in and of itself; it very well may be indicative of the males’ evolutionary inclination (Breggin, 1999).3072-118_03.indd 90 8/28/2008 8:03:34 AM
  12. 12. Boys and the American Education System 91 The concept of behavioral and/or learning disorders was developed in the relatively recent past in order to control the behavior of children in settings where they need to remain focused and sedentary (Breggin, 1999). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) (DSM) lists as “disorders” behaviors that interfere with the maintenance of an orderly, controlled, classroom setting. “Fidgets,” “leaves seat,” “blurts out answers,” “has difficulty awaiting turn,” “fails to pay attention,” “makes careless mis- takes,” and so on are, according to the DSM, behaviors that indicate a neurological disor- der (Breggin, 1999). Perhaps we have forgotten that young mammals typically do not sit for hours at a time, nor do they pay close attention to boring and mundane instructions. Typically, young mammals—particularly males—are most interested in explorative, physi- cal activities. They are by their very nature active, impulsive, and inattentive to stimuli that they find insipid and monotonous (Breggin, 2001). Twenty-first-century Americans are now immersed in a culture that has pathologized boyhood (McIntyre & Tong, 1998). According to U.S. governmental statistics, girls receive better grades, are more likely to graduate from high school and college, have higher academic aspirations, and are faring better both academically and emotionally (U.S. Department of Education, 2003, 2004). The vast majority of learning-disabled chil- dren and adolescents are male, and the preponderance of students who have been labeled as emotionally disturbed are male. Males are significantly more likely to engage in criminal behavior and are five times more likely to commit suicide (National Center for Health Statistics, 1999; U.S. Department of Education, 2003). What can be done to alleviate these alarming statistics? What advocacy groups will work to ensure that the boy crisis in America is addressed? Will the American government come to the aid of the nation’s boys as it has in the past for the nation’s girls? Academically and emotionally, boys are markedly behind their female cohorts, and the time has come to systematically address this unprecedented phenomenon. Following is a list of possible solutions: • Require that teacher education programs include up-to-date instruction on brain research, evo- lutionary theory, and the goodness-of-fit model in addition to the behavioristic and feministic theories that monopolize current-day teacher colleges • Insist that typical boy-typed behavioral and learning styles be respected and understood in the educational setting • Demand that diversity training covers diversity in its entirety; racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, religion, gender differences, temperament, living situations, and personality differences included (Baughman, 2006) • Recognize that context and/or environmental factors affect child behavior (Baughman, 2006) • Provide boys with tension release strategies—both within and outside the classroom environment (Gurian, 2001) • Incorporate character development throughout the curriculum (Gurian, 2001) • Advocate for smaller teacher-to-child ratios (Gurian, 2001) • Implement and encourage healthy competition (Hoff Sommers, 2000) • Allow reading materials that include high-action, male-dominated, adventure-based stories (Hoff Sommers, 2000) • Increase academic expectations (Hoff Sommers, 2000) • Offer one-gender classrooms (Gurian, 2001; Hoff Sommers, 2000) • Demand that regardless of the weather, children have access to unstructured, physical, outdoor activity throughout the school day (Hoff Sommers, 2000) • Reduce sedentary learning activities; increase high-activity, large motor learning opportunities3072-118_03.indd 91 8/28/2008 8:03:35 AM
  13. 13. 92 Stolzer • Actively recruit male teachers(McIntyre & Tong, 1998) • Demand that physical education classes be required • Discontinue federal laws that encourage the mass labeling and drugging of children in the public school system • Ban zero-tolerance policies that forbid rough-and-tumble play (Bjorklund & Pellegrini, 2002; Pellegrini, 1988) • Call for federal initiatives that raise public awareness about the academic and emotional needs of American boys (Hoff Sommers, 2000; McIntyre & Tong, 1998) • Refuse to allow boys to be officially labeled as learning disabled; instead, call for initiatives mod- eled on the programs that offer remedial instruction to help girls with their academic performance (e.g., the National Science Foundation spends millions of dollars a year to help girl children in the areas of math and science without labeling them as learning disabled) (Hoff Sommers, 2000) • Call for revised special education assessment procedures that reflect gender-based considerations (McIntyre & Tong, 1998) Over the past 10 to 15 years, boys in the American education system have been system- atically marginalized both academically and emotionally. The fact of the matter is that we are in the process of pathologizing unique and valuable masculine attributes, and no one, anywhere, has any idea of the long-term results of this giant proxy experiment. We must begin to ask what factors are contributing to this newly emerging boy crisis. Where are the boy advocates? Surely we do not believe that current governmental statistics accurately reflect the capabilities of the American boy. If indeed learning disorders exist, why are the overwhelming majority of special education classes filled with males? If the statistics were reversed and females accounted for 70% of learning-disabled students, would Americans accept these statistics without question? If 80% of “emotionally disturbed” students were female, groups such as the National Organization of Women and the American Associa- tion of University Women would be demanding that a full-scale, government-subsidized investigation be forthcoming immediately. The time has come to move beyond culturally induced political assumptions. What is needed at this time is theoretically driven ques- tions and scientifically substantiated answers. CONCLUSION Governmental statistics clearly indicate that boys in America are facing an unprecedented crisis in the public education system. Academically and emotionally, boys are languishing in the public school system, and it appears from the data that the situation will continue to deteriorate unless compendious measures are implemented in the very near future. For many years, women’s groups, feminist scholars, and politically influential organizations have insisted that an innate masculine bias is permeating public education and relegating females to the margins of academia. However, governmental statistics paint a very differ- ent picture, as it is indisputable that it is the American boy—not the American girl— who is floundering cognitively, socially, and psychologically in the current-day American education system (U.S. Department of Education, 2003, 2004). Over the past 10 to 15 years, behavioristically oriented feminist theory has engulfed the American consciousness, and social scientists have been inundated with theories that sug- gest that masculinity and femininity are merely social constructs that can be recalibrated at will (Hoff Sommers, 2000). Americans have consciously (or unconsciously) refused to3072-118_03.indd 92 8/28/2008 8:03:35 AM
  14. 14. Boys and the American Education System 93 give scientific credence to those theories, which suggest that males and females are inher- ently very, very different. Evolutionary-based theories have been cast aside as sexist, and empirical, quantifiable brain research has been conveniently ignored in order to further the feminist agenda. The girl standard of learning and behavior has become the “gold stan- dard,” and students who deviate from this standard are systematically labeled as learning and/or behaviorally disordered. Schools are profiting economically from the mass labeling of male students, and pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in perpetuating the myth of the “disordered” American boy. “Diversity” has become a hot-button topic in 21st-century America. The time has come to ensure that gender diversity in its entirety—neurological, cognitive, behavioral, psy- chological, physical, and emotional diversity—be understood and respected. Americans can no longer afford to assume that males will follow traditional female trajectories, as it is not now, nor will it ever be, a feasible reality. Americans can continue down the road they have culturally constructed for themselves and insist that boys can be socialized to behave and learn as their female counterparts, or they can change their current theoretical direction and take into account the biological and evolutionary predispositions of males and females and celebrate these unique and ancient attributes. The neuroevolutionary hypotheses of the past have been replaced with empirical, quantifiable data that demonstrate that statistically significant anatomical, behavioral, chemical, hormonal, and neurological differences exist with regard to developing males and females (Bear et al., 1996; Bjorklund &Pellegrini, 2002; Gurian, 2001; Kandel et al., 1995). Perhaps we can use these facts to restructure the American educational system and in doing so effect change that will impact not only the future of American boys but also the future of America itself. REFERENCES Baughman, F. (2004). Understanding attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): An early diagnosis is a key factor for treatment. Retrieved May 30, 2006, from Baughman, F. (2006). The ADHD fraud: How psychiatry makes “patients” of normal children. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing. Bear, M., Connors, B., & Paradiso, M. (1996). Neuroscience: Exploring the brain. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins. Bjorklund, D. F., & Pellegrini, A. D. (2002). The origins of human nature. New York: Oxford University Press. Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. New York: Basic Books. Breeding, J. (2002). True nature and great misunderstandings on how we care for our children according to our understanding. Austin, TX: Sunbelt Eakin. Breggin, P. (1995). Are behavior-modifying drugs over-prescribed for America’s school children? Insight on the News, 11(31), 18. Breggin, P. (1999). Psychostimulants in the treatment of children diagnosed with ADHD: Part 1— Acute risks and psychological effects. Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 1, 13–34. Breggin, P. (2001). Talking back to Ritalin: What doctors aren’t telling you about stimulants for children (Rev. ed.). Cambridge, MA: Perseus. Breggin, P. (2004). International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology (ICSPP) Conference. New York: American Psychological Association.3072-118_03.indd 93 8/28/2008 8:03:35 AM
  15. 15. 94 Stolzer Buss, D. M. (2004). Evolutionary psychology: The new science of the mind (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Cohen, D. (2004). Contesting ADHD: Dissenting views on psychiatric diagnosis and treatment of children. Paper presentation. University of Nebraska—Kearney, Kearney, NE. Coley, R. (2001). Differences in the gender gap: Comparisons across racial/ethnic groups in education and work. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.[AuQ5] Dwyer, C., & Johnson, L. (1997). Grades, accomplishments, and correlates.” In W. Willingham & N. Cole (Eds.), Gender and fair assessment. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.[AuQ6] Eagly, A. H. (2001). Social role theory of sex differences and similarities. In J. Worrell (Ed.), Ency- clopedia of women and gender. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Effrem, K., Hegg, D., Jackson, G., & Jacobs, B. (2005). The reauthorization of the individuals with dis- abilities act: Its impact of the diagnosis and treatment of children with mental and emotional disorders. Retrieved March 16, 2005, from Freeman, C. E. (2004). Trends in educational equity of girls and women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Froebel, F. (1904). The students Froebel (W. H. Herford, Ed.). Boston: Heath. Gilligan, C. (1990). “Prologue.” In C. Gilligan, N. Lyons, & T. Hammer (Eds.), Making connec- tions: The relational worlds of adolescent girls at Emma Willard School. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Gurian, M. (2001). Boys and girls learn differently: A guide for teachers and parents. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Higher Education Research Institute. (1998). The American freshman: National norms for fall 1998. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles. Hoff Sommers, C. (2000). The war against boys. New York: Simon & Schuster. Jensen, P. S., Mrazek, D., Knapp, P. K., Steinberg, L., Pfeffer, C., & Schowalter, J. (1997). Evolution and revolution in child psychiatry: ADHD as a disorder of adaptation. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 1572–1679. Kandel, E., Schwartz, J., & Jessel, T. (1995). Essentials of neural science and behavior. Norwalk, CT: Appleton and Lange.[AuQ7] Levine, B. (2004). Mental illness or rebellion? How biopsychiatry diverts us from examining a society toxic to well being. Paper presented at the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology Conference, New York. Lippa, R. A. (2005). Gender, nature, and nurture (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.[AuQ8] Matheny, A. P., & Phillips, K. (2001). Temperament and context: Correlates of home environment with temperament continuity and change. In T. D. Wachs & G. A. Kohnstamm (Eds.), Tem- perament in context. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. McIntyre, T., & Tong, V. (1998). Where the boys are: Do cross-gender misunderstandings of lan- guage use and behavior patterns contribute to the overrepresentation of males in programs for students with emotional and behavioral disorders? Education and Treatment of Children, 21, 321–332. Melega, W. P., Raleigh, M. J., Stout, D. B., Huang, S. C., & Phelps, M. E. (1997). Ethological and 6-(18 F) fluoro-L-DOPA-PET profiles of long-term vulnerability to chronic amphetamine. Behavioural Brain Research, 84, 258–268. Moir, A., & Jessel, T. (1990). Brain sex. New York: Dell. National Center for Health Statistics. (1999). National vital statistics report. Deaths: Final data for 1997. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Novartis. (2006). Ritalin LA drug insert. East Hanover, NJ : Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Elan Holdings Inc. Pellegrini, A. D. (1988). Elementary school children’s rough and tumble play. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 4, 245–260.3072-118_03.indd 94 8/28/2008 8:03:35 AM
  16. 16. Boys and the American Education System 95 Peter, K., & Horn, L. (2006). Gender differences in participation and completion of undergraduate education and how they changed over time. Education Statistics Quarterly, 7, 1–10. Phillips, C. (2006). Medicine goes to school: Teachers as sickness brokers for ADHD. Public Library of Science Medicine, 3(4), 1–9. Reiner, W. G., & Gearhart, J. P. (2004). Discordant sexual identity in some genetic males with cloa- calexstrophy assigned to female sex at birth. New England Journal of Medicine, 350, 333–341. Rothbart, M. K., & Bates, J. E. (2006). Temperament. In W. Damon & R. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook [AuQ9] of child psychology (6th ed.). New York: Wiley. Santrock, J. W. (2005). Children. Boston: McGraw-Hill. Stolzer, J. (2005). ADHD in America: A bioecological analysis. Ethical Human Psychology and Psy- chiatry, 7, 65–75. Swanson, J. M., Cantwell, D., Lerner, M., McBurnett, K., Pfiffner, L., & Kotkin, R. (1992). Treat- ment of ADHD: Beyond medication. Beyond Behavior, 4, 13–22. U.S. Department of Education. (1998). The condition of education. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Education. (2000). The nation’s report card. Washington, DC: U.S. Office of Education. U.S. Department of Education. (2003). Annual report to Congress: The implementation of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Education. (2004). Trends in educational equity of girls and women. Washington, DC: Author. White, A. M. (2005). The changing adolescent brain. Education Canada, 45(2), 4–7. Wilson, E. O. (1993). Biophilia and the conservation ethic. In S. R. Kellert & E. O. Wilson (Eds.), [AuQ10] The biophilia hypothesis. Washington, DC: Island Press/Shearwater. Correspondence regarding this article should be directed to J. M. Stolzer, PhD, University of Nebraska–Kearney, Kearney, NE 68849. E-mail: stolzerjm@unk.edu3072-118_03.indd 95 8/28/2008 8:03:35 AM
  17. 17. [AuQ1] Please supply an affiliation for the author. [AuQ2] Please supply 4 to 6 keywords for this article, per Springer journal style. [AuQ3] Author: Please add Burian 2001 to the References. [AuQ4] Author: Please add World Health Organization 2001 to the References. [AuQ5] Author: Please supply page numbers of chapter. [AuQ6] Author: Please supply page numbers of chapter. [AuQ7] Author: Please supply month of conference. [AuQ8] Author: Please supply page numbers of chapter. [AuQ9] Author: Please supply page numbers of chapter. [AuQ10] Author: Please supply page numbers of chapter. [AuQ11] Please supply a title for Table 1. [AuQ12] Please verify that M. Gurian is the name under which copyright for this book is held and also verify the year.3072-118_03.indd 96 8/28/2008 8:03:35 AM