Not long ago, college administrators worried themselves sick about gender disparities on their campuses. Young men got the lion's share of scholarships. Men scored better on standardized tests. They dominated science classes, graduate schools, business schools, and law schools. Men's sports hogged most of the athletic budget.
Enlightenment on these issues, plus government programs that mandated equal treatment of the sexes, gradually narrowed that gap, and educators' attention turned elsewhere.
Now, the gender disparity is back -- with a vengeance. Only this time, academicians are worried about young men! Suddenly, it seems, men make up only 43 percent of the U.S. college population. And some prestigious universities find they are admitting two women for every man in their freshman classes.
As family therapist Michael Gurian wondered in a recent Washington Post article, "Where Have All the Men Gone?"
First Lady Laura Bush wonders, too. "I feel like, in the United States, that we've sort of shifted our gaze away from boys for the last several decades, and that we've neglected boys," she has said.
Diverted by sports and video games and a culture of the streets that mocks education, boys are increasingly bored by school and drop out. Frazzled single parents and working couples don't always have the time or patience to nurture academic success in their restless sons. Scientists say girls' brains are better suited, physiologically, to traditional classroom lecture techniques. And schoolboys' needs are overlooked with the rationale that men run the world, so everything must be OK.
Suggestions for rekindling boys' interest in schoolwork have been hard to come by. Package Shakespeare and trigonometry as video games, perhaps!