It's about time somebody said it: Girls are not dumb. But don't be mistaken, I'm not the first to say it. That honor goes to Christina Hoff Sommers whose book, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men, came out this summer. Sommers explains that contrary to popular belief, it is not little Jane, but little Johnny who is struggling to keep up in school. She debunks the myth that our schools are a bastion of a "boys first" culture that silences our teenage girls, plunging them into an abyss of confusion, self-hatred and bad grades. The origin of this myth, says Sommers, lies with Carol Gilligan, the first Harvard professor of gender studies, who published "ground-breaking" research in 1990 declaring girls to be "drowning... in the sea of Western culture" and falling behind in the classroom. The research spawned a national media frenzy. Women's groups mobilized, intent on saving these drowning girls. A succession of novels depicting weak and confused girls paraded onto the bestsellers lists, the most successful being Reviving Ophelia. The movement reached its high (or low) point when Congress passed the Gender Equity in Education Act, which placed girls on par with ethnic minorities as an "under-served population" in our schools and earmarked funds to study their plight. But somebody forgot to check the facts. Sommers puts Gilligan's research up to the standards of the empirical method, and it fails miserably. Among other glaring oversights, Gilligan did not compare her conclusions on girls to the plight of boys, something seemingly crucial if you are going to declare a national problem. What Gilligan's work spawned is a false culture of victimology even more threatening to girls than the patriarchal culture against which the book rails. It is a world in which girls who run in fear from boys on the playground inevitably keep on running into adolescent oblivion. It's a culture that feeds on itself and grows with every alarmist magazine article and every pseudo-cathartic title endorsed by Oprah's book club. It's a culture of lies. The truth is girls are not only on par with, but way ahead of the boys. According to the U.S. Department of Education, females make up 55 percent of full-time college students. Their average reading and writing level in high school is 1 1/2 years ahead of that of boys. A greater percentage of girls participate in every extracurricular activity except athletics. Girls read more books, spend more time on homework and are more likely to take Advanced Placement exams. Boys have it a bit harder. They are more likely to drop out, be suspended from school and be held back. More of them need special education programs. Boys commit more crimes, get worse grades and have lower career aspirations. And while boys do better on the SAT, it is not because they have a distinct, cultural advantage. According to the College Board, the score gap is due to more girls from low-income homes and troubled backgrounds bothering to take the test. Their male counterparts just decide to sleep in that Saturday. It is refreshing to see such truth in print but, admittedly, we boys have known this for some time. It's pretty hard to miss. One look across detention hall tells you which sex is the weaker when it comes to school. The real revelation of Sommers' work is the damage being done to American girls in the name of saving them. Besides the immense amount of resources wasted on this phantom problem, there is great danger in misinformation, in making people believe things that aren't true. What if girls buy into this rhetoric? I'm no psychologist, but being told by an entire nation as well as your parents that you just don't measure up can't be healthy. Those who embrace this culture of "girl as victim" say they're empowering girls. But they are like maniacal firefighters-turned-arsonists who create danger in order to become heroes. Our country has better things to do than feed the egos of these lightweight academics at the expense of our daughters. It's time to realize that the girls don't need saving and any attempts to do so probably just get in their way. The girls are smart, strong and ready to conquer the world. And if there were an actual war against boys, they'd probably win it.Comments powered by Disqus
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