Schools leave young boys behind with wordy curricula

Schools leave young boys behind with wordy curricula

The Wall Street Journal reports that “men are abandoning higher education in such numbers” that women now make up 60% of all college students, and there are 1.5 million fewer college students than there were five years ago. “I just feel lost,” said one young man. “Between 1959 and 2021, the number of male students for every 100 women fell by an extraordinary 62%,” notes Richard Vedder of the Independent Institute.

Why are some incoming college classes now two-thirds female and only one-third male? It’s partly a pipeline problem. The education system turns boys off at an early age, by requiring them to explain things that seem obvious, or to provide written narratives they are not comfortable providing. As a result of their lost enthusiasm for learning, those boys never apply to college to begin with. As a letter writer observes in the Wall Street Journal today in “Schools Leave Boys Behind with New Curricula”:

There is another reason every bit as compelling as the four outlined by Richard Vedder and Braden Colegrove for “Why Men Are Disappearing on Campus” (op-ed, Sept. 20). A lifelong love of education starts in the elementary grades and yet, as I have witnessed with my grandchildren, the hours per week dedicated to teaching subjects that young boys thrive on, like science and history, have been reduced substantially. Those hours have been reassigned to reading and writing, subjects that girls excel in.

In addition, the teaching of math has been transformed. Numeric problems have been steadily replaced by word problems, with written narratives required to describe how one arrived at a correct answer — all to the detriment of males’ learning. While knowing how to read and write is critical, boys come to it later in the process.  Meanwhile, we turn off their enthusiasm for learning. Who can be surprised by the outcome?

As a child, I was good at doing math problems, but bad at verbally explaining how to do them. Nevertheless, I got good grades, because what mattered back then was understanding math, not talking about it. In today’s math classes, however, I would get lackluster grades, because students are downgraded if they can’t provide written narratives accompanying their answer. I would not enjoy math at all if I had to stop to explain everything I had done, in a painstaking fashion. I don’t like talking about my feelings, or math problems, or explaining the obvious.

This change in math grading is making many young boys like school less. Many young boys are just not very verbal — for example, I did not become comfortable writing until high school. In second grade, we were required to write autobiographies. The boys’ autobiographies were usually much shorter than the girls’.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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