Salvo 07.31.2023 4 minutes

How to Save the Boys of America

portrait of schoolboy looking bored

Single-sex schools could help boys' classroom struggles.

From an academic perspective, girls are wiping the floor with boys. Girls tend to do considerably better in languages, math, and science. This is true not just in the U.S. Girls’ dominance in the classroom can be seen in Australia, the U.K., and Canada, as well as in dozens of other advanced countries. According to Richard Reeves, the author of Why the Modern Male is Struggling, “Girls are about a year ahead of boys in terms of reading ability in OECD nations (the U.S. included). Boys are 50 percent more likely than girls to fail at all three key school subjects: maths, reading, and science.” 

Why is this the case? My suggestion, backed up by peer-reviewed studies, is that the demise of boys’ academic achievements is closely linked with the demise of same-sex schooling.

After all, contrary to the trans-friendly narrative, as well as decades of feminist discourse and propaganda, males and females are not the same. They possess very different brains. Men and women, quite literally, see the world and process information differently. 

Because of these differences, males and females have very different learning styles. Boys show greater activation in the areas of the brain dedicated to visuo-spatial strengths, whereas girls are, on average, better at verbal-emotive processing. This difference in learning styles perhaps explains why so many boys in co-ed environments are misdiagnosed with both learning disabilities and attention-deficit issues. As the psychotherapist Andrea Schneider has noted, boys are “hardwired to be single-task focused” unlike girls, who tend to be considerably better at switching between multiple tasks.

“Transitions,” she adds, “are more difficult for boys due to this lateralization of the brain versus typical female cross communication of brain hemispheres.” Moreover, oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” also contributes to the differences in learning styles. As peer-reviewed studies clearly show, those with higher levels of oxytocin are more likely to conform to, and learn from, educators. Females tend to have higher levels of oxytocin than men. This “love hormone” deficiency in males, noted Schneider, “leads to more aggression and playful rough-housing.” Oxytocin plays a key role in impulse control and one’s ability to concentrate for extended periods of time. Of the four different learning styles—visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic—boys excel in environments that promote the latter. Kinesthetic learning, or tactile learning, involves movement and physical activity. How many schools in the U.S. promote kinesthetic learning? The answer is quite simple: Nowhere near enough of them.

This is why single-sex schooling is so important. Girls and boys are not the same, and the schooling system should reflect this fact. Boys learn better when they are given freedom and space to move around; they are energized, physically and mentally, by movement. Co-ed schooling asks students to sit still for hours at a time. This works for girls, but it doesn’t work as well for boys.

Furthermore, when both genders find themselves under the same roof, unwanted distractions are bound to occur. This is not to say that single-sex schools offer no distractions, of course, but they offer considerably less distractions than co-ed environments, as younger boys and girls often end up in direct competition. Worryingly, many educators are oblivious to the cold, hard facts of the complex neurology of a young boy’s developing brain. Of all the schools in the U.S., only five percent of them are same-sex. This is something that needs to change, and fast.

Single-sex schools work and are better than the far more common method of educating our children. This is not an opinion; this is the truth. Few academics have done more work to emphasize this fact than Dr. Michael Johnston, a cognitive psychologist who has been documenting the benefits of same sex-schooling for more than a decade. In 2018, a study led by Dr. Johnston found students at boys’ schools, regardless of their ethnicity or the school’s decile rating, were higher achievers than boys at co-ed schools. They were also more likely to graduate from high school and attend university than boys who attended co-ed schools.

Five years earlier, in another study, Johnston demonstrated that boys attending single-sex schools were considerably more likely to get university scholarships than their co-ed peers. In the opinion of the psychologist, single-sex schooling does work to the academic advantage of many young men. Other studies show single-sex schools tend to have increased attendance rates and fewer behavioral issues than co-ed schools.

So, if you are a parent of a young boy, wondering where to send him to school, choosing a single-sex option—if that option even exists, of course—could prove to be the best choice you ever make.  

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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