As we can see on the “For Every One Hundred Girls” study by Tom Mortenson, on www.understandingboys.org/Foreveryonehundredgirls, the boy crisis is not a myth. Mortenson has been studying gender data for 40 years, and his research has been corroborated by a number of our Advisory Board members, including Christina Hoff Sommers, at the American Enterprise Institute, Warren Farrell, Chair of the Commission to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men, and Michael Gurian, author of Saving Our Sons.
While the boy crisis is not new nor a myth, the article you mentioned provides a good jumping off point for understanding the difficulty we have in advocating holistically for boys today. For many people in universities, the government, and the media, it is ideologically important to approach boys’ issues from a viewpoint that minimizes male need. “When I read ‘research’ claiming there is no boy crisis,” says Dr. Gurian, “I generally find four things in the report or article that make it suspect:
- “First, I notice that the authors have provided a ‘meta-analysis’ rather than a full science-based data-analysis. This approach allows them to create a ‘study’ that is not a full study but, rather, a way of cherry picking data from among existing studies to maneuver ‘facts’ to fit their initial idea. In the case of ‘the boy crisis is a myth’, the cherry picking will involve arguing that, ultimately, there is very little male need in the U.S. because boys and men have intrinsic privilege in comparison to girls and women.”
- “Second, I follow the meta-analysis to see if the authors of the ‘study’ claim that any potential difficulties our boys face today are not caused by sex/gender but instead, by race or economic status alone. In this analysis, the study authors argue that a few boys—mainly boys of color—are having problems, but not white boys. When I find that argument made–as it is in the Time.com article—I know the researchers and writers have come at the boy crisis with a minimizing intention.
“Boys of color in the aggregate are indeed doing worse than white boys, but the ideological premise—that, therefore, girls in general, including white girls, are doing worse than boys in general, especially white boys, is false. Had the authors read all the studies available, including Mortenson’s and the WHO’s, they would not notice that even white, educated males, in the aggregate, are behind white educated females in literacy, motivation, education, personal safety, parental leave, child custody, and other areas; white males are also more likely than white females to suffer from violence, imprisonment, excessive punishment, autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, substance abuse, suicide, misdiagnosis of brain disorders, and many other areas of distress.
“So, while many white males are doing very well, and while many white males do better than many boys of color, it is not factual that there is no boy crisis because white boys are doing better than white girls. The boy crisis is real across races and socio-economic status.
- “Third, I look to see what cause of male distress is articulated in the article. At some point, every article or study that argues there is no boy crisis must, still, answer the intuitive question most readers will have, ‘But I know that boys are having difficulties, so please tell me why?’ Generally, in a cherry-picked meta-analysis, the answer is some version of, ‘If boys are behind, it is because they are given masculine messages in a male-dominated culture that denigrates reading, studying, school work, and everything that is not hyper-masculine.’ The cause, then, of male suffering becomes the other side of the ‘males have inherent male and masculine privilege’ coin: ‘any issues males and females face in our masculine-dominated society are caused by masculine stereotypes that impede male and female social-emotional and qualitative growth.’
“Once I see that argument, I know we are on ideological not science-based ground. While it is important to talk about masculine privilege (there are many males of all colors who have masculine privilege and many white males have a great deal of white privilege) it is too thin to explain all the issues boys or girls face today. The authors of the idea, too, know this, and so they do not try to prove it–given that it is not scientifically provable. Instead, they simply state it and let it be believed because it is repeated.”
The boy crisis is quite real and knowledge of the boy crisis is not new. Newsweek did a cover story on the problem in 2006 and Judith Kleinfeld, from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the founder of the Boys Project, presented the boy crisis findings to the George Bush White House shortly thereafter. Even the U.S. Department of Justice has been tracking the crisis via statistics on increases in violence not just in urban areas dominated by boys of color but also new violence among white males.
The boy crisis includes race and socioeconomic distress while also being a “male/boy problem” far beyond “masculinity.” This is true throughout the industrial world, as ongoing PISA, OECD, and WHO data has shown over the last fifteen years (see, for instance, the WHO study in the FAQ above).
The National Center welcomes all opinions and ideas regarding the health and success of boys. We are acutely aware of the dangers of hyper-masculine stereotyping and male privilege, but our research also calls us to ask researchers and reporters to see more deeply than simple ideologies into the complex crisis males face today. Until we fully see the boy crisis, we will not be able to work toward successful solutions for all of our children—male, female, and across the gender spectrum.