Book Review: Why Boys Fail by Richard Whitmire


A few days ago I finished up reading Drive by Daniel Pink which really had my head turning with some new innovative ideas about what motivates us as people. I took copious notes and have been thinking about how to use that information in my life. You can read the review for more detailed information. Soon after that reading I picked up another research based book about why boys are not doing well in school anymore and how the gender gap continues to increase. This book left me stunned. Stunned because I feel that I am a good teacher who works extremely hard to help every student who comes my way. Stunned because even though I am aware of the struggles of boys in school(especially in middle school) I had no idea how scary the gender gap truly is in our nation. I think in my case the gender gap in my school is not quite as large, but now that I have read this book and took time to ponder I see this gap continuing to increase each year.

Our country has never funded a study or believe the gender gap to be an issue. The government has not spent any time or money on this topic. Yet, national data from tests show us that 1 in 4 white sons of college educated parents score below basic in reading achievement compared to 7% of girls. What does this mean? As the book states 1 in 4 boys graduate and cannot comprehend the newspaper.

Girls are doing better in math and science which was a long held belief that boys were better. I could go on and on with all the notes I took on this book. The author lays the foundation of several studies conducted that when the data was actually broken down for boys and girls, boys are way behind. The author then examines many factors that play into the problem, shows three schools that are trying new ideas and offers some solutions. The problem is that nothing has ever been done before here in our country so we are not sure what will work. Australia has been working on this now for a couple years, but they still have progress to make.

What is causing this problem? Is it due to the lack of boy reading materials in the YA section that is surrounded by all female decoration and covers? Is it a lack of male teachers? Is it not allowing boys to write about violence, fighting, death, etc. in schools due to the violence in schools lately even though this is what they enjoy? Video games? There is a very interesting section on video games. Are video games one of the reasons for lack of literacy or is it just an escape after many long years in school with little success or enjoyment? Is it that we are forcing literacy on boys too soon? We are having kids leave Head Start programs with skills that were not required until the end of first grade 30-40 years ago? Is this a smart move when the brain is just not simply wired correctly yet for boys to learn phonics and so forth. At the age of 5 for girls a boys brain is wired at 3.5 years of age. The research shows they balance out between 4-6th grades, but that is not always happening. Boys need to move and are wired to do that especially ages 0-5. The goal of preschool is not to teach them how to read and write. Is it that we simply not teaching them to read properly? Should we do more in middle school with reading skills? I know I am not qualified to do this, but should we do more of how to read instead of novels and book reports?

I am going to stop despite being able to go on and on. Overall, this book will create questions and force you to think about education and boys differently. I know that I am already thinking about my teaching practices and what to do different or continue to do. Not a fast read, but very engaging and one that I think parents and educators should read.

Here is a link to the website of the author and the book.

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