It is common knowledge that American schoolboys are faring poorly compared with girls. The average 11th-grade boy has the writing skills of an 8th-grade girl. Boys receive a majority of the failing grades, while girls garner most of the honors.
Women earn 57 percent of bachelor's degrees, a gender gap that experts predict will widen. So what are the Department of Education and National Science Foundation doing about the problem of male underachievement?
Nothing. But they are conducting a review of math, physics and engineering programs at selected universities to root out supposed bias against women and girls. Their weapon is Title IX, which "is not just related to sports," says Stephanie Monroe, assistant secretary of Education for civil rights. "We're in the process right now of putting together our dockets." She assures us that these Title IX reviews are just business as usual for her department.
But why continue them in the face of massive evidence that it is now boys who are on the wrong side of the gender gap? It is still early in this new Title IX process, and any implementation would require the approval of the Bush administration.
Let us hope that never happens.
Illusion of Bias
For decades, feminist pressure groups have been asserting that campuses provide a "chilly climate" for women. That might have once been true, but it is not true now.
Activists create the illusion of continuing bias by focusing on engineering, physics and math. It is true more men than women major in these subjects. But why blame the difference on bias?
Some history is required. Most professional schools were once unwelcoming to women. But that did not stop women from breaking down their doors. Women are approaching parity at schools of law and medicine, and they have surpassed men in biology and veterinary medicine.
Women made up only 5 percent of veterinary school students in the late 1960s; now, female applicants number 80 percent. If aspiring female cadets could storm The Citadel military school, why would would-be female mathematicians be frightened off by math geeks brandishing slide rules? Today, American women go where they want to go.
Government officials are fretting over something they cannot change. Women's relative lack of interest in electrical engineering and metallurgy is matched by men's lower participation in social work, early childhood education, psychology, languages and more.
As feminist scholar Camille Paglia notes, women are less attracted to the "people-free zones." Mother Nature doesn't play by the rules of political correctness, no matter the amount of government intervention. But such government meddling could seriously reduce opportunities for men.
Harm from Title IX
Title IX has removed barriers to women's participation in sports. But it has also caused great damage, in part because it has led to the adoption of a destructive quota system. Many coaches have been unable to attract equal numbers of men and women to participate. To avoid government censure, funding loss and lawsuits, they often eliminate men's teams.
In effect, to achieve the illusion of equity, men's participation in sports is being calibrated to the level of female interest. The unhappy result is that men's wrestling, diving and gymnastic teams have been decimated, along with associated scholarship opportunities.
If the Education Department and National Science Foundation were strictly to impose Title IX compliance standards on academic science, we could see men's participation in math, physics, technology and engineering capped at the level of female interest. That would wreak havoc in fields that drive the economy and where the USA already lags behind other countries.
Not everyone finds that prospect worrisome. Debra Rolison of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory campaigns nationally for using Title IX to eliminate bias in academic science programs. She hails the campaign as a "not-yet-realized earthquake."
Precipitating an earthquake in academic science is a terrible idea. The Education Department should put aside its dockets and get serious about improving prospects for male and female students alike.
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