Too many boys are struggling in schools today. Dr. Leonard Sax, a staunch proponent of the single-sex schools, suggests several reasons for this phenomenon. Sax proposes that five factors are responsible for the decline school performance among boys: video games, prescription drugs, endocrine disruptors, devaluation of masculinity in popular culture, and teaching methods. Sax and many others believe that video games disengage boys from real-world pursuits. Mind-numbing keyboards and flashing images have a seductive effect on the brain.
Medication for ADHD may be damaging motivational centers in boy’s brains, and the harmful effects of estrogens from food and plastic containers are upsetting the balance of boys’ endocrine systems. The athletic, scholarly male TV heroes of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s have been replaced with Bart Simpson. These and other shifts in modern culture are responsible for devaluing traditional masculine strengths. Additionally, Sax claims that the ways in which children are being educated today simply turn boys off from schooling.
One possible impact of current experiences of boys in schools is the reversal of the college population. The number of male students enrolled in traditional 4-year colleges and universities has dropped at an alarming rate in the past 57 years. There has been a steady decline in the percentage of males making up the college population between 1949 and 2006. In addition to the gradual shift in social norms for females, which accounts for the rise in the female college/university population, several additional factors can account for the shift in higher education populations where females are now in the majority. It is true that females are taking advantage of declines in sex discriminations and increased job opportunities.
The decline in male enrollment for almost the last four decades does not reflect a decline as precipitous as the previous three decades. Still, males who are completing the four year degree take longer than women to do so, and tend to socialize more in college, study less than women, and have poorer grades. The difference in male-female college/university enrollment reflects performance differences that are evident well before college attendance.