November 25th, 2017

The education gender gap: fathers and sons

It’s been clear for a long time that boys do worse than girls in school these days. This is true for all socioeconomic levels and all races, but there are differences in the degree of the gap, depending on circumstances:

On average, about 83 percent of Florida students were kindergarten ready. Among the children with the best household circumstances, there was a gender gap of about 2 percentage points. Among children with the worst household circumstances, the gap was much larger. Boys in broken families were 8 percentage points less likely than girls to be kindergarten ready.

And you can pretty much bet that in these “broken families,” the vast majority of the children are raised by single mothers, and many of these children have fathers who are nowhere to be found. Such a situation impacts negatively on both boys and girls, but it stands to reason that the lack of a positive, loving, stable masculine role model and guidance would be particularly hard on boys.

The article goes to great length to avoid or at least minimize “father absence” as a factor. For example, a quote like the following seems curious to me. The author seems to approach the issue of absent fathers in the second sentence, but then shies away from it in the next sentence with the more generic “parental attention” and “how much time parents spend with them”:

Because of their tendency to act out, boys may be in particular need of parental guidance — but because poor families also tend to be single-parent families, mom or dad time is a scarce resource. A 2015 study from economists Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan showed that boys are particularly at risk when they grow up in single-mother households. When boys don’t get enough parental attention, they misbehave. Girls, in contrast, are less likely to misbehave regardless of how much time parents spend with them.

The article (and perhaps the study on which it is based?) doesn’t try to isolate father-absence out as a variable. But I have a hunch that it’s one of the most potent factors of all, and that it has a synergistic effect when combined with poverty and race. I would also imagine that the fact that elementary school teacher are overwhelmingly females is part of the picture, too. And the requirement that children sit quietly at desks for lengthy periods of time also would seem to be hardest on boys (I remember that from my own school days, although I had a lot of trouble with desk-sitting, too).

30 Responses to “The education gender gap: fathers and sons”

  1. Yancey Ward Says:

    Political correctness is a disease.

  2. Frog Says:

    I just wrote a long reply which disappeared when I hit “Submit”. Maybe I’ll bother with a 2nd try, maybe not.

  3. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Being culturally judgemental is a Very Bad Thing. All cultures are equal, and differing results are the fault of white oppressors. Remember that, Citizen.

  4. Bryan Says:

    It is ironic that in a cultural context that appears to be very caring about all sorts of identity groups, we have a situation where boys are treated very badly almost universally. It seems we have traded one set of very obvious biases for a different and more insidious set.

  5. Frog Says:

    “the requirement that children sit quietly at desks for lengthy periods of time also would seem to be hardest on boys”
    It is a large part of our legal (and illegal) drug culture that amphetamines and related drugs are so widely used.

    It is also a sign of our national feminization. Elementary teachers, almost all women, desire tractable (as girls are) students, and young boys in their boyishness are not tractable. It is the teachers who diagnose ADHD. So the undesired normal boyish behavior leads to referral to the principal (usually female), which leads to referral to a “therapist” (usually female), which leads to the recommendation for Ritalin, Aderall, or Vyvanse. Which the MD (the majority of new MDs, especially pediatricians, are female) happily prescribes, and needs to follow-up on every four to six months. A huge emasculinating drug business, XX-driven.

    This is part of the triumph of national feminism. Men, Deplorable lower middle-class men who shop at Cabela’s and do manly things like kill deer excepted, are not manly anymore. Male fashion models and ‘pajama boys’ are wispy, non-muscled. Look at Brooks Brothers ads and website as examples. The growth of beards (whiskers are involuntary and grow even after death!) is an odd feature on the many reedy young men we have about us. Beards do not suit them because the men sporting them are not manly.

    Obama was feminized; he preferred behind-the-back deals to upfront, face-to-face stuff. He is our first feminized president.

    Demographically, females are now our majority. It is ironic that boys are slightly more often born than girls, but have a higher post-natal death rate, and, of course, a lower life expectancy.
    Fortunately both sexes can pilot drones equally well.

    I have reconsidered the Franken-Tweeden photo. Franken is an ass, politically, but see the boyish look on his face as he does no harm to Tweeden. There is a flurry, no, a blizzard, of women who allege remote “inappropriate” conduct by a number of powerful men. “He touched my fanny!”
    As ye sow, so shall ye also reap.

  6. Susanamantha Says:

    What Franken did to Tweeden in that photo had less to do with harassment and more to do with humiliation. She rebuffed him several times, as I understand, and he had to get even. So he did no harm to Tweeden? I beg to differ.

  7. Oldflyer Says:

    Boys have always contended with female teachers and Principals in the primary grades. The circumstance has not changed; but, the culture has. In my day, teachers expected boys to be boys; punishment was administered when they thought it appropriate (I did not always agree), and we moved on.
    Although some used various, sometimes fairly harsh, methods to corral us, I don’t recall any trying to emasculate us. Still, not everyone who had control of boys was deserving. When I was in second grade, I had my face slapped by the Principal as I tried to reason with her. I was right, but she wouldn’t tolerate my speaking up. Such instances attached no lasting stigma to a boy, it just hardened him.
    As for the study; I am simply skeptical of any study in the social sciences. They may have their applications, but should always be read critically in my opinion. My common sense tells me that the sea change in culture that began when the focus of men’s careers became more and more remote from home and family life brought a deleterious effect that has escalated with the break down of the stable nuclear family. Of course, many of the same pressures have been visited on girls with professional mothers.

  8. Tuvea Says:

    It has been frequently noted that feminist American women do little, if anything, to help their ‘sisters’ in traditional patriarchal societies. And we seem to love importing lots of single men from those societies. Then covering up their crimes since, as noted above, all societies are equal.

    The end point of this will be ‘interesting’.

  9. Ray Says:

    How do you gap a gender? Gender is a term from linguistics and refers to a classification of nouns as masculine, feminine or neuter. Gender has nothing to do with sex.

  10. Molly NH Says:

    first off *whiskers do not continue to grow after death* What happens is there is shrinkage of the flesh of the face and hands too that gives the appearance of continued “growth”. Having attended a parochial school there was ZERO favoritism showed to girls over boys, we were all expected to succeed & be examples that reflected distinction on our school within the community. Upon reflection in my class a couple of the boys were stand outs, one had an IQ of 132, though I recall him getting a smack from Sister over some infraction, another boy was a math whiz though his IQ was 118. A girl with 129 amounted to zilch & myself at 123 & a keen interest in science became an RN. I had an extracurricular chore of filing in the principals office & managed to deduce what the 3 figures in the side panel of the 6 page national test results were.


  11. Clay Says:

    The more striking question here is what it means to be “kindergarden ready” and why we’re apparently trying to put academic readiness on 5 year olds, given the research that says that pushing kids into academics too early does more harm than good. All the male role models on god’s green earth aren’t going to fix the awful American education system.

  12. vanderleun Says:

    “The author seems to approach the issue of absent fathers in the second sentence, but then shies away from it…”

    The author is aware that this is a minefield that can impact employment. Any discussion of this soon approaches race and race is one of those things in the US that to tell the truth is forbidden.

  13. neo-neocon Says:


    Obviously, he “harmed” her in a general sense. No one’s contending the photo was meant to be kind or nice.

    But ridicule and jokes at someone else’s expense are not the kind of harm we used to mean when we talked about serious harm, the kind that would be actionable or would get someone kicked out of the Senate when the joke or ridicule occurred years before that person even entered the Senate (and when that person had the profession of comedian). I think we’ve lost our collective minds on this.

    However, the butt touchings while taking photos are more harmful, IMHO, because they involve actual unwanted touchings of a part that’s usually thought of as private and semi-sexual.

  14. Frog Says:

    Molly NH:
    You intentionally miss my ‘whiskers’ point, that beard growth is involuntary.
    But, for the record, from

    “Not surprisingly there haven’t been many systematic studies measuring daily changes in fingernail and hair length in the dead. For hints we can turn to historical anecdotes and descriptions provided by medical students working with cadavers. Transplant surgeons are also experienced in calculating the length of time the different kinds of cells continue to function beyond death.
    Different cells die at different rates. After the heart stops beating, oxygen supply to the brain is cut off. With no glucose store to rely on, nerve cells die within three to seven minutes.
    Transplant surgeons must remove kidneys, livers and hearts from donors within thirty minutes of death and get them into recipients inside six hours. Skin cells, meanwhile, are longer lived. Grafts can still be successful if taken 12 hours after death.”

    To repeat, “(skin) Grafts”….though it is not clear whether that means split thickness or full. But during those 12 hrs, something is probably happening at the bases of hair follicles.

  15. OldTexan Says:

    My two cents worth here. I had an uncle, a neat guy who flew a lot of missions in bombers in WWII and came home.

    He told me a few good things and I was raised with a most excellent dad, also WWII who told me to always slow down with emotions, give any decision 24 hours, respect the other sides position and then be reasonable, use reason because that is what a gentleman does.

    My uncle told me that when raising my children, I should make myself very clear about right and wrong, explain to them, without anger, why I did not agree with their plans or the aftermath and then he said, even when you think they are not listening they really are listening. Even when they don’t agree they know what you expect of them and that’s what a father is supposed to do.

    I am lucky, repeat lucky and blessed, with three grown children who have good marriages, not ever easy, and they raising good grandkids which will never be easy. Life stuff today is always a mess and we do have some blended family stuff.

    We share a lot of the same values and these three are my wife’s and my best friends, in the whole wide world, forever and always, and we are blessed. As adults it has been up to them to work their way through hard times and I think we gave them some decent tools and skill sets to , pick em up and put em down, and keep on moving forward.

    That is missing when young men grow up without dads and uncles who talk to them and discuss the difficulties they will have in life.

    This is my Thanksgiving Grace today. Tomorrow will bring a lot of new unexpected challenges and we are never short of those.

  16. Molly NH Says:

    Frog death is the ceasing of all cellular activity nothing grows after we are dead

  17. J.J. Says:

    I was raised from the age of eight by a single mother. She worked hard and long hours, so my brothers and I were on our own a lot. She did teach us how to manage the wood-fired cook stove, to bring in coal and wood, to cook, to wash dishes, to make our beds, and more. We knew we had to do those chores – if we didn’t there would be no food, no heat, and our mother would be angry at us. She was a taskmaster. She had to be. We thought we were put upon. It was actually the best training we could have had.

    We lived in a small village (500 -700 people) and there were men around who took us under their wings to teach us things. The Scoutmaster, the football coach, the ski tow operator, a National Park Service Ranger, a wounded WWII vet, and others. We learned about honor and duty from the Scoutmaster, about male toughness from the football coach, about hard work and love of the outdoors from the ski tow operator and Park Ranger, and about love of country and sacrifice from the wounded WWII vet.

    I don’t buy that boys raised by single mothers can’t be successful, but in addition to a good mother who knows how to control and teach her sons, you need some surrogate fathers as well. Not easy to find in a large urban environment, but hopefully not impossible.

    I’ve tried to pay it forward by mentoring young men who have come into my life. I learned from my childhood that you never knew who was going to teach you something valuable. Just that you had to be open to what men had to offer. We need that in today’s social environment.

  18. neo-neocon Says:


    There’s no question that boys without fathers can do well. Even in the study, there were only small differences. But it does become more difficult.

    For that matter, fathers are not magical (nor are mothers). Some fathers are destructive and/or abusive (as are some mothers). But on average, it’s better for a boy (or a girl) to have one that not to have one.

    Kudos to you for the volunteering that you do.

  19. expat Says:

    I think many single moms were probably also raised by single moms who haven’t had enough men in their lives to understand what boys need. I think of pictures I have seen of women doing hair braids on their daughters. I think of all the Little Kittty and princess pink stuff for girls. Do the moms who buy into all this devote n equal amount of time figuring out what their sons are interested in or do they try to awaken their interest in things they may not be aware of? Do they realize that boys (and men) also need a home and teach them thinks that can give them a sense of accomplishment in contributing to that home as JJ’s did? For boys not to follow the cool and tough guys when they get to school, they need a strong base.

    The problem starts when girls aren’t taught about the responsibilities of being a parent. Getting good grades in schoool and putting condoms on bananas is not enough.

  20. Matt_SE Says:

    Everything ties into the feminization of society. BIG FEMINISM, you might call it.
    The article refuses to name the core problem because that would be an indictment against single motherhood. After spending several decades telling us that women don’t need men (fish:bicycles), what kind of message would that send?

    I found a fascinating article that delves into some of the other societal effects on AoSHQ:

    I agree with the analysis.

  21. Melampus the Seer Says:

    No one values fathers, least of all single mothers and Family Courts. The continuous humiliation and court interference in every aspect of a father’s life will just drive away many men. Especially the men who were naive enough to believe that children belonged to them too.

  22. dee nile Says:

    > there was ZERO favoritism showed to girls over boys,

    Lots of whites don’t see racism against blacks, either.

  23. Milwaukee Says:

    JJ–the world you grew up in doesn’t exist in most of America any more.

    In a community where 70% of children grow up in a single-parent household, their aren’t enough dads around to help out with others. Further, our culture has been attacking dads for years. Television, programs and ads, assure us that a little girl is probably smarter on a whole bunch of issues than is the incompetent dad.

    Too many of the men left in education have adapted and become “woke” believers in feminism.

  24. Milwaukee Says:

    Years ago I taught high school math. The junior high loved having both 7th grade and 8th grade Algebra I. Some of those children were mentally ready. Too many of them, especially the girls, were just really school compliant. They did their homework, they didn’t earn detentions, and when they did, they served them promptly. Consequently they were get to high school and Pre-calculus, and would be lost. But college would require 3 or 4 years of high school math. Algebra I taken in 7th or 8th grade isn’t a high school math class. Those students were detrimentally impacted, but the junior high teacher got an easy class to teach and the parents got the pride of their student.

  25. Milwaukee Says:

    My bad, I got the wrong “their” there.

  26. Lee Says:

    In first and second grade, we had three recess periods. In third grade, we had two, plus “gym class.” In fifth and sixth grade, we had one recess period, plus “gym class.” In junior high, no recess, but kids still played football or something after lunch. Plus, we had one period of phys.ed.

    I hear that no where near as much time is allocated to recess/gym/ phys ed during those years anymore.

    Hopefully, someone will wide up some day.

  27. MollyNH Says:

    Lots of whites didn’ t see racism against blacks either

    Parochial schools in the 50 & 60 were ethnic schools with no other races represented therefore RACISM was not there to be seen and boys and girls regardless of school success were treated alike & made demands upon. I have no idea what your school experience was and you have no idea what mine was beside what I am relating to you. I hope you can respect that.

  28. AesopFan Says:

    Matt_SE Says:
    November 26th, 2017 at 11:45 pm
    Everything ties into the feminization of society. BIG FEMINISM, you might call it.
    The article refuses to name the core problem because that would be an indictment against single motherhood. After spending several decades telling us that women don’t need men (fish:bicycles), what kind of message would that send?

    I found a fascinating article that delves into some of the other societal effects on AoSHQ:

    I agree with the analysis
    * * *
    Fascinating article, and you are right about the refusal to undercut their own primary message (same reasoning for circling the wagons around Bill Clinton back in the day).

    Women need men, and men also need women.
    That’s pretty much the message of Genesis (help “meet” means “fit for the purpose” – coequal procreators of the human family).
    The Adversary has been fighting that principle from the beginning.

  29. AesopFan Says:

    That entire article on the sexual revolution should be required reading. Here’s just a few of many possible excerpts, for the phraseology as well as the substance:

    “Those whom one expects to impose some order on all this—conservative politicians, religious leaders, civil libertarians, journalists, scholars—are either hiding under the table or signaling their virtue by themselves fanning the flames of a hysteria that they show no interest in trying to understand.

    “The early opposition to all this, by Christians and other ethical critics, was long ago ridiculed into silence by the political shock troops of the Revolution: the feminist and later the homosexualist ideologues, who advertised unrestricted sex as a form of political “liberation” from “oppression.” This enlisted the intellectuals and provided a moralistic zeal that diametrically inverted the moral stigma from those who indulged in the sexual freedom to those resisting it, who were then stigmatized as political oppressors.”

    “In short, sexual ideologues have created a new political theology, replete with apoliticized, government-approved definition of sin.Or in other words, they eliminated religious sin and replaced it with political crime. …The vagaries allow them to establish the larger principle that all male-female relations themselves constitute political oppression.

    “So cowed are Christian leaders that they almost never speak of “fornication” and “adultery” (or even “sin” very much), even in their own churches. So now they too try to save themselves from irrelevance by jumping on the bandwagon to advertise their own ideologized virtue. …the radicals are (by accident or design) adroitly recruiting conservative moralizers as their stooges. Conservatives delight in pointing out that liberal male politicians like Bill Clinton who are the most outspoken feminist supporters are also the most aggressive womanizers. Yet lacking the fortitude to content themselves with traditional stigmas against Clinton’s or Weinstein’s immorality in hitting on married women and betraying their own wives, they parrot the radical jargon of the “harassment” industry. When one understands the dynamics of feminist politics it is clear that the radicals will have the last laugh, because the end result is that we further abandon morality for ideology.”

    “Rather than establishing clear rules of sexual morality and having the courage to uphold them in our daily face-to-face interactions with other people, we hire professional disapprovers with political muscle—journalists and media pundits, lawyers, judges, police, and jailors—to inflict punishments in our name, while we sit back and safely jeer at the malefactors from afar. This indulgence in the soothing pleasures of moral posturing entails no risk to ourselves and no requirement to take responsibility for our own role in either the sexual decadence or, if they turn out to be unjust, the ensuing witch hunts. And we need not bother ourselves about niceties like rules of evidence or due process of law. In short, we have adopted the justice of the mob, into which the Sexual Revolution, like every revolution, must inevitably degenerate.”

  30. Ymar Sakar Says:

    This is why certain lines of Amish, Quaker, Jehovah Witnesses, and Mormons exist, Aesop.

    Qualities differ but each community has their own choice of what to do with freedom of religion.

    In Israel back when they had 12 tribes not 2, there was no such thing as freedom of religion. That wasn’t part of the plan or the Covenant.

    Americans progressed enough, or at least the Pilgrims did, that they repented of false beliefs and adopted a system closer to what the Israelis could not tolerate. The 12 tribes of Israel couldn’t even stop wanting to go back to Bhaal and sacrificing children. Freedom of conscience was way too big of a step for them. But for Pilgrims and later Americans, it was deemed you people might be fit to follow this law.

    As we can see, not everyone was capable of tolerating this higher law.

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