My friend Marty Nemko has started a blog. Marty is a career coach, contributing editor to US News & World Report, and radio host in the Bay Area. Unlike a lot of "coaches" who are high on fluff and low on substance, Marty is a deep, provocative thinker who loves ideas and argument. Here’s his Best Careers of ’08 feature in US News. Here’s his interview with me last year.
1. The widespread abandonment of ability-grouped classes. In most of today’s elementary schools, gifted and slow are placed in the same class. That creates more equality–especially racial equality–but the result is that all children receive a worse education. Imagine for example, that you spoke good Mandarin but wanted to become expert. Wouldn’t you prefer a class with advanced students rather than one that also had beginners? Yet today, we don’t give smart kids (or their parents) that choice. We force them into mixed-ability classes, where dispositive metaevaluations reveal they learn less and are bored. And because, on average, boys are more active than girls, they more often can’t sit still for six hours a day, five days a week, 180 days a year, year after year. Rather than the harder task of accommodating to smart, active boys’ needs, countless teachers have urged parents to put these boys, long-term, on Ritalin–a meth-like drug.
2. That elementary school teachers are overwhelmingly female. Today, the percentage is up to 92%, the highest ever recorded. Even if teachers believe they’re accommodating to all students’ needs, they can’t help but tilt their teaching to what appeals to them. Thus, books about male heroism are replaced by those of female relationships and heroines, typically in which an inferior male is shown-up by a wise female. Competition–a prime motivator for boys–is replaced by so-called "cooperative learning," which usually reduces to the bright doing the slow’s work, boring the bright kid and precluding him from learning new things.
3. The media’s continuing to perpetrate the myth that females are oppressed and males are the oppressor. For example, they continue to spout these disproven assertions:
— women earn 79 cents on the dollar compared with men. In fact, according to the definitive book on the topic, Why Men Earn More, for the same work, women earn at least as much as men do.
— women are underrepresented in high-level positions because of sexism. In fact, as documented in recent well-reviewed books such as Susan Pinker’s The Sexual Paradox, women’s not being in high-office comes much more from choosing to have a less work-centric lifestyle.
— the schools shortchange girls relative to boys. (the long-debunked Reviving Ophelia canard.)
— men abuse women–in fact, studies show that 30 to 52% of severe domestic violence is perpetrated by women.
Thus, the feeling among educators, policymakers, and the public, is that we need to do more for females than for males, ignoring such statistics that boys are achieving far worse in school than are girls, much more likely to abuse drugs, commit suicide, and drop out of high school, far less likely to graduate from college, much more likely, as young adults, to be sleeping late unemployed on their parents’ sofas.
4. Society’s bias that says: let’s help those with the greatest deficit rather than those with the greatest potential to profit: "Those smart boys will do okay on their own. Let’s commit our resources to the lowest achievers." I deeply believe that such a philosophy will reduce our society to the lowest common denominator, ironically resulting in a worse life for us all. Besides, it simply is unfair for the public schools to not provide at least a marginally appropriate education for all kids, and right now, smart boys get the very least appropriate education.