I trekked to St. Germaine School every morning in my sturdy Buster Brown shoes.
Designed for rough-and-tumble boys, these heavy-duty shoes could take a scuffing and, with a good polishing, keep on shining — pretty much the way rambunctious kids like me were able to do in our elementary school years.
The good sisters who ran St. Germaine in the 1970s weren’t especially sensitive to boys like me who spent more time fidgeting and looking out the window daydreaming than following their lessons.
In those days, most restless, indifferent boys like me somehow made it through school without dropping out, but today study after study shows that increasing numbers of boys are doing just that.
In USA Today Christopher Brueningsen, head of the Kiski School, explores why boys are failing to graduate from high school on time at higher rates than girls (82% vs. 88%).
He notes that whereas 60% of girls go on to college today, only 40% of boys do, according to statistics from the National Student Clearinghouse.
“College enrollment in the United States has declined by 1.5 million students over the past five years, with men accounting for 71% of that drop,” he writes.
According to Yahoo News, the COVID pandemic made things even worse for boys.
School closings set back the educational achievements of Chicago’s black and Latino boys significantly — as measured by grading and attendance — whereas girls held their own.
So why are boys doing so much worse in school than girls?
Brueningsen points to the lack of male role models in schools. As of 2018, only 24% of all K-12 teachers were men, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
He says data from a major 2015 study shows that the typical school environment may be “more attuned to feminine-typed personalities, making it generally easier for girls to achieve better grades in school.”
He cites a 2016 report from the American Sociological Association that found that boys are punished for their rough-and-tumble tendencies and the punishment makes for a negative learning experience.
Boys are much more likely to hear common teacher criticisms, as I did, that include: “Stop fidgeting! Pay attention! Put that down! Clean that off! Your desk is a mess, Tommy!”
Sister Mary “Brass Knuckles” whacked my knuckles with a metal ruler many times, but I was eventually able to overcome this negative experience and become a professional writer (which would shock her if she weren’t in Heaven).
We need every boy and girl in school today to overcome their challenges.
Our modern economy needs every single school in America to produce well-rounded students who can go on to trade schools or college or can be trained directly by companies in desperate need of skilled workers.
Yet some 1.2 million kids drop out of high school every year, reports DoSomething.org — and most of those dropouts are boys.
This is a real crisis our country faces today that requires real changes in classrooms across America, but it is not new.
Author and Education Reformer Richard Whitmire has been writing for more than a decade that key forces in our entrenched educational system — including teachers unions and school administrators — have little interest or incentive in addressing the problem with boys.
He says that the problem has long been well known, yet still little changes.
What is needed are some swift kicks to the shins — by a couple of Buster Brown shoes — of the people holding change back.
Anyone know where I can find a pair in size 11½?
Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]