Crumb Trail
     an impermanent travelogue
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

One of the issues I've been paying more attention to is the large and increasing number of boys that fall off the formal education wagon, and so are often doomed to a life of poverty, insecurity and exclusion. Too many end up as social problems: our jails are filled and the percentage of men that do time, especially black men, is a scandal.

A number of thinkers, commenters and researchers have lately been noting that our educational system creates an increasingly hostile environment for boys. This paper is another in the group:

"We found very minor differences in overall intelligence. But if you look at the ability of someone to perform well in a timed situation, females have a big advantage," Camarata said. "It is very important for teachers to understand this difference in males and females when it comes to assigning work and structuring tests. To truly understand a person's overall ability, it is important to also look at performance in un-timed situations. For males, this means presenting them with material that is challenging and interesting, but is presented in smaller chunks without strict time limits."

The findings are particularly timely, with more attention being paid by parents, educators and the media to the troubling achievement gap between males and females in U.S. schools.

"Consider that many classroom activities, including testing, are directly or indirectly related to processing speed," the authors wrote. "The higher performance in females may contribute to a classroom culture that favors females, not because of teacher bias but because of inherent differences in sex processing speed." An additional question is whether this finding is linked to higher high school dropout rates for males and increased special education placement for males that do stay in school. . .

"'Processing speed' doesn't refer to reaction time or the ability to play video games," Camarata said. "It's the ability to effectively, efficiently and accurately complete work that is of moderate difficulty. Though males and females showed similar processing speed in kindergarten and pre-school, females became much more efficient than males in elementary, middle and high school."

The researchers found that males scored lower than females in all age groups in tests measuring processing speed, with the greatest discrepancy found among adolescents. However, the study also found that males consistently outperformed females in some verbal abilities, such as identifying objects, knowing antonyms and synonyms and completing verbal analogies, debunking the popular idea that girls develop all communication skills earlier than boys.

The researchers found no significant overall intelligence differences between males and females in any age groups.

The researchers hope to discover more about the physical basis of these differences. We are discovering ever more ways that brains vary by sex.

posted by back40 | 4/26/2006 12:59:00 AM


Camarata's work needs some work. Last year's SAT scores indicate that, on average, men do a little better than women, at least for folks taking the test. What puzzles me is that even though men have an advantage, especially in the top scores, they're in the minority of college grads.

My theory: students don't do enough hands-on work, nor get outdoors enough.

By Anonymous Mike Anderson, at 3:03 AM  

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