By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Boys and young men are struggling. That’s not news. For years, we have heard the statistics.
In 2011, for the first time, U.S. Census Bureau data showed that women surpassed men in obtaining bachelor’s and advanced college degrees. And a Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that women born in the early 1980s are nearly 33 percent more likely than men to have a college degree by age 27.
That gender disparity begins long before college.
From preschool through high school, evidence shows boys are lagging. Preschools, according to the Yale Child Study Center, expel boys at 4.5 times the rate of girls. The National Center for Education Statistics, based on 2010 data, found that in every state boys dropped out of school in higher numbers than girls.
“The system has not been trained in normal boyhood,” said Michael Gurian, a Spokane-based family counselor whose “The Wonder of Boys” and other best-selling books highlight learning differences between boys and girls.
On May 24, Gurian will join Edmonds psychologist Gregory Jantz at a day-long Helping Boys Thrive Summit at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. Jantz, founder of The Center, A Place of Hope counseling center in Edmonds, and Gurian co-authored another book on the subject, “Raising Boys by Design.”
Kevin and Beverly Sherman, parents of Seattle Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman, will also be presenters at the summit, which is open to parents, teachers and others who work with kids. General admission is $50; the event includes keynote talks, smaller sessions and panel discussions.
As the father of two daughters, Gurian, 56, is pleased to see that academic and career doors are wide open to women.
“We’ve spent the last 50 years — and rightly so — studying female development,” he said Tuesday.
On the downside, Gurian said today’s educational system sees boys as “defective.”
“We never said that about girls,” said Gurian, who hopes the Edmonds summit will be the first of many around the country to make a case for change.
For parents of sons, there are more chilling figures on the Helping Boys Thrive website, from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Census Bureau and other sources: 91 percent of public elementary school teachers are women; 77 percent of students expelled in elementary and secondary school are boys; 89.3 percent of kids ages 15 to 17 in correctional facilities are boys; 80 percent of schoolchildren on Ritalin are boys; and 80.6 percent of those ages 10 to 19 who commit suicide are boys.
Boys raised in homes without fathers are at a great disadvantage, Gurian said. Girls without dads also suffer, but often later in life, he said. “For boys 9, 10, 11 who don’t have those males, their trajectory goes way down. They misbehave and get very angry. Males need that developmental attachment to become men,” he said.
Yet Gurian doesn’t blame families. “To me, the system is not serving boys,” he said. “This is not the fault of female teachers — they are great people. But there is basically no conversation about the male brain.”
A graduate of Gonzaga University, Gurian taught a course there on brain-based psychology of gender.
Along with “The Wonder of Boys,” his many books include “The Wonder of Girls,” “Boys and Girls Learn Differently!” and “The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life.” He is also co-founder of the Gurian Institute, which trains teachers in how gender affects student achievement.
The institute was involved in a project at the University of Missouri which found that in classrooms of 25 children, one or two girls typically struggle, while by fifth grade five boys in the class are having trouble.
“They’re under-achieving, and teachers do not have the training to solve it. The whole system is awry,” he said.
At some schools, kids aren’t allowed to run at recess. “Boys need to go out, be served by nature and physical movement,” he said.
Gurian believes schools have both overreacted and under-reacted to boys’ behaviors and needs. He sees a solution in balancing three pillars of development — nature, nurture and culture.
The current emphasis is on culture, he said. “I’m begging people to put that third,” he said.
Boys would do better, he said, if their natures were understood, and parents and schools would nurture them accordingly. In general, he said, girls are ready a year before boys for literary learning, while boys excel in gross motor tasks.
“Look at the nature of the kid,” Gurian said. “Then alter our nurture to fit the nature.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Helping Boys Thrive
Gregory Jantz and Michael Gurian will present a Helping Boys Thrive Summit 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 24 at Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N., Edmonds. Presenters include Jantz, Gurian, educational consultant Dakota Hoyt, youth ministry co-founder Gregg Johnson, and Kevin and Beverly Sherman, parents of Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman. Tickets $50, $40 for teachers or group discount, or $25 for seniors. For tickets or information: http://helpingboysthrivesummit.com