That pretty much describes the pro-voucher conservative insistence that choice will solve any and all educational problem one can imagine*, and a new Independent Women’s Forum publication on the “boy crisis” is the latest example of this. Leave aside that the piece cherry-picks data points that support the notion of a boy crisis,** ignores the historical context for some gaps (but not others), and glosses over subgroup differences and racial and ethnic gaps much larger than gender gaps.*** Even ignore the scant page devoted to uncritically accepting flawed “brain science” arguments about how differences in male and female brains**** require schools to use different teaching methods for the different sexes, and schools today discriminate against boys. What really takes the cake after all that brilliant analysis is the recommendations. How do we solve this terrible boy crisis? School choice, of course!
Don’t get me wrong; I like school choice more than just about anybody. And I think that choice should include single-sex as well as coed options if that’s what parents want for their kids. D.C.’s Septima Clark Charter School, created to help close achievement gaps for black boys–a group that really is in crisis–is a great example here. But specific problems often require solutions that are matched to them. And choice supporters who persist in claiming that choice is some kind of magical panacea for every educational problem imaginable demonstrate their unseriousness and raise false expectations for choice initiatives in a way that ultimately undermines their case.
Btw, for a more thorough explanation of why the “boy crisis” hype gets it wrong, and a more sound take on this issue that IWF’s, check out this paper I wrote last year.
*Except when it comes to sex ed, of course, where abstinence-only must be mandated, despite virutally no evidence of its effectiveness.
**Why else would you devote an entire section of the relatively short paper to afterschool activities and less than a sentence to the significant gains for elementary boys that are catching them up to girls in reading?
***I’m eagerly awaiting an IWF report on how we must do more to help close achievement gaps for poor and minority kids.
****Brain science is another hammer that never lacks for a nail here, even when its used in ways that seem contradictory. For IWF and likeminded groups, somehow whenever women get the short end of a stick, that’s because of brain differences, and since it’s because of brain differences that means it’s ok and society shouldn’t do anything to help them. But when men get the short end of the stick on something, that’s also because of brain differences but in this case requires that we automatically declare a crisis and take action to address the problem.