Boys are animals. Plain and simple. Anyone who believes otherwise has clearly never worked with the teenage variety of the so-called male species, nor seen them in their “raw” form. What’s fascinating to me, though, is that these animals are experiencing what many might call a crisis: Boys are failing academically at a growing rate — an alarming rate.
The spark of my current concern, however, was struck by this article on male apathy with voting. The New York Times article outlines research on male testosterone levels with voting. Researchers from the University of Michigan and Duke University analyzed the saliva of 150 voters during the 2008 presidential election. What they found was that males who voted for the losing candidate had a surprising drop in testosterone — one that researchers think are associated with literally feeling the loss themselves.
The New York Times article discusses how female voters outnumber males at increasing levels, which may be a result of males not wanting to feel like “losers” based on their choices. While this idea is concerning, I think we are speaking about an issue that challenges males on many levels: Males may not be equipped to “lose” in today’s increasingly competitive society.
Let’s take the classroom for an instance. In my English classes, a large majority of students who are failing are males. Fact: Among 55 students, males are three times more likely to not be passing. In fact, 33% of my males are currently struggling, compared to 11% of females. Now, many will point to the classroom structure in general as a cause of male struggles: the insistence on “calmer” behaviors, an emphasis on reading fiction, and little opportunity for kinesthetic responses. This all may be true; but, what if males are just too scared to risk failure? What if males do not want to link their academic struggles with their ego? What if a failing grade literally drops a male’s testosterone, thus motivating him to not take the risk?
If males take a voting loss as a direct hit to their ego, what about the things they actually give direct effort on, such as school? There could be more to the “male problem” than we thought. The question should now be, how do we help boys fail less and still learn how to let failures lead to successes?