by Wesley Knapp, Ph.D

Ask someone about Title IX and he or she is likely to tell you that it has to do with girls and sports. Ask many educators this question, and you are likely to receive a similar (but far windier) answer.

Title IX was legislation passed in 1972
 that reads: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal assistance.”

It is not just about sports.

This legislation led to equal treatment of men and women in many federally funded activities, but it has received the most notice as it applies to high school and college sports. Title IX worked miracles in improving the opportunities for young women in schools in all areas, not just in sports.

However, as with many government programs and legislation, there is seldom a closure plan in place. When government departments and bureaucracies are created, self-preservation and job security becomes the order of the day, so don’t expect someone in a federal agency that oversees Title IX compliance to author a white paper on how Title IX has achieved its goals, the achievement gap has turned upside down, and the agency is no longer needed.

Neither should one expect some education professor in a university, still using moldy old yellowed lecture notes from the 1970s, to be brave enough to suggest that male students are not being well served in our schools today. I believe there is a healthy fear that they will be perceived as politically incorrect if they skate out on the thin ice that suggests males are being discriminated against in our schools.

The data clearly show that the achievement gap between boys and girls is widening in high schools, and attention should be given to this phenomenon.

In spite of this, anyone reading educational literature will find people still writing papers claiming that girls are being short-changed in our schools, while girls continue to outperform their male classmates.

I am aware of the achievement gap data, but I don’t claim to know why the gap exists and is widening.

More should be done to address this phenomenon and try to determine the “why” of it. Some experiments should be carried out to determine if the trend can be reversed.

Good science calls for careful collection and analysis of data involving large samples over significant time, under a variety of conditions, etc., but good science also allows for experimentation to effect change.

We know that many of our students go through grades K-6 and never have a male teacher. This is not new, but along with the positive changes that Title IX and other equity efforts have brought about, this may be more significant than it was in the past. It is not difficult to believe that boys may think that learning is a “girl thing” just as our girls who had only male math and science teachers in the past may have believed that math and science was a “male thing.”

Clearly, administrators have tried for years to increase the number of male elementary teachers but for the most part unsuccessfully.  Guidance counselors in high schools should encourage bright young men to consider a career in elementary education (or nursing) with the same zeal they have used over the last 40 years encouraging young women to enter engineering, science, math and vocational programs.

Some middle and high schools are experimenting with offering sections of courses that are single gender, and these experiments may have value as we observe the achievement outcomes.

This has helped some schools to increase their enrollments of girls in math and science courses.

Some charter schools have been approved which are single sex only, but almost all were started to improve the achievement of girls, not boys.

The role of a father in the home showing the same interest in their son’s grades as he does in the boy’s batting average, might help as well.

One thing is certain; a young man with a degree and certification in elementary education will receive multiple job offers, even in this economy.

Wesley Knapp, Ph.D., is superintendent of the Midd-West School District in Snyder County.