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"I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation." – U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, October 9, 2009

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

As They Lag Behind Females in School, Men Experience Losses in Masculinity

As the young men referred to in the article Young Men in China Struggling to Catch Up in Class feel their masculinity is slipping away, they turn to the education system as a cause. With the burdens that education places on them, some men in China feel they have little time to devote to gender typical activities. It is the concern of some men that this lack of opportunity takes a toll on their academic performance.

A gender gap in academic performance in China is present and continuing to grow. As of 2010, girls in China outshined boys on entrance exams. Practices in the education system such as biased treatment of females by teachers and the absence of gender-promoting classes in school have been considered possible causes for the gender gap. Already taking this into consideration, one school in Shanghai has begun to offer classes where males can express their masculinity.

This is certainly one line of logic; faults in the education system, which subsequently lead men to feel they are missing out on masculine activities, lead to a gender gap in academic performance. However, we can look at this from a different perspective. Perhaps it is females’ outperformance of males that leads to these feelings of a declining sense of masculinity.

No matter where these feelings of loss in masculinity come from, the presence of these feelings and the gender gap in academic performance is an indication that China needs to reconsider its teaching practices. China may want to direct their attention to any differences in the way teachers treat male and female students and any differences in the effectiveness of educational practices on the individual sexes. In the end it is about making sure that males and females are both provided with the tools to succeed in school, and, in actuality, this might mean very different approaches in education for the two sexes.

The Pursuit for Education for All: Climbing Our Way Through a Tangled Web

The fight for education for all is far more complicated than I ever imagined. To be honest, I had never given this social issue much thought before. Before reading the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, I imagined that if we could set up schools in countries where children are out of school, put in some teachers—bam! enrollment and literacy rates would rise. This is highly inaccurate. Lack of education is a tangled web of factors all interdependent upon one another. The report claims that armed conflict is the major barrier to education for all. It was found that 40% of all out of school children live in countries affected by conflict. Warfare impacts several factors, which, in turn, affect education. In countries affected by conflict, children are more malnourished, less likely to be in school, and youth and adults are less likely to be literate than in countries without conflict. Even basic yet often overlooked things, such as hunger, impact education. Malnutrition damages cognitive development, preventing children from acquiring skills needed for future learning. The health of children is influenced by their mother’s education. Mothers who are educated are more likely to know the ways HIV can be transmitted and what medicines can reduce the risk of transmission. Sexual violence, often used as a war tactic, hinders women’s education due to the effects that rape has on the body and the mind. Interestingly, the use of education has been proposed as a means to reduce conflict and promote peace. I admire this proposal, having never considered that education holds the potential to both cause and prevent conflict. If we could teach children to be respectful of one another and teach social skills that promote cooperation rather that quarrel, we could prevent conflict from igniting the cycle of a lack of education.

No Brains, No Game

When I consider the current state of education in America, I feel far from satisfied; in fact, a little ashamed. It is astonishing to hear that a student drops out of high school every 26 seconds and that approximately half our teachers are drawn from the lowest third of their college courses. It is depressing to hear that in order to hire our teachers from the top third of college courses, teachers would have to be paid at least a $104,000 salary. America has hopes, America has dreams, but none of its goals will be met without a solid education under its feet. It’s similar to building a house. If one builds a home on top of a swamp, it will tumble down before a frame can stand. However, if one builds on solid land and lays down concrete, who knows how many stories that home could be.

But a bright future will not simply fall into our laps; we as a nation need to make our own luck. The current value we place on education today is a reflection of the value we place on our future as a nation. Without an education, we would be unable to adapt to our ever-changing world, unable to grow, and unable to battle current issues today such as global warming, poverty, and resource exhaustion. Since teachers help shape our education from such a young age, perhaps we should place a greater emphasis on the cultivation of teaching careers, and arm teachers with the best resources to perform their jobs. This article has resurfaced a social problem that is sometimes underestimated as an impact on the nation’s future. It is my hope that we can find other influential areas to focus on and improve them to drive change for a brighter future in America.

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