This teacher comments: One of the best non-fiction books I've read all year!
I graduated from Indiana University in 1990 - just as the 'girls are fragile' movement was gaining momentum. I was taught the 'facts' that Sommers refers to in numerous in-services (for all of you non-teachers, many teacher in-services are attempts at teacher training in which a speaker comes and entertains or horrifies us with a speech that usually has little or no practical value - when I taught in the inner city it was usually the horrifying type: "these kids are all failing and blah-blah percent of them will end up dead or in jail and it's all because you didn't teach them how to multiply fractions or diagram a sentence correctly!").
Anyway, I did buy into some of the stuff about girls being fragile and being overrun in the classroom. I have heard the statistics Sommers skewers so completely and thoroughly and I swallowed many of them hook, line and sinker because it was early in my career and as a young person I foolishly believed that if a Harvard PhD researched the facts they must be right. As a more jaded professional, I appreciate Sommers' meticulously end noted work.
In The War Against Boys she embarrasses the 'fragile girl' theorists by burying their under-researched (and sometimes un-researched) theories in a blizzard of relavent studies and facts from responsible and trusted sources (for example, I've had the '4 million women die from physical abuse from a man' stat thrown at me in a diversity seminar. Yes, verbally thrown at me - as if I were the man who personally beat them all to death! Well, if it happens again, I'm armed with the REAL facts from the Centers for Disease Control, thanks to Sommers).
Sommers overwhelmingly makes the point that our 'touchy-feely' self-esteem oriented schools are a great big turn-off to most of the boys. (in my experience as a high school teacher, the girls don't buy into it much either). Schools are not designed for most boys, especially as we take away physical activities and recesses. Male boisterousness is seen as wrong - a mental disorder and/or a sign of ADHD. Boys have to be medicated specifically for their built-in attributes that they possess as boys.
Special interest groups such as NOW and the ACLU will fight for the rights of women since they are oppressed, despite the fact that their grades are better, they are much less likely to be in special education classes (4-1 ratio of boys to girls), girls are more likely to go to college (55-60% of college students are female) and boys are much more likely to be punished in school than are girls.
As I read The War Against Boys (while enjoying the first few days of my Christmas Break from school) I found myself resolved to take a look at how boys are treated in my class and in my school. I also found myself thinking of ways I can provide the specific needs of young men that Sommers' experts identify. I'll refer back to those recommendations often and make a few changes in my classroom and lobby for changes in the school.
***This is a must-read for any serious-minded and open-minded educational professional.
On a lighter note, why do publishers insist on using end notes when footnotes are so much easier for the reader to access. Sommers' research was overwhelming - she should have proudly showcased it through the use of footnotes.
I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The War Against Boys.
Reviewed on December 26, 2005.
Note: this review generated a lot of discussion over the years on my original Amazon.com review of the book. Click here to see the comments. Most comments are thoughtful, although one is bizarre.