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Boys Adrift

Why Gender Matters

Why Gender Matters cover


TODAY Show
Click HERE to watch Dr. Sax discuss Why Gender Matters with Al Roker on the TODAY show (five-minute segment)

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What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences

Forget everything you think you know about gender differences in children. Forget "boys are competitive, girls are collaborative." In recent years, scientists have discovered that differences between girls and boys are more profound than anybody guessed. Specifically:

The brain develops differently. In girls, the language areas of the brain develop before the areas used for spatial relations and for geometry. In boys, it's the other way around. A curriculum which ignores those differences will produce boys who can't write and girls who think they're "dumb at math."

The brain is wired differently. In girls, emotion is processed in the same area of the brain that processes language. So, it's easy for most girls to talk about their emotions. In boys, the brain regions involved in talking are separate from the regions involved in feeling. The hardest question for many boys to answer is: "Tell me how you feel."

Girls hear better. The typical teenage girl has a sense of hearing seven times more acute than a teenage boy. That's why daughters so often complain that their fathers are shouting at them. Dad doesn't think he's shouting, but Dad doesn't hear his voice the way his daughter does.

Girls and boys respond to stress differently - not just in our species, but in every mammal scientists have studied. Stress enhances learning in males. The same stress impairs learning in females.

These differences matter. Some experts now believe that the neglect of hardwired gender differences in childrearing may increase a son's risk of becoming a reckless street racer, or a daughter's risk of experiencing an unwanted pregnancy.

Since the mid-1970s, educators have made a virtue of ignoring gender differences. The assumption was that by teaching girls and boys the same subjects in the same way at the same age, gender gaps in achievement would be eradicated. That approach has failed. Gender gaps in some areas have widened in the past three decades. The pro-portion of girls studying subjects such as physics and computer science has dropped in half. Boys are less likely to study subjects such as foreign languages, history, and music than they were three decades ago. The ironic result of three decades of gender blindness has been an intensifying of gender stereotypes.

For parents, Dr. Sax provides concrete guidelines regarding the tough issues of discipline, sex, and drug abuse, and other problem areas.

For educators, Dr. Sax offers practical suggestions to help break down gender stereotypes and help all children to reach their potential.

For everybody, Dr. Sax offers a provocative analysis of how gender influences every aspect of our lives.




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