Reading Gender Gap

We’ve known two things about boys for some time- they’re falling behind girls at an alarming rate and the gap is widening. Enter “Boys: The Weaker Sex” in The Economist:

The reversal is laid out in a report published on March 5th by the OECD, a Paris-based rich-country think-tank. Boys’ dominance just about endures in maths: at age 15 they are, on average, the equivalent of three months’ schooling ahead of girls. In science the results are fairly even. But in reading, where girls have been ahead for some time, a gulf has appeared. In all 64 countries and economies in the study, girls outperform boys. The average gap is equivalent to an extra year of schooling.

And here’s the clincher:

The OECD deems literacy to be the most important skill that it assesses, since further learning depends on it.

Our challenge is easy to define and seemingly impossible to solve. Most boys have a reading problem due to the fact that video games and Internet browsing yield instant- though debilitating- rewards to their undeveloped brain. But reading is the gateway to all learning due to the magnetic characteristic of wonder. Wonder pulls us in and reading is the tool whereby wonder is ignited.

C.S. Lewis used to talk about the grief of learning verbs and parts of language, contrasting it with the stunning adventure that awaits once we transcend that stage and get into the actual wonder of reading. My dad needed glasses at an young age due to hiding under the covers- long past bedtime- and reading by flashlight. Most boys are stuck at the ‘parts of language’ stage, where reading is all work and no wonder.

Check out these ideas to help them gain traction:

  • Downshift. Create deliberate time and space to escape the speed of technology reward (TV, Video Games, Internet are all reward and no work). Schedule low tech windows where initial boredom and parental involvement mandate reading. (Vacation, Low-Tech-Tuesdays, etc)
  • Use books as the gateway to wonder with extremely strict controls on wonder-smashing-porn.
  • Research books in keeping with your son’s stage-of-life curiosities
  • If the content appears to be ‘too much, too soon,’ use this parental discomfort to enter their lives in discussion. I’d rather have boys break through the age of innocence with a book of your choosing than through the guaranteed first porn moment.
  • Expose them to extreme-readers, kids who are a few years ahead of them. I met a young doctor the other day who’d read through his small town library 2.5 times between 5th and 8th grade.
  • If your son loves devices, consider some type of e-reader as a dopamine dispenser for reading
  • Develop a plan for the tweet, Facebook post, email world as it does involve writing and reading skills (even with it’s obvious limitations)
  • Pay for reading. This works for many families, often delivering kids from the ‘reading is work’ to the ‘reading as wonder’ stage. Get over the short-sighted sense that this is backwards. Their entire educational future hinges on the ability to read. Think of scholarships, graduate assistance, job market, career advancement.
  • Play the reading-writing relationship. Want to write better? Read a lot. Want to read better? Write.

The Bizarre World of Dating

Check out dating“>Andy Stanley’s new book:

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Andy offers a fresh new look at many of our cultural complications. I’ll highlight two:

1.  Who is “old fashioned?” Culture stamps marriage (preserving sexual intimacy for a lifelong commitment) as outdated. But Stanley turns the tables and says if such a though is old fashioned, then current culture is absolutely ancient:

“I may be old-fashioned, but you predate old-fashioned by centuries. You’re ancient. You are so ancient you make my old-fashioned look space-age. Here’s why. In ancient times women were treated like commodities. In our vernacular the term commodity is used in economic or business contexts to describe an item with commercial value. Things such as real-estate, oil, gas, gold and silver. We place a value on these items and then use them however we want. There’s no personal or emotional attachment to a commodity. A commodity is an impersonal means to a personal end.” (Pg. 102)

He goes on to explain why both men and women are complicit in this line of thinking via the hook-up and porn culture. Modern sexuality has gone commercial, a mere commodity to be bought and sold.

2.  Conversation. The ongoing call for the parent is to stop thinking in terms of having THE TALK. The sex talk. Instead of a 15 minute talk, think in terms of a 15 year conversation. This represents a critical shift. Whether we parent early, middle or late adolescent children, an ongoing conversation takes the burden and pressure off.




Where Dating is Headed

There’s good news from the technology sector as far as dating sites are concerned. Three women have recently put a stake in the ground and it could turn out to be a significant player in the future landscape of how people meet and move towards marriage.

Enter Coffee Meets Bagel

The three designers shared a growing concern:

We all know the singles scene can be brutal, that’s why an estimated 50 million Americans have signed up for online dating in the past three years, but for a lot of women it just doesn’t work.

Why not?

Arum says most of the dating sites are “all about serving as many pictures and options as possible. Men love looking at photos of women, so they love the choices. They are going to browse endless photos. It’s fine. For women, most of us want something more meaningful.”

An interesting play right? Instead of attempting to adjust to dating sites design by men and catered to men, they took the relational angle and added a measure of safety. The person who is recommended as my next date knows someone that I also know. Brilliant. If I have 100 friends in my social network and they each have 100 friends, then my dating pool is 5000 strong (10,000 divided by two genders 🙂 )

What got my attention is that they turned down an offer of $30 million, citing that had revenues exceeding $800 million last year.

You can read the short article here but don’t miss the course change. Any new technology that seeks to blend the exponential reach of innovation while maintaining the created element of human relationship is a force to be reckoned with.