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Boy talk in full throttle

The buzz is on about boys.

Take a look at the titles in the bookstore. The newest treatise to take on how boys are doing in American society is Christina Hoff Sommers's "The War on Boys." Her book joins others: "Real Boys' Voices" (William Pollack), "Raising Cain" (Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson), "The Men They Will Become" (Eli Newberger).

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The message from a number of observers is clear: You can argue about whether it's still a man's world, but it is most definitely not a boys' world. Girls have been a major focus for the past 10 to 15 years. Now, they argue, it's time to put the spotlight on the boys.

School, of course, is a natural place to look at what's happening with boys. Skills are one issue. On average, male students get lower grades and drop out more often.

Behavior is another. Zero-tolerance discipline punishes boys more often. Classrooms that favor sitting still over moving and crammed school days that offer few breaks put active students to the test. How many adults, after all, sit motionless at their desks for 50 minutes at a run - no water breaks, no talking - and then repeat that five times with no gaps in between?

The growing interest in boys may spark some useful debate. In today's cover story, several educators talk about changes in the classroom that they say make learning more engaging for both boys and girls.

Most also finger school size as a key issue. In a small school (or school within a school) that has small classes and involved teachers, after all, it's pretty hard to get lost regardless of whether you're male or female.

*E-mail newcomba@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society