My answer is to have all-male schools, with all-male teachers, with all fiction books and drama selected by men, and field trips that appeal to male needs, (e.g. – the war museum! the air show! the underground caverns! a computer lab!).
But what about video games? Do they make reading seem boring to young men?
When I was a young boy, America’s elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can’t read.
According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.
The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.
Everyone agrees that if boys don’t read well, it’s because they don’t read enough. But why don’t they read? A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the “stuffy” literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must “meet them where they are”—that is, pander to boys’ untutored tastes.
Spence explains how many publishers are writing books for boys that are really childish and disgusting.
One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn’t go very far.
The other problem is that pandering doesn’t address the real reason boys won’t read. My own experience with six sons is that even the squirmiest boy does not require lurid or vulgar material to sustain his interest in a book.
So why won’t boys read? The AP story drops a clue when it describes the efforts of one frustrated couple with their 13-year-old unlettered son: “They’ve tried bribing him with new video games.” Good grief.
The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time “plugged in” than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys’ attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?
Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn’t it, but Science has spoken.
The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.
What do you guys think about his idea?
I love video games. ECM helps me to find ones that I will like, and then I play those very sparingly. So this year, I played “King’s Bounty: The Legend”, “Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway” and “Arma II: Operation Arrowhead” on PC, “Etrian Odyssey 2: Heroes of Lagaard” and “Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies” on my Nintendo DS.
And previously I played games like “Silent Storm: Sentinels”, “Dangerous Waters”, “Silent Hunter IV: Wolves of the Pacific”, “Combat Mission: Afrika Korps”, “Hidden & Dangerous 2: Sabre Squadron”, “Steel Panthers: World at War”, “Harpoon”, “Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers”, and my favorite RPG, “Wizardry 8”.
So I basically like large-scale tactical squad-based first-person shooters, large-scale realistic military simulations, and 2D turn-based fantasy role-playing games.
But what I noticed is that picking games like these that are adventurous, and playing them modestly, really hasn’t stopped me from reading. So long as I can link the topics that I read with apologetics or with developing a Christian view of politics, economics, marriage, family, parenting and foreign policy, then it seems to me that my reading is just an extension of my game playing. Life is an adventure, and books are weapons.
Specifically, I like to be adventurous and to fight, and I read books that help me to be able to have a job in engineering so that I can travel the world, and also fight about science, philosophy, history and religion. Maybe the real problem is that boys don’t see books as adventuring tools. My married friends view their marriages as very adventurous and subversive – they are very serious about reading and planning things out.