Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The boy crisis in China

Michael Gurian from the Gurian Institute emails some interesting information about the boy crisis in China:

Last month, I received an email and phone call from Chen Sai, a reporter in China, who writes for Life Week Magazine,

Chen Sai wrote, “I’m working on a cover story about the Boy Crisis in China. During the last 10 years, rapid economical growth and technological progress have changed the way children grow up and socialize themselves in China. Boys have been weakened and alienated by our society to such an extent that their performances are far behind girls in so many levels, which worries and confuses the parents, educators and the whole society.”

Chen Sai and I spoke and corresponded a number of times, and I was honored that the Gurian Institute’s work was noted in the ultimate article, “Saving our Sons” in the 3/20/2010 issue of LifeWeek. Most powerful, however, was the understanding I and our whole GI team gained of what is going on in China, with both boys and girls.

I am in a process of learning more every day about what is happening with Asian boys—Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and elsewhere. I hope you will feel inspired to do the same. Working with Chen Sai has forced me to push beyond any stereotypes I had about other countries and their boys and girls. In China, for instance, I had assumed that boys must be far ahead of girls. That was incorrect on my part.



Blogger Dr.D said...

The writer says, "Boys have been weakened and alienated by our society to such an extent that their performances are far behind girls in so many levels...," but he does not really say what this means. Does anybody have any real understanding of just what he is talking about here? Weakened in what way? Alienated how?

11:22 AM, May 05, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

Please post anything further you hear or are given a link to about this.

12:33 PM, May 05, 2010  
Blogger oalee said...

The article can be found here. I translated it quickly, so there may be errors.
What happened to boys?

In the past 10 years, the topic of the “Boy Crisis” have become an international topic, written about in popular books and articles and has even become the subject of educational panels in some countries.

Harvard psychologist William Polack (? Phonetic translation) wrote a book in 1998 called The Real Boy (? Direct translation, perhaps not real title), which asked why so many boks were depressed and lonely, even though they appeared healthy, optimistic, and confident. He details how they are “scared to death” and their “broken spirit”. Particularly when compared to girls of the same age, their confidence is far lower, and at an overall competitive disadvantage.

“America’s Boys: America’s Wellness Index 2007” (Again, direct translation), is a even more detailed description, showing that boys are lagging in many quantitative indexes. They show that in physical, mental, and moral standards, boys are in danger of crisis. In the past 20 years, American boys’ academic performance has noticeably fell, particularly in drop-out rates. In 2000, American statistics show that amount Master’s graduations, women outnumbered men 1.38:1, but male suicide rates were five times that of women.

In the United Kingdom, secondary school test results show the same trend, girls have maintained their traditional superiority in language tests, while, starting in 1995, they have pulled even with boys in mathematics. The 2001 results showed that in 55.4% of girls succeeded in five subjects or more, while only 44.8% of boys did. Among the higher test scores, the disparity is greater.

According to researchers who study the boy crisis, the modern education system is the greatest killer, and poor family environment and popular culture have added more harm and misdirection. The UN education organization (Direct translation) conducted a survey called “For education of people of all genders” , and in that survey there is a “International Student Assessment Category” (Direct translation), which evaluated 15-year-olds who are about to finish their basic education in the UK, the USA, Germany, Finland, and others, totaling 42 nations. Southeast University graduate student Longshaw (? Phonetic) says that these results test if the students have a grasp of the basic knowledge and skills needed to participated in society. The results show that girls win in every category. Therefore, the report says that the foundation of 21st century education must pay attention to deficiencies in male education.

China is one step behind in recognizing this problem, because China still has the basic problem of getting girls to attend school, and the education researchers who have always advocated women’s rights still criticize Chinese society in general as being male-dominated, and so they don’t believe boys need saving. But, according to the numbers recently published “Boy’s Crisis” report, Chinese has its own version of the boy’s crisis, and by picking through the numbers, we can support a boy’s crisis analysis similar to that found in Europe or America.

2:09 PM, May 05, 2010  
Blogger oalee said...

The second part:
In academics, Chinese girls are not just closing the gap, but have exceeded boys in many subjects. In Beijing and Shanhai, for 2006-2008, the top scoring student in the humanities and in science have all been girls. In 2000-2008, of Chongqing’s 19 top-scorers, only 4 have been boys. In 2007, at Fudan University (ED: top 5 university in China), the incoming class has 1847 boys and 2024 girls, the first time female enrollment has exceeded male enrollment. In 2007, among the new students at China’s People University, women constituted 55%. And as early as 2002, China’s Political Law University had more women then men.

In overall physical performance, from 1985-2005, according to physical surveys, boys have decreased lung capacity, speed, explosiveness (ED: as in sports terminology), endurance, and strength, except for rural boys, who have improved in all categories.

And among developmental problems prevalent among children, including ADD, mental disability, and autism, boys are over-represented, and are more likely to sink and be entrapped.

And if these are not hard evidence, then is the “girly voice” found in boys just a error, or a kind of release, is something that cannot be easily judged. (ED: I could not make sense of this sentence.)

Regardless, William Polack (? Phonetic) says, boys are under a chronic stress, and the stress is anomie.

Educators from many countries have analyzed this crisis and have come to similar conclusions, that modern families, education systems, and the prevailing culture is destroying boys, and sinking them into unending anxiety.

Modern education is often called an industrialized education system, using industrial-age mass-production methods and thinking to decide school systems and testing regimes. Quiet classroom instruction is the main tool of education, to the exclusion of other methods. If classes are taught primarily through speech, then boy’s brains are more easily stirred to annoyance, fatigue, and drowsiness. “In an environment where this type of education predominates, boys are a disadvantage, having not received positive direct feedback in school, which makes them tentative, like thin ice and weak in body and spirit”

Therefore educators are unanimous in pointing the spear at school education, one American expert called the school system a conspiracy against the talents and inclinations of boys.

2:10 PM, May 05, 2010  
Blogger Larry J said...

Thank you for the translation, oalee. Impressive!

As a grandfather to 3 young boys, I'm concerned about what kind of education they're going to receive. It's really too soon to tell. My oldest grandson turns 6 this month and is doing very well, even writing and illustrating little "books". Will he continue to do well after leaving kindergarden or will the nature of how he's taught in higher grades bore him? Since he's in San Diego and I'm in Colorado, I can only hope for the best.

2:22 PM, May 05, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What must also be considered if one worries about a boy getting weak problem (not sure what that means) is this:

2:35 PM, May 05, 2010  
Blogger oalee said...

My comments:

One thing to realize about China is that the ideological spectrum doesn't always match up with the American one. The coastal elites who drink Starbucks, eat organic, and do yoga are generally more pro-Western, pro-human-rights, and pro-democracy.

This is a magazine written for the coastal, internationally-educated elites, and this article is fairly typical, where a legitimate problems are brought up, but the proffered solution is usually reform of a traditional system to become more "enlightened." Notice that Western publications are always quoted with authority.

It's tempting to think of this article as being ideologically allied with the American conservative push-back against leftist education, but I think you'll be disappointed.

China has had a rigorous, test-based education system for at least 2000 years. The problem isn't listening to classroom instruction, or lack of feedback - I think the average conservatives would weep for joy at recognizable, no-nonsense ways to learn math, writing, and science - these methods have worked for a very long time. However, in the elite classes of China, it is fashionable to want to reform education, to be more "creative", which really is code for more Western.

To the average reader of the magazine, the apparent solution to the crisis isn't a return to traditional education, but more reform, to become more Westernized. That's why they consider Europe and America as the forefront of reforming education for the benefit of boys.

What they don't yet realize is it is the deep hostility to boys in the West, and that further Westernization will worsen the problem.

2:56 PM, May 05, 2010  
Blogger Memphis said...

I had no idea this was going on.

4:58 PM, May 05, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least China doesn't have a Title IX.

5:16 PM, May 05, 2010  
Blogger badboyvegan said...

Boys are held on high in China and girl babies are aborted on a regular basis.

Maybe boys feel a sense of hopelessness about their future because of the shortage of girls?

7:08 PM, May 05, 2010  
Blogger dienw said...

Boys are held on high in China and girl babies are aborted on a regular basis.

This may be a key.

If the destruction of the masculine continues in China as it likely will, then in time China will be ruled by a female mid-level to high cadre of females; the very top of the socio-political ladder will still be may: though a very decadent rung.

7:47 PM, May 05, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

then in time China will be ruled by a female mid-level to high cadre of females; the very top of the socio-political ladder will still be may: though a very decadent rung.

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4:22 AM, May 06, 2010  
Blogger dienw said...

the very top of the socio-political ladder will still be males: though a very decadent rung.

1:01 PM, May 06, 2010  
Blogger Helen said...


Thanks for the translation. I thought the email was interesting enough to post on, but was surprised it was not translated.

6:44 PM, May 06, 2010  
Blogger Nora said...

I lived in the UK when girls outperformed boys there. I remember that one solution to the problem suggested getting more male teachers into the classrooms. I don't know if there was any continuation to the idea, but it makes sense to me at least to try. I don't see how elese they can find out the importance of role/authority models/figure in education.

However, in our PC age, it's probably not permitted to suggest that the fact that most teachers are female might something to do with girls outperforming boys.

4:57 AM, May 07, 2010  
Blogger The blogprof said...

One aspect not mentioned is the other boy problem in China, and that is the societal time-bomb in the form of 32 million more males than females due to sex-selective abortions (Societal time-bomb ticking in India: Gender-based abortion leads some regions to a 3:1 male:female ratio. Abortion proponents "stumped.")

That's simply not going to end well...

2:38 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger The blogprof said...

Take two since the link didn't work:

One aspect not mentioned is the other boy problem in China, and that is the societal time-bomb in the form of 32 million more males than females due to sex-selective abortions (13 million aborted annually in China)

India is following suit: Societal time-bomb ticking in India: Gender-based abortion leads some regions to a 3:1 male:female ratio. Abortion proponents "stumped."

This won't end well...

2:48 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger Carl said...

I can easily tell you the difference between boys and girls in the educational system, at least, the public schools in California, which are probably in the vanguard here.

My son is about to get a C in geometry. But he knows geometry cold. He gets 98s and 100s on the exams. BUT he declines to do the little homework ritual the teacher has set up: do each problem, check the answer online, correct it in red ink, circle the number you got right at the top.

Girls are generally better at this kind of Be Good Follow Directions stuff. Boys are generally better at sheer inspiration, which can compensate for not following the rules, not following the drummer. In a reasonable system, the two tendencies are equally valued. We need both predictable, reliable citizens and brilliant eccentric citizens. But in the modern system, the following of rules is valued far more than brilliance. Indeed, brilliance is seen as deeply threatening and punished.

3:00 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger Frogwatch said...

I recently had a long conversation with an Indian guy in Abu Dhabi about our families. He had a young daughter and I said that daughters were absolutely wonderful to have. He disagreed telling me how expensive she would be to marry off. Basically, it is expected that she will have a huge dowry when she gets married or she will not marry. He was amazed when I told him that my daughters would have no such dowry in the USA except their education.

3:02 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger toadold said...

Two things. The one child per family policy. The one child gets pretty spoiled. The preference for boys. A girl will end up getting spoiled by her female relations but often suffer from a love/hate attitude on her fathers part due the fathers desire for a male heir. You get some very neurotic and/or narcissistic behavior on esp. on the part of the better educated girls. Red Princes and Princesses have been common terms for some years now. The demographics are causing all kinds of problems from economic to cultural in East Asia now.

3:17 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger Teki Setsu said...

The global educational system is inherently against boys because the educational leaders at every level are against boys, their creative/destructive behavior, and what they stand for.

3:23 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger Micha Elyi said...

Dr. William Pollack PhD. is the author of Real Boys : Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. Pollack seems to me to be a SNAG wannabee who seeks to create the Sensitive New Age Boy and wonders why a boy can't be more like a girl. (This may be a clue to making sense of the "girly voice" sentence in the translation.)

3:27 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger Teki Setsu said...

"My son is about to get a C in geometry. But he knows geometry cold. He gets 98s and 100s on the exams. BUT he declines to do the little homework ritual the teacher has set up: do each problem, check the answer online, correct it in red ink, circle the number you got right at the top."

BINGO! Also, the dopey girly stuff they're constantly doing in the class that offends boys far more than doing boy-stuff ever offended girls.

I'm telling you, they hate the "cooties" mentality, but it's biological and won't go away.

3:27 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

Don't worry about the Chinese boys. Worry about ours first. We have messed up our boys: chivalry = chauivism, sensitive = gay... Boys don't know how to be themselves. With a cradle-to-grave nanny state taking care of us, who needs a man to take care of the family?

We should also worry about our girls. High income earning women look down on their men who don't make as much. High income men would rather marry less career driven women to take care of the family. The worst part is nobody could be trusted. A 70 years old man whom one has married for more than 30 years and raised a family thru thick and thin, may find a more attractive 30 years old to raise another family when he becomes one of the richest men in the world. (e.g. Murdoch, the former GE boss (can't remember his name), Warren Buffett (surprise?))

A woman doesn't want to get stuck with a bunch of babies and no means to support them when her man left her. She has to make a career first before she makes a baby. But successful men like younger women: less competition at home.

Back to the boys: they have to be very successful to score. Girls are in as bad a shape as the boys. Life in a nanny state is stressful, no?

3:59 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger Jim O said...

As Fred points out above, any analysis of the differences between boys and girls in China has to consider the huge difference in number of boys and girls in China. Or so I think.
I mean, not only are a significant percercentage of Chinese doomed lose the the musical chairs marriage game in the immediate future, now we're told that they being outperformed by the opposite sex in an increasingly meritocratic country. I don't know what effects these two factors will have on China and the world, but they can't be good.

4:44 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger Teki Setsu said...

"Warren Buffett (surprise?)"

Warren Buffett's wife left him in 1977, but set him up with her acquaintence, Astrid Menks, who lived with Buffett all these years. Buffett, his wife, and Astrid remained consistently friendly and loyal to each other. After Buffett's wife died in 2004, Buffett eventually married Astrid.

I hear they're waiting to build up a nest egg before having children. :-)

So don't accuse Warren Buffett of being the least bit unfaithful to his wife.

4:51 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger PacRim Jim said...

Because of its one-child policy, China also has a shortage of women, which increases their value. Chinese society will soon resemble that of social insects, with the men used only for reproduction. This bodes ill for world stability.

5:05 PM, May 08, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

FYI: You're getting some sneaky comment spammers on this post:

mok ng at 4:22 AM, May 06, 2010 - spammer
原秋 at 6:46 AM, May 07, 2010 - spammer (all those dots in his comment? *Each* of them is a separate link).

Thought you'd want to know...

8:42 AM, May 09, 2010  
Blogger The Magpie said...

The problem is that boys are no longer amongst themselves, they are forced to mix with girls.

This happens at an age where they are developmentally inferior to girls -- they are physically and mentally weaker, and often not capable of organisation and consistency.

At the same time, their head space is that of a male -- they are highly competitive, optimistic believers in themselves and their gender determined need for testing and achieving dominance. It's a blessing they totally suck at everything until they are old enough that their fierce spirits are tempered for a while whilst they learn to handle themselves :)

In essence, boys develop along exponential lines, but girls are linear in nature. They meet at the same points (or near), but the path to there i very different, one size does not fit all!

If they mix whilst they are so unevenly matched, they are forced to compete and compare directly and losing in anything(sport, academically or socially) to a girl is totally devastating for a boy at that stage.

They hide it well as they are naturally proud, but every time this happens (and it does so daily) it leaves a nasty scar on their dignity and self-respect.

That reaction is built into their nature and it's not a character flaw that can be browbeaten and shamed out of them, in fact, it makes it only a lot worse.

So that is why we're having so many broken boys everywhere, it's not a matter of national cultures at all -- but of not allowing boys the space and privacy they need to be ... boys.

(Not segregating genders at that stage in their lives is very bad for girls too, even tho it doesn't look that way initially, but that is another can of worms)

1:04 PM, May 09, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has less to do with the educatoinal system and more to do with modern working conditions. Most jobs nowaday just do not provide the satisfaction they used to. Boys can sense what kind of future is waiting for them. Graduation, find a job, work, marry and form a family, then more work till you are senile. They will barely have time to enjoy family life and to connect with their children. Women have the option of stay-at-home, or marry up, and if divorce, they get children - something worthy for devotion. Men lose everything in a divorce.

Most men in China not only have to support their own family, they also have to support their retired parants AND his wife's family. In addition they are not supposed to expect their children to support them when they get old because of the western influence 'children are not an investment'. That's why chinese families want boys: they are workhorses that provide for family. Girls are considered a luxury. The social discourse on 'what is a real man' is a responsibility magnet that draws on both Chinese and Western concept of duty. The standard is too high for many boys. It is wiser for them to enjoy what they have at the present rather than worry about the future.

Being a male in China has little inherent value if they are not rich, or from rural area. Poor, working class, young males sell their kidneys and livers to black market for 40K RMD. The buyer want only male organ and the donar must be <30 years old. It's sad.

1:25 PM, May 11, 2010  

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