I have been spending a lot of time with statistics this week.
I don't like statistics.
But I do this every year, because I do a project with my students that involves researching colleges.
My argument every year is that I want students to be eligible to apply for a four-years school when they graduate. I call it "Keeping Options Open."
Going into the military? Taking a year off to travel? Volunteer? Work?
Going to a community college because it's the most affordable option, and then planning to transfer? Whatever the choice, there are going to be more options if a student is eligible to apply for a four-year college. In California we call them the A-G requirements.
I'm sure there are other options. I like options. I like kids to have options.
The fact is that kids need some kind of post-high school training if they want a chance of leading a life they chose.
The fact is that they need high expectations set and then given the help they need to meet the expectations.
So about those statistics.
I went to The College Board to look some stuff up.
UCLA: 57% Women, 43% Men
UC Berkeley: 54% Women, 46% Men
Cal State Los Angeles: 57% Women, 43% Men
Cal State Long Beach: 59% Women, 41% Men
Cal State East Bay: 63% Women, 37% Men
Cal State Monterey Bay: 65% Women, 35% Men
Cal State Channel Islands: 71% Women, 29% Men
California Polytechnic State University, Pomona: 43% Women, 57% Men
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo: 48% Women, 52% Men
I look at these statistics and I am happy that we have done a good job of getting more women to college. When I was in high school I was not allowed to take Auto Shop, and our Junior High P.E. classes were segregated. One of the male coaches who taught P.E. treated us with a kind of amused contempt when we attempted stuff more challenging than badminton. "You don't want to mess up your hair," he would say.And there is still a long way to go for girls and science, math, and technology.
I look at these statistics and I am furious. Where are the boys? At what point in their education did they just decide to take themselves out of the college equation?
Is it a decision? What were the adults in their lives doing or not doing to or for them?
Who told them the equivalent of "You don't want to mess up your hair," and why did they believe it?
I don't have the answers I wish I did. Like changing the system, really changing it, so that all kids can move ahead and have options. I'm working on that one, and have been for over twenty years.
One of the answers is to get books into their hands that speak to them.
Boys read. They need books that don't just take them into other worlds--which I love. They need books that help them see and deal with the reality they are living now.
These books need to be written and read and made available in bookstores and classrooms and libraries. Booksellers and teachers and librarians need to know about them.
This is something we can do. I would say that most indie bookstores have a good handle on what boys read, but just yesterday I told a bookseller about OPEN WOUNDS by Joe Lunievicz. Talk about an apt title.
At the local Barnes and Noble I requested that they stock a number of books that were not in the store. They told me they could order them for me. And I said that I wanted my students to be able to walk in and get them and pick them up and see them.
Yes, I begged.
Because at the end of the day this isn't about statistics or The College Board.
It's about lives.