Do Girls' Academic Needs Still Warrant Special Attention?

Nine-year-old Belle Shefrin at a Hillary Clinton campaign rally in Akron, Ohio, on October 3. Mark Perry writes that the latest data show girl students far outperform their male counterparts. Brian Snyder/reuters

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

The College Board

Above is a table summarizing new data just released by the College Board on the academic records of the 1.64 million U.S. high school students who took the SAT in 2016 (see my recent post on gender differences on the SAT math test here).

As you can clearly see, these data provide convincing evidence of the academic superiority of female high school students compared with their male peers based on a variety of measures of academic performance:

  • More girls than boys graduate in the top 10 percent and the second 10 percent of their classes
  • Far more girls than boys have GPAs of A+, A and A-, while far more boys than girls have GPAs of C or below
  • Girls have a higher overall average GPA than boys
  • More girls than boys have completed more than four years of study in every one of six subjects reported
  • More girls than boys have taken high school AP courses and/or honors courses in the six subjects reported

After posting the table on Twitter, I received the following interesting responses:

  • Where's your academic sexism now?
  • Look how successful the feminization of education has been. Go girls!
  • Is this encouraging or discouraging? Do teachers need training in the unique learning needs of boys? Are there unique learning needs of boys?
  • Prima facie evidence of discrimination, am I right?
  • Public schooling is obviously geared towards female traits
  • Except the SAT. Curious, when you test them objectively, the "academically inferior" win
  • When will America face the crisis of bias against males in academia?
  • Obvious sexism, the patriarchy at work
  • The system is absolutely failing an entire generation of boys
  • Maybe we stop talking so much about anti-girl culture?
  • A few years ago, such a thing, reversed, would be hard evidence of institutional sexism against girls. Now, as then, this must be reversed
  • If these numbers were reversed, and girls were lagging so far behind, imagine the reaction

And shouldn't this clear academic superiority of female high school students also challenge the need for hundreds of women's centers and women's commissions on college campuses across the country?

Here's a portion of an email (with the table above) that I sent today to the 100 percent female commissioners of the University of Michigan-Flint's Women Commission, whose mission is to "report on the status and needs of women [only] on campus" and "build a truly welcoming and inclusive community":

The data in the table above are another example of the remarkable and extraordinary academic success of women in America's education system, especially when compared to their male counterparts, and this remarkable female academic superiority and achievement at the high school level obviously carries over to students at the university level who attend institutions like the University of Michigan-Flint.

Given these data and additional overwhelming evidence of the remarkable academic success of women at every education level from high school to doctoral programs, I'm still wondering if there should be some further discussion on our campus on how to reconcile the existence of a Women's Commission (to monitor exclusively the status and needs of women) with the obvious academic superiority of that group compared to their male peers?

If the percentages in the above table were reversed and showed that high school boys were academically superior to high school girls on a variety of measures, then it would make more sense to provide support for female students at UM-Flint with a commission dedicated exclusively to their status and needs.

But given the actual academic superiority of the high school girls who attend UM-Flint (compared to boys), it seems much harder, and much less fair, to mobilize resources on our campus to report on the status and needs of only women on our campus, while neglecting the group that is clearly struggling academically.

I'm not sure the overwhelming evidence of female academic success from high school through doctoral programs will be enough to challenge the existence of gender activism on college campuses and probably won't lead to the elimination of women's centers and women's commissions.

The "female grievance industry" is too entrenched at our universities and in society, and we'll probably never hear about how female academic success represents such an important victory and milestone for women, that the hundreds of university women's centers are no longer needed or justified.

No, instead we'll probably hear for generations about how important it is to monitor and report on the "status and needs of college women," while ignoring the "status and needs" of the "second sex" on college campuses: men.

Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan's Flint campus.