Struggling malesBy Queena N. Lee-Chua
Philippine Daily Inquirer
(First of three parts)
In the first examination taken by my two freshman mathematics classes last month, six times as many men as women did poorly on the test.
Women registered the 10 highest scores, and men the 10 lowest scores. (I did not survey the more than 40 classes that took the exam, but only reviewed results from my own, but I suspect the results for the other groups would be the same.)
When I called attention to this disparity, the women applauded while the men laughed.
In the past years, I have been working with increasingly troubled youth (many of them boys) who have problems with family or romantic relationships.
They seldom communicate with their parents (or, if they do, both sides end up slamming doors, yelling or even hitting each other). They are bitter about breakups, attributing these failures mostly to the other party. Depressed and disillusioned, they cope with problems by drinking to oblivion (and punching the wall) or resorting to aggressive gaming (“to let the stress out”).
Don’t get me wrong. Many of my male students seem to be well-adjusted and content. Most of them, after sufficient guidance and motivation, manage to do well, even excel in class and in life.
I am worried though about the increasing number of troubled male youngsters. “Life sucks,” they say, and they wish their lives are different. Real life, with its uncontrollable ups and downs, seems to be too much to handle.
Demise of guys
These problems have various causes, ranging from abusive or over-pampered childhoods to myriad family pressures stemming from absentee parents or lack of role models.
But now there seems to be another factor. In their highly controversial book, “The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It,” Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo and psychologist Nikita Duncan say today’s young men do not cope well with life because of their addiction to games and porn.
Zimbardo is famous for leading the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, where he discovered that ordinary college students could become extremely violent when asked to play the roles of prison guards.
He has since studied the psychological roots of violence. His 2007 book “The Lucifer Effect” tries to make sense of how “good people can turn evil.”
Now Zimbardo joins the impassioned debate on the pros and cons of video games—landing squarely on the side of the cons.
Figures cited in the book are alarming. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, females outperform males at every level of education, from primary school and middle school all the way to high school, college and graduate school.
Males are 30 percent more likely to drop out than females, and they make up 70 percent of the D’s and F’s given in school. Boys are four to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and more likely to take prescription drugs to make them focus. Boys account for two-thirds of students in special education programs.
In 2011, despite enrichment classes, tiger parents, cram schools, tutorial centers, government rhetoric, and technological advances, the Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of young men were the lowest in 40 years.
The above are mostly figures from the United States, though Zimbardo says “boys, worldwide, are failing in large numbers.” He also tells the Stanford Daily that in 2011, “women got more of every single advanced degree than men around the world, which is unheard of.”
I have not yet come across Philippine national data on gender differences in education, but in our own university, more women than men generally make it to the dean’s list, and more men than women are on academic probation because of problems ranging from lack of focus or motivation to behavioral and emotional problems.
Getting a high
Some years ago, a psychology student of mine confessed to his shocked classmates that he used to be a “gaming addict.” He played online games for six to seven hours a day, racking up higher and higher scores, which gave him a “high.”
Once, at midnight, his heart pounding, palms sweating, eyes dilated, he was “in the zone,” his only objective was to break his own record. Suddenly, “I think I blacked out,” he says. “The next thing I knew it was already morning, I was lying on the floor, and my head was covered in blood.”
In the excitement, a blood vessel burst in his brain. He was rushed to the hospital, giving him the scare of his (and his parents’) life. He lived to tell his tale to friends and withdrew “cold turkey” from video games.
My student was lucky. Others were not, like some Chinese and South Korean men who suffered heart attacks after playing games nonstop for days or weeks. The China Youth Internet Association says 15 percent of urban youth (almost 25 million) are addicted.
Zimbardo says the average American boy plays video games for 13 hours a week, compared with five hours for girls. By age 21, the average male teen will have spent 10,000 hours in cybergaming, which is “twice the time it takes to earn a college degree.”
(To be continued next week)
Catch Philip Zimbardo’s talk at www.ted.com.
E-mail the author at email@example.com.
More from this Column:
- More ways to concentrate on studying
- How to focus while studying
- Gary Granada on social studies
- Challenging our youth
- A day of math champs