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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2005

The gender gap

FOR years female college students have outnumbered men on most campuses. Part of the reason can be traced back to elementary and high school, where boys generally lag behind girls in academic performance, honors classes, and graduation. Clearly, efforts to give girls an edge have paid off. But now it's time to push boys ahead.

Programs designed to help girls advance have been worthwhile. There are more women in college, and in northwest Ohio, most high school valedictorians are female. Although more girls graduate, the gap between girls and boys graduating tends to be narrower. But in most area communities, substantially more girls than boys take high school honors classes.

Educators at every level are debating the problem. The professionals are not focusing on whether boys and girls are wired differently or learn differently. They don't want to engage in a controversy like the one that gott Harvard President Lawrence Summers in trouble after he implied that women were not as able as men in math and science.

Some educators' solutions include single-gender school settings. Toledo Public Schools has two such schools: Lincoln is an all boys school, while Stewart is an all girls school.

In colleges nationwide, 56 percent of all undergraduate students are women. At the University of Toledo, that enrollment gap shrinks to three points, but females outnumber males 57 percent to 43 percent at Bowling Green State University.

What's worrisome is not so much that the "brain gap" exists, but its size. There are fears of a future where too many educated women can't find like-minded men to marry, amid an intellectual work force dominated by women.

So far, no college admissions office has announced programs just for males, perhaps aware of the firestorm of political correctness that would bring. Still, in a perfect world, there never would have been a need to zero in on helping either gender develop their potential.

Unfortunately, in education, as in most other facets of modern life, our world is anything but perfect.

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