ERIKA SANZI – Standing up for boys

ERIKA SANZI – Standing up for boys

I published a piece in the late afternoon on Presidents Day that resonated with so many readers, it immediately went viral. Messages of “thank you” began rolling in from strangers in the U.S. and abroad.

So what was the topic that prompted such an overwhelming response?

The piece was titled “Stop Lying to Our Sons.” Like so many mothers of boys, I have become increasingly uncomfortable and frustrated in recent years with the lazy and cruel narrative that permeates academia and the larger culture that boys are inherently bad or broken and need to be fixed. The mainstream media has decided that it’s acceptable, virtuous even, to generalize about boys and men as if they are unworthy, expendable and deserving of scorn. Not for their behavior. Not for their character. Just for being male.

Our failure to successfully counter these anti-male attitudes explains, at least in part, the grim truth about school outcomes for boys, especially when compared to the outcomes of girls. But sadly, the narrative of girls as perpetual victims has led to decades of dishonesty and inaction around the crisis facing boys in school. Gov. Raimondo doesn’t even let boys participate in her Governor for a Day Contest!

There was a time when girls trailed boys in math and science and we as a nation rightly deemed that to be unacceptable. Starting in the 1970s, initiatives sprung up all over the place to help girls catch up. And they did. But as girls began improving in math and science, boys were on a steady decline that people either ignored or, worse, scoffed at as “just deserts.”

Boys have trailed girls in reading and writing by double digits for decades and somehow we as a nation have decided we are comfortable with that disparity. In contrast to the massive amounts of money and human capital poured into helping girls catch up in math and science, we see no comparable efforts or investment to help boys catch up.

Rhode Island is no exception. Only 22 percent of our 8th-grade boys read and write on grade level and far more boys than girls earn the lowest possible score on state tests.

As a side note, one of the reasons I was and remain so grateful for Andrew Yang’s voice during the campaign is that he showed the intellectual honesty to repeatedly admit that our schools are not designed to meet the needs of far too many boys — and he acknowledged that the consequences of that have been disastrous. He is the father of two young sons.

In addition to reading and writing, girls outperform boys academically. More girls graduate in the top 10th and second 10th of their classes. They are far more likely to have GPAs equivalent of an A while far more boys than girls have GPAs that equate to a C or below. There are more girls than boys in AP and honors classes. And women currently outpace men in obtaining associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and PhDs.

Boys are more than twice as likely to get suspended from school and almost three times as likely to be expelled. They represent two thirds of the special education population (and almost 80 percent of boys in special ed are black and Hispanic.) Only 10 percent of black boys in the 8th grade read on grade level in America.

So while others make a name for themselves awfulizing males, we moms of boys will tell our sons every single day not to believe the lies. And we will stand up for the countless boys across our nation whose lives are being irrevocably damaged by a culture that tells them they are inherently bad and unworthy of the opportunity to live their best lives.
Erika Sanzi is a former educator and school committee member who writes about education at Project Forever Free and Good School Hunting. Tom Ward is on vacation.


I'm confused. Half of this article "awfulizes" boys. Makes no sense.

Erika, like so many frustrated mothers, sees the inequities boys face. The research supporting Erika's frustrations are overwhelming, but a significant number of resources have been directed at girls issues. Place like and the Global Initiative for Boys and Men ( produce research on this topic. The Boy Crisis by Dr. Warren Farrell, The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff-Sommers and countless other books reveal sound data on the state of boys and men. But the resources to support boys and men is significantly lower. Any mother of sons should become a member of the Global Initiative for Boys and Men; the website will launch this month.