Top critical review
It's more oppinion than science, which is a let down
on April 18, 2016
Fans of Ray Comfort's "You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can't Make Him Think" will probably also enjoy "The War against Boys" by C.H. Sommers. I say this, because despite promises of an intellectually stimulating read, the book is rife with disappointing amounts of pandering to it's key audience. I have never felt like an author thought that their reader was so intellectually challenged, so much so when I was reading this. I was looking forward to this read, and did finish it, but was quite put off by the overall pettiness, and blatant intellectual dishonesty throughout the book. I enjoy a very balanced, and neutral narrative, you won't find that here. I don't expect, or want needless pandering, or gentleness when arguing against invalid points, or narratives that we have in society, but I really do expect that academics will author books with a more reasonable methodology. I want a book that when shredding through dogma, does so with cold, hard facts. There should be no leaps in logic, no anecdotes, no bizarre "gotcha!" moments. When I read a book that's goal is to debunk rhetoric, I want the author to be writing the book as if it is going to be peer reviewed, cited, and used as an authority on the matter. If you were expecting that of Sommers' "the War against Boys" you will be as disappointed as I am. In her narrative against two prime child psychologists, she sets an arbitrary bar of high standard for their research, yet does not adhere to her own standards herself. This really struck me, being that she herself works at a university. I can't imagine trying to push a review paper through with such a unbalanced narrative. Yes, she's not trying to publish a paper through peer review, but she's still a degree holder who works for a university. This is not her first time writing.
Sometimes there are times when specific individuals within a community need to be taken to task for poor science, this isn't the case here. More or less, "the War against Boys" comes off as one person making anecdotal attacks on two predominant child psychologists that she clearly has personal issues with. This book is less about debunking junk science using recent unbiased evidence, and more about mud slinging using personal anecdotes and plenty of "resources" that I was unable to find in the foot notes. I would have very much liked to read many of the studies that she had claimed to have extracted data from, as they did seem very interesting and contrary to recent general consensus in the fields of child developmental psychology, however, they were no where to be found for the most part in her foot notes. Or, Sommers straight up misrepresented the data that she was citing which was quite frankly bizarre.
Sommers at one point in this book, actually claims that because of Feminism, we are seeing more female teachers in the work force. She claims that the rise of early education is now dominated by female teachers who unfairly structure their classrooms, and attention towards girls. She claims that more male teachers need to be in the classroom to provide good role models for boys. At face value, and without taking a moment to think, this sounds valid. However, taking that moment to think, it is clear to see that such an assertion is a blatant lie. This is the major reason I give this book 1 star. I could get through the pettiness of her narrative. Lord knows that Dawkins' books are loaded with such pettiness but at least he backs up his statements with solid evidence, and can still be a good read. Sommers however, seems to expect her readers to forget about the simple fact that one room school houses that predate the rise of Feminism in North America were almost always headed by female teachers, and nuns.
Teaching early education has almost always been a female dominated profession, and the amount of nuns in classrooms, or women who signed contracts promising to stay unmarried during their time holding teaching positions didn't seem to damage the education prospects of our grandfathers, and great-grandfathers. A quick google search of "one room school house" will yield photo upon photo of classrooms lead by women.
I am giving Sommers 1 star for this book, because I don't believe that at her age, this fact escapes her. Rather, I believe that she is being fundamentally intellectually dishonest and is hoping that her readers are not intelligent enough to know better. Why? Because it makes her money, much like how Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron know very well that "crocoduck" is not how evolution claims to work, however, claiming that that is what Evolutionists claim will make them money by pandering to Creationists. I do not like being pandered to, I want facts and information, not lies. What use are lies to me? They do not further my knowledge, they do not help solve the problem with what is happening to our boys.
Rather it feels as though Sommers is using boys as an emotion tool to write a book about a controversial topic, and blame it on a group she seems to have a personal issue with, ie) The American Association of University Women.
I believe that she is right about schools decreasing recess, and still expecting boys to stay still and listen are being foolish if they think that isn't damaging boy's education. However, the claim that this is somehow to favor girls is a major logical leap. Sommers does not compare North American education, to say Asian countries (Korea, Japan, China ect.), where they have short recess, longer school hours, nightschool, longer school years, homework packages during summer, and teachers that are almost exclusively female.
However, any comparison that she even eludes to may have well have been non-existent. Her leaps in logic are astounding, and it's really disappointing. Most of the issues that she brings up that are detrimental to boys, she claims as proof that schools are trying to "feminize" boys because of feminist theory. But these assertions just don't hold water, and it's disappointing because at face value, it sounds like an interesting argument. However, reading this book with a logical mind, it just ends up sounding silly because she never actually ends up proving any of it. She simply states it to be fact. She's saying that because she apparently she thinks her audience wants to hear that feminists are at fault, instead of get down to the bottom of what is happening to our boys.
Recess isn't being shortened because of some feminist conspiracy to harm male education. It's being shortened because Western education systems take more time off than other places in the world. Korean, and Japanese boys are still out preforming our boys, so why isn't that something that makes up a majority of the book? Western recess is being cut because the amount of materials that kids have to cover today is increasing year by year, like the inclusion of "common core" math skills to the curriculum. Not because of the AAUW.
All in all, I just really wish that this was a low bias, no nonsense, 100% science based, anecdote free examination of the current education system we have in place, and why boys are falling behind. Rather, it comes off as an author using a bad situation, and a vulnerable group to trigger an emotional response so that she can use them as tools to mudsling at her opponents. Little thought seems to have been put into actually fixing the situation, or helping our boys, which is a damn shame.
All in all, she does hit some valid points, but after sludging through this, it more or less comes off as broken clock syndrome. I would not suggest this read, however, many of my complaints are coming from a scientific perspective. I acknowledge it may be unfair to expect someone who's degree is in philosophy to have scientific literacy, or write in scientific context when it comes to addressing issues.
C.H. Sommers has just simply written an extended opinion essay, not a scientific paper up for peer review, so I acknowledge that part of my disappointment in this book's short comings in terms of academia does fall on me for holding expectations too high for it in the first place.