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Affirmative Action for My Boys

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I like that everyone I work with believes I’m smart (or at least they lie to my face with a warm, friendly smile). The truth is it’s a big ruse. I don't tell them that I got a 660 the first time I took the SAT. I don't tell them I nearly didn’t get into my parents' middle school of choice because, according to the director of admissions, I had "no writing skills." I don't tell them that when I was 13, while sharing what we'd learned in sex education that day, I told my mom that to protect against pregnancy and disease boys had to wear condominiums. I don't like to think of myself a dim bulb-more like an eco-friendly, energy-saving bulb. In any case, I can only imagine that my two boys have at least a sliver of my limited intellect.

So I was happy to see that last week the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights abandoned its investigation into several colleges it believed were discriminating against female applicants in an effort to manage the student body's gender balance. In other words, schools were allegedly admitting more male students and less female students to even out the male/female ratio, in spite of their qualifications. Is this the work of devious, sexist college administrators? Nope. It's actually the work of you overachieving females: Girls are currently responsible for 60 percent of all bachelor's degrees. And the psychology seems to be that once a male high school student sees that a school is 60 percent female, he doesn't think, Awesome! Way more chicks! He thinks, Wait, that's a girl's college. For the college, there goes $100,000 in tuition.

Once you have kids, you become acutely aware of the difference between boys' and girls' intellect. Any expert worth his framed, wall-mounted, impeccably Windex-ed degree will tell you girls develop faster than boys. But I don't need an expert to tell me that. I see it first-hand at my kids' school. Stop by the nameplates at each child's designated spot. You will see the boys' names scribbled and scrabbled using long, wandering lines, as if each name were written by an insane person with the caps lock button on. And then inspect the girls' nameplates: Like the impeccable typography on a Hallmark card.

Here's another reason I don't need an expert to tell me about the difference between boys and girls: I lived it. There I was, the high school senior sitting amidst a bunch of sophomore girls in my Spanish class. As we went through our “soy, eres, es, somos, son,” I must have sounded like Barry White doing a bad Antonio Bandera impersonation alongside the Vienna Boys Choir.

So what if a few boys get a leg up in the admissions process? Over the decades, we have amended the rules for gender, race, background, handicap, age, etc. As a result, the playing field is as even as it's ever been. And now, as we watch that playing field from the skybox, we're noticing that the ones who've arguably had it easiest all along - men - may need a little extra push. Cue the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigation.

Maybe guys are just dumber (I went to a beach crowded with dudes recently. Good lord, you could see the marks in the sand where the knuckles were dragging.) Or maybe we've had it easier all along, and we're just now realizing that we have to try harder. I'm guessing it's a little of both. Because the truth is I am not smart. I've just worked really hard at being not dumb.