I read this recently and it has been bothering me, so here's my commentary. Let me know if you think it is a worthy trade-off after all.
The idea of a delayed school start—often referred to as “redshirting,” a term borrowed from athletics—got a burst of popular attention in 2008, when Malcolm Gladwell presented evidence in his book Outliers that children older than their classmates do better on academic tests and in life generally.
The value of a later start, which many teachers and administrators call “the gift of time,” is an open secret in elite circles. And it’s a gift overwhelmingly given to boys.
The author's argument is that boys should be held back a year before starting kindergarten because it benefits them in school and through life. And boys need it more than girls simply because they're boys!
The problem is that the studies he cites seem to show that the same "redshirting" strategy also benefits girls (especially poor ones), and of course you can't hold everyone back because then the class would all be the same age.
The article moves weirdly between genderless statements like "public-school kids should have the same opportunities as private-school kids" and research that shows benefits for all kids, but gender neutral from his pen is presumed male by default. So progressive.
This was never the intention, of course. After all, the education system was mostly created by men. The gender bias was just hard to see when girls were discouraged from pursuing higher education and careers. But now that these barriers have been lowered, girls’ advantages in school have become more apparent with every passing year. An unexpected result of feminism has been to reveal the ways in which education is failing boys.
He has this understanding that women and girls were systematically disenfranchised in education until recently, and that the education system was created by men, but still comes to this conclusion.
What is going on here? There are many potential explanations. The feminization of the teaching profession—three out of four K–12 teachers are now women—is not ideal for boys. Neither is the rigid rhythm of the school day, with gym class and recess squeezed out. And the focus on narrow academics rather than vocational learning puts many boys at a disadvantage as well.
The reason little boys wear almost all of the red shirts is not mysterious; the fact that boys mature later than girls is one known to every parent, and certainly to every teacher.
I don't believe that boys mature so much slower than girls, I think boys simply have less expectations placed on them by their families and society, and are also taught less respect for the women taking care of them at a young age. Of course they then don't respect their female teachers, who take the low-paid/prestige jobs teaching them. As a girl, there was no understanding or reward for acting out, and I listened when I was supposed to stop what I was doing to help in the kitchen or in the house. I respected the female teachers I had as much as the male ones because I was also female.
Among many of the parents I know, a shorthand explanation has developed to explain the struggles of an adolescent child to stay on track, especially academically: “He’s a boy.”
The author dismisses the virtues of single sex schooling with a parenthetical when it is clear that female-only schools DO benefit girls quite a bit. But since they don't benefit boys (who do need girls in their schools for proper development) then it isn't worth considering.
Changing the default school-starting age would be much easier, for example, than moving toward single-sex schools, which don’t appear to help boys (or girls) very much in any case, and may introduce social distortions by segregating boys from girls throughout childhood. Boys and girls don’t need to go to different schools, but rather to the same school at different times in their life.
And of course:
There is one major drawback: Delaying school entry would put pressure on parents to provide child care for another year.
Ah yes, more work for the boys' caregivers who he doesn't mention are most likely to be women who wouldn't be privileged in this way in the first place because they were girls.