After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in biology, Dr. Leonard Sax began the combined M.D.-Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from Penn in 1986 with a Ph.D. in psychology and the M.D. degree. He went on to do a 3-year residency in family practice at Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Since completing that residency in 1989, he has been in full-time clinical practice as a family physician. In 1990, he launched a practice in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, about 30 minutes northwest of the District of Columbia. He's been there ever since.
Dr. Sax enjoys a unique perspective on children. As a Ph.D. psychologist, he is familiar with the academic literature on child development. In fact, he has continued to publish scholarly papers since starting his practice. But he is no ivory-tower academic. Instead, as a family physician, he has an unusually intimate relationship with about 2,000 children (his total practice includes over 5,000 active patients).
Because he is both a family physician and a research psychologist, Dr. Sax has attracted many families with "problem children" to his practice. Over the years the word has spread, so that now Dr. Sax's practice includes many children with a variety of psychological problems -- as well as a healthy share of perfectly normal kids and high-achieving kids. Unlike most other experts writing on child development, Dr. Sax has experience with kids from every segment of society and every kind of classroom: straight-A students from elite private schools in Bethesda and Potomac, as well as kids struggling with remedial reading in the public school system.
Dr. Sax's unusual background -- being both a family physician (M.D.), as well as a Ph.D. psychologist -- has led him to recognize the importance of gender differences in how children learn, and to a belief that those gender differences are neglected or minimized in American public schools. Here's one example he often cites:
Consider the typical first- or second-grade classroom. Imagine Justin, six years old, sitting at the back of the class. The teacher (a woman) is speaking in a tone of voice which seems normal to her. Justin, however, barely hears her. Instead, he's staring out the window, or looking at a fly on the ceiling. The teacher recognizes that Justin isn't paying attention. Justin is demonstrating a deficit of attention. The teacher may reasonably wonder whether Justin perhaps has attention deficit disorder.
That's actually one avenue which led to my interest in this topic, about ten years ago. I saw this parade of 6- and 7-year-old boys being marched into my office, with Mom clutching a note from the school which read: "Please evaluate Justin for ADD. Would he benefit from medication?" After evaluating such a boy, I found in some cases that the problem was not so much with the boy, but with the school...specifically, with the school's failure to recognize the differences in the auditory acuity of boys and girls, and the school's failure to recognize the differences in the developmental timetables of boys and girls.
Ian spoke with psychologist Dr. Leonard Sax, who discussed the various factors contributing to the steady decline of performance, ambition, and fertility in America's boys and young men. Sperm counts and testosterone levels of young men in the United States have declined substantially over the past 50 years, Sax reported. Environmental estrogens from clear plastic-bottled drinks may be partially to blame. According to Sax, consuming only two bottles of water provides about the same amount of estrogen as found in a birth control pill. The elevated estrogen intake may be lowering testosterone levels in men, causing them to lose motivation to do anything, Sax added.To make matters worse, boys are no longer allowed to be boys at school, he said. 'Violent' masculine activities such as dodge ball and snowball fights are prohibited at many schools, Sax pointed out, noting that boys are encouraged to "be more like girls." Typical male conduct at school is often altered with beh ... More »Host: Ian Punnett