Several friends recommended Leonard Sax's Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences to me in quick succession, so I put it on hold at my library. A few months later (apparently many friends are mentioning this book), it came home with me. I read it and then gave it to my eleven year old, who had been interested by all the questions I asked him, testing the book's various theories.
Sax thinks that modern society likes to pretend that males and females are the same, with the differences between the sexes dwarfed by variations within people altogether. He thinks this is wrong, and that pretending it is true serves both boys and girls ill. He is particularly interested in children, both because he was a family doctor and because childhood is when the differences are strongest.
The beginning chapters look at some of these differences, pointing out the different rates of development in both physical and mental maturity for boys and girls, and how little overlap there is between the two. He thinks vision and hearing are dramatically different, and posits that a huge contributor to lower male success in (especially elementary) school is the fact that boy hearing is much less acute than girl. A classroom voice that sounds respectful and calm to a girl will be almost inaudible to a boy. He also points out that eyeballs are very different between the sexes, with motion sensing rods denser in boys while color sensing cones predominate in girls.
Later chapters examine the different social structures boys and girls tend to establish, and how differently they react to problems or even just situations at school and with their peers. I found it all very interesting, although I wish I had more data for this claims about the physical differences. The evidence about the benefit of single sex schools seems powerful. I did find his description of male adolescence very depressing, and I'm really hoping that my sons do not become the horrible people he describes all boys as. I'd hate to think that trust, honor, and moral courage are female-only strengths. I'll have to hope that I did not train them out of all their female-oriented ways (he describes the outlier boys who do not become ravaging hoodlums, and gives advice on how to cure your sons so they can evolve into thugs).
This book gave me a lot to think about, especially when looking at schooling for my sons.