I’ve been reading that schools are becoming increasingly feminized and boys are being penalized for normal male behavior.

In 2003, only 65 percent of high school males in the United States graduated, as opposed to 72 percent of the girls. This is a startling statistic that may indicate our young men are losing interest in school.

There’s no doubt that males and females learn differently. When a teacher gives an assignment, a girl is likely to take out her notebook, while a boy will ask, “Why do we have to do this?”

In this way, boys exhibit their “aggressive and rationalist nature,” according to a recent Chicago Sun-Times article. Many teachers are not crazy about male traits that seem to question authority. This may be why boys dominate the ranks of the behavior disordered and special-ed classes.

When I was growing up, it seemed that girls were model citizens, while boys were reprimanded for not staying in their seats, fidgeting and drawing pictures of rocket ships. If they had Ritalin back then, half the boys would have been taking large doses.

Having coached both boys’ and girls’ athletics, I can say definitively that there are behavioral differences between the sexes. Girls tend to take instruction well, while boys are more likely to be “know-it-alls.” The boy will miss a ground ball because he refuses to use proper technique. The girl will miss a ball because she’s having a personal feud with the pitcher.

Boys and girls have different approaches to learning, and the schools themselves are becoming female-dominated institutions. There is a national shortage of male teachers at the elementary level. It makes a huge difference for young men when they are taught by a man they literally and figuratively look up to.

It’s not just in school that the male image takes a beating. On TV shows and in movies, the “idiot dad” is a stock figure. Portrayals of good fathers are so rare that those characters burn themselves into our memory-men like Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The typical TV dad is out of touch with his family, oblivious to his surroundings and can’t perform the simplest household tasks. It’s a wonder the guy can find his way to the office.

When the male lead isn’t a father, they tend to be overgrown adolescents. That’s the other stock male character-the frat boy who refuses to grow up. I don’t know who boys are looking up to these days but I hope it’s not 30-year-olds crushing beer cans on their skulls.

When I was a kid, we were hero-worshipers. We read books about our favorite athletes, wanted to be war heroes and admired the tough guys who dominated the movie screens. Many of our fathers worked hard without complaining-we wanted to be like them, too. They weren’t idiot dads. They knew everything.

These social and educational factors begin to erode the positive male image at a very early age. I hope this feminization isn’t occurring in our local schools. It’s tough enough being a boy, without being punished for it.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.