Leonard Sax is an American psychologist and a practicing family physician. He is best known as the author of three books for parents: Boys Adrift, Girls on the Edge, and Why Gender Matters. According to his web site, he is currently employed as a physician at a healthcare facility in Chester County Pennsylvania, where he also resides.
Sax's views on gender differences have been controversial.
Sax graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in biology. He completed the combined M.D.-Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania in 1986. His Ph.D. is in psychology. He completed the 3-year residency in family practice at Lancaster General Hospital in 1989. In 1990, he founded Poolesville Family Practice, a primary care practice in Montgomery County, Maryland. He began an extended sabbatical from medical practice in June 2008. In December 2013, he returned to full-time clinical practice as an employee of Lancaster General Health.
Sax's views on gender
Sax's work has attracted most attention, positive and negative, for his views on gender. Broadly, he supports the notion of innate differences between the sexes, and advocates parenting children differently based on their gender. A 7 March 2005, cover story for Time Magazine included this statement:
"Until recently, there have been two groups of people: those who argue sex differences are innate and should be embraced and those who insist that they are learned and should be eliminated by changing the environment. Sax is one of the few in the middle – convinced that boys and girls are innately different and that we must change the environment so differences don't become limitations."
On his web site, Sax says that he wrote Boys Adrift and Girls on the Edge because he is concerned about
"... a growing proportion of girls who are anxious, depressed, and tired; girls who can tell you a great deal about what they do but not so much about who they are. Likewise, we find a growing proportion of boys who are disengaged not only from school but from the real world. Those boys are comfortable in the virtual world, where they play their online video games, and/or surf the net for photographs of girls."
Why Gender Matters (2005 edition)
Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics and computer science at the University of Pennsylvania, questioned on his blog, Language Log, many of the claims which Sax made in his first book Why Gender Matters. Liberman asserted that there were serious problems with Sax's claims about sex differences in hearing, vision, and connections between emotions and language. Sax wrote to Liberman, and, receiving no reply, in October 2010 on the website of Why Gender Matters, Sax acknowledged that points in his book were "out-of-date or inaccurate" and that his work, which was initially published in 2005, has been clarified by studies published by third parties in 2007 and 2009. He now provides updated references to scholarly papers on these three issues and he "expanded, updated, and corrected" the discussion of sex differences in hearing with a new article, "Sex Differences in Hearing", in October 2010; and the discussion of sex differences in vision is updated in Chapter 5 of his book Girls on the Edge. Sax provides a detailed refutation of Liberman and other critics in two appendices to the 2017 edition of Why Gender Matters, titled "Sex Differences in Hearing" and "Sex Differences in Vision."
Boys Adrift (2007 edition)
Dr. Sax's second book, Boys Adrift, was reviewed by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in December 2007. According to the review, Boys Adrift is "powerfully and persuasively presented", and provides "excellent and informative references and information". The review concludes that
"Boys Adrift is at its strongest in providing practical advice to parents about how to increase their sons' academic motivation; how to set appropriate limits on video game use; and how to protect their sons from the potential harm of psychotropic medications and environmental estrogens. Boys Adrift is at its weakest in supporting the thesis that there is an epidemic of unmotivated and underachieving young men."
Girls on the Edge
Dr. Sax's third book Girls on the Edge was reviewed by Library Journal which called the book "... essential reading for parents and teachers, and one of the most thought-provoking books on teen development available.” Mark Bauerlein, professor at Emory University, reviewed Girls on the Edge for the Chronicle of Higher Education and called it "crucial" and said that "Parents of ‘tween’ and teen girls would do well to check this book." Booklist called Girls on the Edge "persuasive, often fascinating ... a holistic, sobering call to help the current generation of young women develop the support and sense of self that will allow them to grow into resilient adults.” According to a January 2011 review in the Atlantic magazine, Girls on the Edge is "... the best book about the current state of girls and young women in America."
Single-Sex Education Advocacy
Sax's advocacy of single-sex public education has also attracted criticism. In 2008, The New York Times Magazine published a lengthy piece written by freelancer Elizabeth Weil, about half of which is about Sax (the other half is about single-sex education at, for example, the Young Women’s Leadership School in Harlem, New York City). The article asserts that "many academics and progressives tend to find Sax’s views stereotyped and infuriating". The article cites criticism by Michael Younger of the University of Cambridge as well as by Liberman. Sax responded on the NASSPE website that Weil's article is "awash in misrepresentations and distortions".
Sax' advocacy of single-sex education was also criticized in an article "The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling" by Diane F. Halpern and others.
National and international media
Sax has contributed articles and made appearances in the popular media in a number of English-speaking countries. In the United States, Sax was a guest on the Today show during February 2005 and July 2007. Matt Lauer interviewed Sax about the controversy surrounding boys' achievement, which was the topic of the cover story in Time that week. Al Roker interviewed Sax about his book Why Gender Matters. In Canada, Sax was a guest in the Toronto studio of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for an interview broadcast nationwide in January 2008. In Australia, Sax was a guest in the studio for the Today Show, interviewed by Jessica Rowe. In New Zealand, Sax was a studio guest of New Zealand's Channel One in May 2008 for a discussion of single-sex public education. In the United Kingdom, Sax was the subject of a full-page feature article in The Times, and was also featured in an article which appeared in the Daily Mail during January 2008.
In May 2010, Sax was a guest on CNN's American Morning, discussing his book Girls on the Edge and some of the challenges facing girls in the era of texting and Facebook. He returned as a guest on national television in New Zealand in August that year, discussing the girl-specific challenges of 'the cyberbubble'. He was again a guest on CNN's American Morning during the same month, discussing recent research suggesting that ADHD is over-diagnosed in American schoolchildren.
- "Child psychiatry is sick with hidden conflicts of interest" New York Daily News December 14, 2008.
- "The boy problem: why so many boys think reading is stupid and school stinks" School Library Journal September 1, 2007.
- "Single-sex education: Separate but better?" Philadelphia Daily News, March 1, 2006.
- "The Promise and the Peril of Single-Sex PUBLIC Education". Education Week, March 2, 2005, pp. 48, 34, 35.
- "Too Few Women: Figure It Out". Los Angeles Times, January 23, 2005, p. M5.
- "Teens Will Speed. Let's Watch Them Do It". The Washington Post, November 28, 2004, p. B8.
- "The Odd Couple: Hillary Clinton & Kay Bailey Hutchison". The Women's Quarterly [the journal of the Independent Women's Forum], Summer 2002, pp. 14–16.
- "Single Sex Education: Ready for Prime Time?" The World & I, August 2002, pp. 257–269.
- "Rethinking Title IX" The Washington Times, July 2, 2001, p. A17.
- "Ritalin: Better living through chemistry?" The World & I, November 2000, 287-299.
- "Polyethylene terephthalate may yield endocrine disruptors." Environmental Health Perspectives, published April 2010, full text available online at NIH/NIEHS website.
- "Six Degrees of Separation: what teachers need to know about the emerging science of sex differences". Educational Horizons, Spring 2006, pp. 190–200.
- "The Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD in Women". The Female Patient 29 (2004): 29-34.
- "Dietary Phosphorus Is Toxic for Girls But Not for Boys". In Victor Preedy (ed.) Annual Reviews in Food & Nutrition London, UK: Taylor & Francis Publishers, 2003, pp. 158–168.
- "Who First Suggests the Diagnosis of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? A survey of primary-care pediatricians, family physicians, and child psychiatrists". Annals of Family Medicine 1 (2003): 171-174. [With Kathleen J. Kautz]
- "What Was the Cause of Nietzsche's Dementia?" Journal of Medical Biography 11 (2003): 47-54.
- "How Common Is Intersex?" Journal of Sex Research 39 (2002): 174-178.
- "Maybe Men and Women Are Different". American Psychologist July (2002): 444-445.
- "The Institute of Medicine's "Dietary Reference Intake" for Phosphorus: a critical perspective". Journal of the American College of Nutrition 20 (2001): 271-278.
- "Reclaiming Kindergarten: making kindergarten less harmful to boys". Psychology of Men and Masculinity 2 (2001): 3-12.
- "Characteristics of spatiotemporal integration in the priming and rewarding effects of medial forebrain bundle stimulation". Behavioral Neuroscience 105 (1991): 884-900. [With C. R. Gallistel]
- "Temporal integration in self-stimulation: a paradox". Behavioral Neuroscience 98 (1984): 467-468.
- "About Leonard Sax MD PhD". Leonardsax.com. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- "More schools separate boys and girls". KABC. ABC. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "Leonard Sax MD PhD". Leonardsax.com. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
- "LG Health Welcomes Eight New Physicians". Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- Ripley, Amanda (2005-02-27). "Who Says A Woman Can't Be Einstein?". Time. Time.com. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "About Leonard Sax MD PhD". Leonardsax.com. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- Cordelia, Fine (October 2, 2010). "Delusions of Gender". Retrieved 17 February 2013.
- Liberman, Mark (2008-08-10). "Interview: The new fashion for biological determinism". Language Log. Itre.cis.upenn.edu. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- Liberman, Mark. "Liberman on Sax on Liberman on Sax on hearing". Language Log. Languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu. University of Pennsylvania.
- Liberman, Mark. "Retinal sex and sexual rhetoric". Language Log. Languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu. University of Pennsylvania.
- Liberman, Mark (2006-06-24). "Are men emotional children?". Language Log. Itre.cis.upenn.edu. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "Correspondence". NASSPE via Internet Archive. 10 March 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-03-10. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
- "Updates and Corrections to Why Gender Matters". Leonard Sax. 11 May 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
- "Why Gender Matters". Why Gender Matters. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- Sax, Leonard (2010). "Sex Differences in Hearing" (PDF). Advances in Gender and Education. Montgomery Center for Research in Child & Adolescent Development. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
- David Brooks. "The Gender Gap at School". Opinion. New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- Lyon, M. E. (12 December 2007). "Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men". Book Review. Journal of the American Medical Association. 298 (22): 2684. doi:10.1001/jama.298.22.2684. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- ASIN 0465015611
- Bauerlein, Mark (2010-04-30). "Leonard Sax and the Girl Problem". Brainstorm. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Chronicle.com. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- Leonard, Sax (2010-04-27). Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls. Books / posted book reviews. Amazon.com. Amazon.com. ASIN 0465015611. ISBN 9780465015610.
- Cohen, Andrew (2011-01-04). "The Hazards of Duke - Caitlin Flanagan". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- Weil, Elizabeth (2008-03-02). "Single-Sex Public Education". Children and Youth - Schools - Gender. New York Times. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- Leonard, Sax. "New York Times article full of "distortions and misrepresentations"". Singlesexschools.org. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- Halpern, Diane; Lise Eliot; Rebecca S. Bigler; Richard A. Fabes; Laura D. Hanish; Janet Hyde; Lynn S. Liben; Carol Lynn Martin (September 2011). "The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling". Science. 333 (6050): 1706–1707. doi:10.1126/science.1205031. PMID 21940879.
- "Boys Adrift". Boysadrift.com. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "Why Gender Matters". Whygendermatters.com. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "CBC Radio | The Current | Whole Show Blow-by-Blow". Cbc.ca. Archived from the original on 2008-07-30. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "Single-sex schools - ninemsn Video". Video.msn.com. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "Monday May 5, 2008 | BREAKFAST". Tvnz.co.nz. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- Frean, Alexandra (2008-01-23). "Boys, brains and toxic lessons - Times Online". London: Timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "Boys need to be taught separately from the age of five, says expert | Mail Online". London: Dailymail.co.uk. 2008-01-23. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "Monday May 10, 2010 | American Morning". Amfix.blogs.cnn.com. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- "Friday August 6, 2010 | BREAKFAST". Tvnz.co.nz. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- "Friday August 20, 2010 | American Morning". Amfix.blogs.cnn.com. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- Sax, Leonard (2009). "Polyethylene Terephthalate May Yield Endocrine Disruptors" (free access). Environmental Health Perspectives. 118 (4): 445–8. doi:10.1289/ehp.0901253. PMC . PMID 20368129.