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"What schools can do to help boys succeed"

Posted by on Oct. 28, 2013 at 4:27 PM
  • 39 Replies
1 mom liked this

Being a boy can be a serious liability in today’s classroom. As a group, boys are noisy, rowdy and hard to manage. Many are messy, disorganized and won’t sit still. Young male rambunctiousness, according to a recent study, leads teachers to underestimate their intellectual and academic abilities. “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools,” says psychologist Michael Thompson. “Boys are treated like defective girls.”

(MORE: Boys Love Making Rainbow Loom Bracelets, Defying Stereotype and Delighting Moms Everywhere)

These “defective girls” are not faring well academically. Compared with girls, boys earn lower grades, win fewer honors and are less likely to go to college. One education expert has quipped that, if current trends continue, the last male will graduate from college in 2068. In today’s knowledge-based economy, success in the classroom has never been more crucial to a young person’s life prospects. Women are adapting; men are not.

Some may say, “Too bad for the boys.” The ability to regulate one’s impulses, sit still and pay attention are building blocks of success in school and in life. As one critic told me, the classroom is no more rigged against boys than workplaces are rigged against lazy or unfocused workers. That is absurd: unproductive workers are adults — not 5- and 6-year-old children who depend on us to learn how to become adults. If boys are restive and unfocused, we must look for ways to help them do better.


Here are three modest proposals for reform:

1. Bring Back Recess
Schools everywhere have cut back on breaks. Recess, in many schools, may soon be a thing of the past. According to a research summary by Science Daily, since the 1970s, schoolchildren have lost close to 50% of their unstructured outdoor playtime. Thirty-nine percent of first-graders today get 20 minutes of recess each day — or less. (By contrast, children in Japan get 10 minutes of play each hour.)

Prolonged confinement in classrooms diminishes children’s concentration and leads to squirming and restlessness. And boys appear to be more seriously affected by recess deprivation than girls. “Parents should be aware,” warn two university researchers, “that classroom organization may be responsible for their sons’ inattention and fidgeting and that breaks may be a better remedy than Ritalin.”

(MORE: Do Teachers Really Discriminate Against Boys?)

2. Turn Boys Into Readers
A few years ago, the novelist Ian McEwan found he had many duplicate books in his library. So he and his son went to a nearby park during the lunch hour and tried to give them away. Young women eagerly accepted them. The guys, says McEwan, “frowned in suspicion, or distaste. When they were assured they would not have to part with their money, they still could not be persuaded. ‘Nah, nah. Not for me.’”

“Not for me,” is a common male reaction to reading, and it shows up in test scores. Year after year, in all age groups, across all ethnic lines, in every state in the union, boys score lower than girls on national reading tests. Good reading skills are — need I say? — critical to academic and workplace success. The British, faced with a similar literacy gap, launched a national campaign to engage boys with the written word.

In a major report released last year by the British Parliament’s Boys’ Reading Commission, the authors openly acknowledge sex differences and use a color-coded chart to illustrate boys’ and girls’ different reading preferences: girls prefer fiction, magazines, blogs and poetry; boys like comics, nonfiction and newspapers.

It is hard to imagine the U.S. Department of Education producing such a report. So far, the plight of boys is nowhere on its agenda. But if American parents and educators adopted the British commission’s top three recommendations, it is likely we would significantly narrow the gender gap in reading:

  • Every teacher should have an up-to-date knowledge of reading materials that will appeal to disengaged boys.
  • Every boy should have weekly support from a male reading role model.
  • Parents need access to information on how successful schools are in supporting boys’ literacy.

Boys will read when they find material they like. Guysread.com is the place to go for lists of books that have proved irresistible to boys.

(MORE: When Homework Is a Waste of Time)

3. Work With the Young Male Imagination
In his delightful Boy Writers: Reclaiming their Voices, the celebrated author and writing instructor Ralph Fletcher advises teachers to consider their assignments from the point of view of boys. Too many writing teachers, he says, take the “confessional poet” as the classroom ideal. Personal narratives full of emotion and self-disclosure are prized; stories describing video games, skateboard competitions or a monster devouring a city are not.

Peg Tyre’s The Trouble With Boys illustrates the point. She tells the story of a third-grader in Southern California named Justin who loved Star Wars, pirates, wars and weapons. An alarmed teacher summoned his parents to school to discuss a picture the 8-year-old had drawn of a sword fight — which included several decapitated heads. The teacher expressed “concern” about Justin’s “values.” The father, astonished by the teacher’s repugnance for a typical boy drawing, wondered if his son could ever win the approval of someone who had so little sympathy for the child’s imagination.

Teachers have to come to terms with the young male spirit. As Fletcher urges, if we want boys to flourish, we are going to have to encourage their distinctive reading, writing, drawing and even joke-telling propensities. Along with personal “reflection journals,” Fletcher suggests teachers permit fantasy, horror, spoofs, humor, war, conflict and, yes, even lurid sword fights.

If boys are constantly subject to disapproval for their interests and enthusiasms, they are likely to become disengaged and lag further behind. Our schools need to work with, not against, the kinetic imaginations of boys to move them toward becoming educated young men.


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by on Oct. 28, 2013 at 4:27 PM
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Replies (1-10):
canadianmom1974
by Gold Member on Oct. 28, 2013 at 4:39 PM
1 mom liked this
I don't know if my boys have just had wonderful teachers, or if the school system here is already doing these things, or if its that we've been lucky enough to foster those things in our boys, but the things discussed in this article have not been remotely what we - and all the boys we know - experienced.

Recess, aka lots of physical activity, a love of reading, even though their dad is not really a reader, and encouraging imagination and imaginative play, seems like common sense to me.
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sweet-a-kins
by Emerald Member on Oct. 28, 2013 at 4:41 PM
2 moms liked this
Articles like this are more of blaming society for boys not excelling as they have for hundreds of years

The reason for make dominance until now (in the classroom) was systematic oppression of girls

Now that is being removed and boys aren't keeping pace so excuses are being made.

And that is precisely why they are lagging. "Man up" so to speak and stop asking mommy for help.

Parents get control of your kids behavior - sons included.

Recess? Majority of schools have recess until middle school where they have gym and sports options.

You sons aren't not going to college because they didnt get a 15 minute recess....they are not expected to control themselves as girls are....so they don't

When you set the expectation., they achieve fine

I have a very active 8 year old son

He plays football and baseball outside of school. He runs non stop When home he even eats most of the time while standing at the dinner table....he doesn't do any of that at school because I will not accept it and neither will his school

They get a 15 minute morning recess as a 20 minute afternoon recess. That's fine but it won't make or break his academics - that comes from home
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lga1965
by on Oct. 28, 2013 at 4:44 PM
I haven't noticed that boys are lagging behind either. I think this article is stereotyping them and it's sexist.

Quoting canadianmom1974:

I don't know if my boys have just had wonderful teachers, or if the school system here is already doing these things, or if its that we've been lucky enough to foster those things in our boys, but the things discussed in this article have not been remotely what we - and all the boys we know - experienced.



Recess, aka lots of physical activity, a love of reading, even though their dad is not really a reader, and encouraging imagination and imaginative play, seems like common sense to me.
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SewingMamaLele
by Leanne on Oct. 28, 2013 at 4:47 PM


Quoting canadianmom1974:

I don't know if my boys have just had wonderful teachers, or if the school system here is already doing these things, or if its that we've been lucky enough to foster those things in our boys, but the things discussed in this article have not been remotely what we - and all the boys we know - experienced.

Recess, aka lots of physical activity, a love of reading, even though their dad is not really a reader, and encouraging imagination and imaginative play, seems like common sense to me.

Both of my boys are also very calm and focused.   I tend to think it's because I'm a very calm person and it takes a lot to stress me out, or get me agitated, and that rubs off... BUT, I see in the other boys at school that are already labeled as "trouble makers" and I think it can definitely be detrimental to them in the long run to constantly be nagged at just for being who they are.   They begin to figure they're no good at this school stuff anyway, so why bother?   I think schools need to work towards meeting the needs of ALL students, instead of expecting ALL students to fit into the same mould. 

As adults we're not all the same... people choose their careers based on their skills, aptitudes and natural state of being (when they have the option to, that is)... so, why should schools expect all kids to fit the same mould?

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SewingMamaLele
by Leanne on Oct. 28, 2013 at 4:54 PM
1 mom liked this


Quoting sweet-a-kins:

Articles like this are more of blaming society for boys not excelling as they have for hundreds of years

The reason for make dominance until now (in the classroom) was systematic oppression of girls

Now that is being removed and boys aren't keeping pace so excuses are being made.

And that is precisely why they are lagging. "Man up" so to speak and stop asking mommy for help.

Parents get control of your kids behavior - sons included.

Recess? Majority of schools have recess until middle school where they have gym and sports options.

You sons aren't not going to college because they didnt get a 15 minute recess....they are not expected to control themselves as girls are....so they don't

When you set the expectation., they achieve fine

I have a very active 8 year old son

He plays football and baseball outside of school. He runs non stop When home he even eats most of the time while standing at the dinner table....he doesn't do any of that at school because I will not accept it and neither will his school

They get a 15 minute morning recess as a 20 minute afternoon recess. That's fine but it won't make or break his academics - that comes from home

I don't see it as an excuse, I see it as acknowledging the differences between boys and girls.   It's not that girls are expected to "control themselves", it's a more natural state of being for them.   My son is 7, and I watch him and his friends playing together... the girls group together on the play equipment to talk, or play more solitary games, while the boys make up their own baseball game and run all over the place.   My son spends a fair amount of time with each group (when he can find girls willing to play with him)... but the differences certainly appear innate to me (granted, I am no expert).

I do agree that sports and other afterschool activities are really important to get that energy out... but, time for those activities are even more limited by homework.   I can see how certain kids need more active playtime in order to have enough focus during the schoolday.

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beesbad
by Bronze Member on Oct. 28, 2013 at 5:02 PM

I have both boys and a girl and I think this article raises some good points. Generally speaking there are differences in the learning styles of boys and girls that should be considered. Being aware of the differences in styles and researching those differences isn't sexist. Again, I'm speaking generally - I know people have other experiences or opposite experiences but that doesn't negate the studies.

In the first grade school my youngest son attended there was no problem, in the second there was a definite bias against boys by a few of the teachers. He ended up attending an all-boys high school and it was great. Without girls around there was a lot less male agression and posturing and he was able to concentrate on the books instead of the girls. There was an all girls sister school so they got plenty of opportunities to socialize - just not in the classroom. The girls school offered the same benefits of a single-sex classroom and both schools are known for their high academic excellence.


OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Oct. 28, 2013 at 5:14 PM
2 moms liked this

 I don't buy that schools aren't doing what needs to be done to help boys succeed.  They have recess in Elementary school and PE in MIddle and High schools.  They have reading material on different subjects readily available. 

IMO, if parents are actively involved with their children's education they will do just fine, whether that child is male or female.  An active parent will recognize their child's interests and use those interests to find tools to help their child learn. 

momtoscott
by Platinum Member on Oct. 28, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Not very many schools have eliminated recess at the elementary levels, which is when boys most need it.  

Most schools regularly assign reading homework to boys as well as girls.  It's the parents' responsibility to make sure the boy actually read.  I really doubt boys need a male role model to be motivated to read.     

Most elementary schools, in addition to providing lots of different kinds of writing assignments, have  kids write daily in journals, no limits on content, which allows boys to exercise their "male imaginations."    

I agree that now that girls have the same access to schooling as boys do, they have proved that women are more suited to excel under the standard model of education--which, I should note, was developed by and for males.  

Two suggestions: send boys to an all-boys school, where they can compete with one another and not have girls pulling the curve up too high, or delay boys' education for two to three years behind girls, so that boys will be more ready to learn.  

beesbad
by Bronze Member on Oct. 28, 2013 at 5:57 PM

Why don't we focus on meeting the needs of all our children, boys and girls, rather than having the attitude that girls are smarter and more capable than boys? It was pretty crappy when that attitude was applied to girls and no less crappy when it is applied to boys. When it was found that girls were behind boys in Math and Science the issue was successfully adressed - why not do the same for boys?

Here is an article from 2009 that addresses this very issue :

Feminization of Schools

stringtheory
by Gold Member on Oct. 28, 2013 at 6:12 PM
My dh has been a work at home/stay at home dad for six years. My dd's behavior reflects this. When she is not calm and focused, she is considered a troublemaker, where boys acting the same way were "just being boys." She was singled out in two grades in elementary for this, when boys were not. I witnessed this with my own ears and eyes and had it confirmed by a fellow parent. I reiterate, BOYS were allowed to get away with the same behavior. She did need to correct a fraction of this, but I can see now where the differences between men and women's assertiveness begins. My dd will have very valuable skills for adulthood that women have notably lacked (aggressive ambition, negotiation, assertiveness that gets praised in men and earns women the label "bi!#h). I do see girls excelling over boys in many areas in grade school these days. I dont believe it is due to bias favoring either gender.

Quoting SewingMamaLele:


Quoting canadianmom1974:

I don't know if my boys have just had wonderful teachers, or if the school system here is already doing these things, or if its that we've been lucky enough to foster those things in our boys, but the things discussed in this article have not been remotely what we - and all the boys we know - experienced.



Recess, aka lots of physical activity, a love of reading, even though their dad is not really a reader, and encouraging imagination and imaginative play, seems like common sense to me.

Both of my boys are also very calm and focused.   I tend to think it's because I'm a very calm person and it takes a lot to stress me out, or get me agitated, and that rubs off... BUT, I see in the other boys at school that are already labeled as "trouble makers" and I think it can definitely be detrimental to them in the long run to constantly be nagged at just for being who they are.   They begin to figure they're no good at this school stuff anyway, so why bother?   I think schools need to work towards meeting the needs of ALL students, instead of expecting ALL students to fit into the same mould. 

As adults we're not all the same... people choose their careers based on their skills, aptitudes and natural state of being (when they have the option to, that is)... so, why should schools expect all kids to fit the same mould?

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