Monday, January 23, 2006

Boys are Just "Defective Girls"

Newsweek has an article this week on the boy crisis, which examines how boys are failing in school. Boys are not only doing poorly, they feel poorly about school: The number of boys who said they didn't like school rose 71 percent between 1980 and 2001. I found the last paragraph of the article the most important:

For Nikolas Arnold, 15, a sophomore at a public high school in Santa Monica, Calif., college is a distant dream. Nikolas is smart: he's got an encyclopedic knowledge of weaponry and war. When he was in first grade, his principal told his mother he was too immature and needed ADHD drugs. His mother balked. "Too immature?" says Diane Arnold, a widow. "He was six and a half!" He's always been an advanced reader, but his grades are erratic. Last semester, when his English teacher assigned two girls' favorites—"Memoirs of a Geisha" and "The Secret Life of Bees" Nikolas got a D. But lately, he has a math teacher he likes and is getting excited about numbers. He's reserved in class sometimes. But now that he's more engaged, his grades are improving slightly and his mother, who's pushing college, is hopeful he will begin to hit his stride. Girls get A's and B's on their report cards, she tells him, but that doesn't mean boys can't do it, too.

Doesn't this last line sound just like what we used to tell girls over twenty years ago? "Girls can be as good as boys", we drilled into kid's heads in the 1970's and 80's--in fact, girls were told that they were better and most of them now believe it (or at least fake it). Are we so angry that girls got the shaft twenty or more years ago that we are willing to sacrifice the education of innocent young boys today to make up for that wrong?

Update: Michal Gurian, who is mentioned in the Newsweek article is the author of, The Minds of Boys : Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life.He will be joining us for a podcast next week on the topic of the disconnect between boys and the classroom. If you have a pressing question for Mr. Gurian, leave it in the comment section and I will choose a couple to ask him--thanks!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

*smack* This is what happens between Mia Hamm telling Michael Jordan she can do anything better than he can and female 'brain scientists' (i use the term exceedingly loosely here) hystrionically throw fits when larry summers mentions that there are known genetic and developmental differences between boys and girls.

The sooner we face up to the facts that our urogenital plumbing is NOT the only thing different between us, that the Y chromosome is more substantive than given credit for, and that testosterone is not a pollutant, the sooner we can save these boys.

Sex differences need to be acknowledged, they need to be appreciated, they need to be taught to.

I too was called 'ADHD' for...umm about ten years. Luckily I had parents who knew what legalized Speed is and refused to put me on anything.

8:06 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if boys find present-day education irrelevant and girls find it inclusive, and whether that might further illustrate some of the differences between the sexes. When I was a boy school seemed a way of either harnessing energy (through organized play/sports and directing aggression toward problem solving)or teaching social behavior (getting along with schoolmates, following rules, letting the girls go first). The girls in school were excited by organization and the division of power and property--(keeping desks tidy, collecting themselves in groups of friends, organizing the "cootie" lists).

If there is less interest in school from boys is it because there are fewer boy-reasons to be there? Teaching boys to be men does not come by first teaching them to be girls. May I vote for the addition of some boy- and girl-only education in grade school?

Dan Patterson

9:16 AM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


The Newsweek article does point out that some schools are trying this separation of boys and girls in core classes with positive results. I don't know if this is the answer--think of how it would feel to the organized boy or the girl with a lot of kinetic energy but it seems to be one idea worth looking into. What about dividing up the classes based on how kids learn, rather than by gender?

9:26 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what we would discover if such a separation were made? Has a study been made of the overlap of the set of boy/girl and learning style groups? I also wonder if the efficiencies of such a separation would be worth the difference.
Back to work. Best to you and yours; good health to us all.

Dan Patterson

10:03 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps this is the kind of idealism we’re up against:
Here’s a quote from an academic on the proper approach to dealing with aggression in our society: “Mankind would likely benefit from a redistribution of power within society, perhaps a feminization, along with some educational reform.”

If you read the whole article—a book review actually—you’ll see the author is basing his notion of a new social order on a questionable ethological study of great apes.

There’s no place for ideological sexism in the classroom, if we fail to properly educate boys there’ll be serious consequences for them and us when they’re sent out to take their place in society.

10:23 AM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


Michael Gurian talks about these issues in his book, "Boys and Girls Learn Differently!" He says that although boys tend to be more active and girls more verbal, it is important not to stereotype specific children. He explores what he calls "ultimate classrooms" that supports both sexes in learning and outlines some strategies in the book with tables etc. I think it is interesting that he mentiones the importance of teaching teachers to mentor both aggression and empathy. Teaching is quite complex and I think that schools being trained in some of Gurian's methods would make for better learning with both sexes.

10:24 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I graduated from High School in the late 1960's. Through out the entire 12 years of my primary and secondary education, all the top students were girls. All the spelling bee winners were girls; all the valedictorians were girls; except for two, all the top ten students in my graduating class were girls; all the top 5 were girls - not one boy in the top 5. This ain't new people.

10:38 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Testosterone is not a pollutant.

I love this sentence. Wonderful!

10:46 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the mom of a girl and two boys and baby #4 on the way, I am certainly not ready to give up on my son's education. :-) Luckily, we have them in a school that isn't either. My older son has Asperger's Syndrome, which is a teaching challenge all by itself.The only upside I've seen to that is that they have to teach him individually because of his special needs so they haven't got the time to "feminize" him.

My daughter is one of those girls with a lot of kinetic energy. That brings teaching challenges of it own with it because she doesn't do well in language, but excels at science. She has trouble with math because she doesn't test well in it, but she does get the concepts behind it.

My youngest son is in kindergarten and doing well, but then, his teacher used to be a rocket scientist with NASA. She's a hoot and definitely doesn't fit in the traditional teacher mold. She teaches all the kids in a very hands on way and I like that.

10:48 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate the subtext here--that all must become a part of some special, discriminated-against group. I was miserable in school, perhaps because I never had any interest in keeping my desk tidy or spending one second of my time discussing "cootie lists." It would have killed me to be shuffled off into the "girl classes" as I am as good at math and science as I am at "language arts." Sitting still wasn't ever a specialty either. In today's environment, I would probably have been diagnosed with ADHD and drugged. As it was, I was a National Merit Scholar way back when the test wasn't gender-normed. Who knows how I would have done on the test that tried to "help" me because of my poor, oppressed XX status. God help those mathematically talented girls who are in school today. Or perhaps their experience is still similar to mine--special opprobrium for not acting "like the other girls," which apparently means sitting quietly and trying your hardest to not have too many original thoughts.

10:59 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have noticed in the reading material my 12-year old daughter has to buy for language arts that it tends toward "soft" stories that would mainly appeal to girls. No Hemingway, no "Horatio Hornblower" or the like. I guess that kind of material is now considered too much of a vestige of the warrior, imperialist patriarchy.

11:00 AM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Jody Leavell said...

It is, too, new. The education trends in America can be rightly viewed as a part of the post-war education era. The first wave of students to graduate from this era did so in the mid to late sixties and were the baby boomer generation. Now we are seeing the results of that same era of education on the second and third generation of students.

When tested directly children seem to perform nearly equally regardless of gender; some studies may suggest and eduge to on gender or the other, but they are still close. But when we view other measures such as grades and graduation rates we are seeing huge declines for boys and huge gains for girls. That is the crisis. If it had only been a matter of gating for equality we would have seen boys trending flat while girls ramped up and then leveled off.

Looking back on the wreckage of my academic career I can realize how much I was affected by the American cookie cutter approach to education. When it was setup at the end of the war it was intentionally set up to promote women in the workforce(in itself a good goal) but applied without gender discrimination to all students for efficiency. The system is self-reinforcing for such attributes because it trains its own teachers and administrators who come back to churn out the next generation. What was not as evident at the close of the sixties has become very evident thirty years later.

11:15 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it ironic that a group (educators) who are seemingly incapable of expressing a thought without shoehorning the word "diversity" into it, are so inflexible and intolerant of any real diversity, e.g. in learning styles. One size doesn't fit all, but it seems that only one learning style can be contemplated.

11:25 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, my Y chromosome does make me quite defective at being female, but I don't see this as much of a problem really.

Secondly, I can recall the structure of my junior high school algebra class: Do homework, turn in homework, have homework returned to you, be expected to keep homework to turn in at end of the quarter. I always lost mine, being that it's such a bloody stupid system I didn't bother with it. I got a C by whooping all of the tests. What was keeping three-week-old homework supposed to teach me? How to be a packrat? Things like that are exactly why boys find so much of primary and secondary education irrelevant: it is. As I sit here looking at my cluttered desk, I think maybe my organizational skills could be better, but I know where everything is.

11:28 AM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger XWL said...

The excerpt you chose to highlight focuses on someone who likely went to the same high school I attended Samohi.

(how many high schools have their own wiki page?)

It has consistently been ranked one of the top public high schools in the country and if you look at the homepage of the current chair (and I think she chaired the department 20+ years ago when I attended) of the English department her favored authors (she links articles she wrote on teaching Nikki Giovanni, Alice Walker, Sandra Cisneros, enough said) run feminine, (man hating even), and multi-culti above quality (don't get me started about what an AWFUL book Color Purple is structurally).

No wonder it's hard for a masculine person at that school (though if you look at the reading list for each grade (9, 10, 11, 12) there is a pretty impressive mix of authors)

(and to be fair to Carol Jago, everyone I knew who had her thought she was a fantastic English teacher, but then all the people I remember who raved about her were girls)

11:29 AM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger BobH said...

To Anonymous 10:38

You're generalizing wildly from a sample size of one high school. In my graduating class, the Val was male, the Sal female and positions 3 through 5 were all male. So what?! It's only possible to discern a probability distribution by looking at LOTS of high schools.

And what we're talking about here is three probability distributions: male only, female only and combined. The really important number is something called the "effect size", which is the difference in the male and female means divided by the standard deviation of the combined distribution, normalized for equal representation of males and females.

11:34 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 12-year old son's english teacher assigned a Biography to the class for the month of January. So we headed off to the bookstore, libraries in the area being largely cleaned out.

This always presents a unique kind of upset to me. The Young Adult section of mid-America bookstores (Borders, B&N, etc...) presents a *lot* of books aimed squarely at girls. I'm not sure whether this is a consumer-producer problem or a producer-consumer problem, but either way there's not a whole lot out there to interest adolescent boys.

On our first attempt there were 4 shelf-feet of biographies and autobiographies with women or girls as subjects. There were exactly two with men as topics. Two. Both of them were sports stars, and happened to be in sports that my son's not interested in or people he'd even heard of.

Our second attempt yeilded 3 shelf feet of biographies, and none with male subjects. Not one.

We wound up with the Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank) for his project. But this was a little disheartening.

While I've no objection to him reading about women, this isn't exactly a stage of life where he can relate to them very well. A biography of a male role model would be perfect about now, but it wasn't in the cards.

11:47 AM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Are we so angry that girls got the shaft twenty or more years ago that we are willing to sacrifice the education of innocent young boys today to make up for that wrong?"

If one is an angry, resentful, victim-oriented feminist, the answer to that question is clearly Yes!

12:05 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the guys who make it into college can have revenge by being sluttly when the girl to guy ratio favors them....

"Well, dear. I'm cheating on you because of that b*tch teacher"

12:14 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mstrthoth from above comments has uncovered an interesting point: The devalued American boy. I smell a market niche.

The needs and wants of the market will squirm out from under whichever rock is placed on it, but a little attention will help as well.

A good friend once said, when asked about his recent birthday: "I'm just like I was when I was 17, my only interests are girls and cars". Not an academic point, perhaps, but one with the gristle of truth running through it.

Dan Patterson

12:20 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it’s fairly simple to conclude education can be biased in favor of gender. This has been argued by feminists for years, so why the obvious shutting out of boys?

The problem is ideological. If it were methodological, it would be simple to find a solution to the issues boys face today.

Postmodernism has given up traditions based largely on practical human experience in order to engineer a perfect society. I believe this is the thinking affecting education in America today. Accepting this, the question then isn’t how do we change education, but rather how do we change educators.

12:22 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Jack Steiner said...

On a bit of a tangent part of my concern is the lack of good teachers. Too many good people ignore it because of a lack of respect and lack of solid pay.

I think that this factors into this argument too.

12:26 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See that—"I believe this is the thinking affecting education in America today."

That's the effect of bad education, right there.

12:26 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went through teacher training ten years and the first thing they told us was that the push for public schooling in the US aimed at achieving two things. The first was to Americanize immigrants and Southerners during the period of mass migration from Europe after the Civil War. The second was to turn kids into assembly line workers. The goal was to make your work habits as bovine as possible. Perhaps after millenia of extremely repetive tasks, females have an adaptive advantage, but if you look at the tasks people did day in and day out across a range of cultures, there's a pretty even mix in men's work and women's work. As we were studying ADD, the poiunt wass made that ADD is about as much a disroder as right-handedness, it greatly favors hunter-gatherer tasks, and the ability to do repetitive taks for long periods probably required a mutation that was slowly spreading through the population, which had finally become really crucial when assembly work became the norm. So classroom methods may tend to favor girls, but it's not so clearcut.

On the other hand, given that boys individuate form their mothers in a way that girls do not until puberty, the hyper-preponderance of females teachers in elementary schools would tend to disadvantage boys and to favor girls.

Curriculum is a problem too. That comment about assigning Memoirs of a Geisha is apposite. If a diversity in literature is so important, how about something that actual Japanese and Chinese students also read? Chinese students read selections from Shi Ji, Records of the Historian. It reads like the case studies Machiavelli might have used, very edifying.

12:35 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree education colleges have a social engineering bias one of the larger reasons why elementary schools are more girl friendly has to do with the teaching staff. The staff of most elementary schools is primarily female and of those women, most love the reading portion of the curriculium and suffer through math and science because they have to. As a result, math and science, generally considered to be more male friendly, are overlooked, and far less time is spent on those subjects.

12:35 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

Thanks for pointing out the Newsweek article and for posting on this important subject.

As the parent of 2 teenage boys, it's my impression that many young men aren't academically prepared for college. Many who do attend college are only qualified to apply to average universities or less rigorous majors, while others pursue military, vocational or non-traditional careers. Based on my anecdotal experiences with my son's friends, many of these young men are hard-working, competitive, and bright but they are not well-educated even though they attended good schools and had supportive families. By high school, there was emphasis in the schools on cooperation but not on achievement - at least not for boys - and there was a clear bias against competition, something boys generally thrive on.

I fear that boys have learned they don't have to excel, to be well-educated, or have impressive careers because they no longer have to be providers for their wives and families. Career women today can not only give birth to the children but they can also provide adequate (and even excellent) income for their family. This might be a liberating message for some men, but at heart it is a message that they are no longer needed. That's a negative development for the traditional values that support our society and a sad message for today's young men and young women.

12:40 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Affect" is the correct spelling of a verb meaning

"af·fect 1 Pronunciation (-fkt)
tr.v. af·fect·ed, af·fect·ing, af·fects
1. To have an influence on or effect a change in: Inflation affects the buying power of the dollar.
" [further definitions snipped]

There is even a helpful usage note:
"Usage Note: Affect and effect have no senses in common. As a verb affect is most commonly used in the sense of "to influence" (how smoking affects health). Effect means "to bring about or execute": layoffs designed to effect savings. Thus the sentence These measures may affect savings could imply that the measures may reduce savings that have already been realized, whereas These measures may effect savings implies that the measures will cause new savings to come about."

12:46 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeph - your original 'affecting' is correct. You've just seen it done wrong so many times that you're questioning yourself.

The Monster

12:46 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:35 PM,

Interesting thought…

I certainly agree part of the bias may be gender orientation of teachers, but where were the teachers educated? At the very least, they were educated under the rubric of feminism in the context of higher-education where postmodernism rules the day. Some forms of feminism—I would argue the prevalent feminist perspective, is heavily invested in social engineering.

Do you agree?

Anonymous 12:46 PM(s),


My wife is an editor—Ishe’s going to laugh!

Thanks to the both of you for the correction—Iit’s always welcome.


12:56 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

I agree with the commenters who focus on teachers and how they teach boys, but I think the Newsweek article clearly states that more teachers are learning they need to make adjustments in how they teach boys and some are making these adjustments. There were several good examples in the article of how to more effectively teach boys.

1:07 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Timothy was exactly right, that was my exact same experience, except that I always shot for the 79.8% rounded up to a B grade. Aced most of my exams. Heck I got a D in Physiology one quarter, to bring it all the way back up to a B by the final which I blew out of the water, my Physio teacher was impressed if surprised.

Boys aren't motivated and for good reason.

Let me just say too, the reading assigned to students is trash. Most of it is boring and dull to read. I think girls get by because they're more compliant so they read anyways, I...well...I didn't read because it was boring as heck. But I read plenty of things on my own, things that were well...interesting. Classical Literature has been excised from our schools, and the affect on the quality of read books affects boys willing to read these less than worthwhile books.

1:10 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger The 73rd Virgin said...

29 comments about boys in education and the word "father" has not yet appeared while "mother" appears four times. How do you reckon that happened?

I haven't read the Newsweek article in question but I can't help but hope that the absence of men from families was noted. I think it has profoundly altered the family's expectations of how boys should act, and consequently how they should do in school.

Also, school is scarier than ever for a "smart" boy. The incidence of ass-kicking the male nerds is way up (no citation, sorry, take my word for it). I was a smart boy who's voice changed in 5th grade and was shaving in 7th grade, so I wasn't messed with, but many are.

Add to that Hollywood's constant devaluation of the math and science based professions (date-less nerds or evil geniuses bent on world domination or poisoning our water) and you have a recipe for a lot of out-of-kilter male social science majors.

Finally, my 16 year-old daughter, straight As all of her life with limited oversight from Mom and me, is now suffering constant migraines and the school-referred psychiatrist wants her on ADD meds. This Medical Doctor(!!) made this recommendation with no blood work, no medical history, no counseling. Just wants to put her on the drugs. No thanks.

1:15 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You shared some interesting ideas.

I read recently that public education was intended to make better factory workers. I believe it may have been in The Edison Gene: AHDH and the Gift of the Hunter Child. It makes perfect sense to me that the initial purpose of public education was to make better laborers.

I was pleased that you mentioned Machiavelli. In an earlier post I began to write of his work, The Prince because I think the Machiavellian strategy of indoctrinating students into a worldview is alive and well.

1:16 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The late Rosemary Sutcliff wrote a couple of dozen YA novels. They were historical novels, mostly about Britain.
I reviewed one of them, "Sword Song" on Amazon and referred to others.
Most of the characters are guys. The revolt of the Iceni is told looking at Boudicca, a queen, in a dark book, titled "Song for A Dark Queen".
She also retold the Iliad in "Black Ships Before Troy" which keeps the magic and loses a good many words. She didn't cut Homer. She retold the story. There's a difference.
Her stuff is, I believe, out of print, but can be found on Amazon and in various libraries.
There's lots of sword play and outdoor action, some warcraft and fieldcraft and a terrific intro to how things were in those days.
Girls could read these, I suppose, but not being a girl I'm not in a position to know what they look for.
In these books, there is frequently a female character who comes onstage sometime after the guy and at the end, it's clear they're an item. She is a fully competent partner in the adventure.

"Sword at Sunset" is an adult novel of the historical Arthur. Terrific.

1:23 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the mother of a science-math girl. She has what most would consider a masculine brain. We've had a very hard time in school. I do think they expect her to behave as the other girls do. Heavy into cooperation, empathy, and humility. And although her grades are stellar, her social skills are poor in the extreme. She's a rugged individualist, and I'm proud of that. I do think children should be divided by learning style. (My son's learning style would actually be considered feminine). Anyway, perhaps then she could find a friend who also enjoys catching bees and "milking them for venom".

1:32 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These statistics about girls doing better than boys in school: do they apply to private schools as well as public schools?

I suspect the real reason girls do better is that they are less trouble for the authorities. From a bureaucrats point of view, a class full of female students is the next best thing to a class with no students at all.

1:34 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

These comments have been interesting. It appears that many commenters have not read the Newsweek article because it addresses many of the comments, including how teachers teach and the absence of fathers in young men's lives. However, the opinions and concerns expressed in the comments track with the issues raised in the article, which shows that Dr. Helen's commenters are identifying with the heart of the Newsweek article and the issues it raises.

Thanks again for addressing this topic, Dr. Helen.

1:38 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another note: Are these males that aren't graduating from college unemployed? Are they dropping out because the liberal arts aren't for them, and they've found a fulfilling way of life in the trades? I would like to know if there is a bias in this article against the vocations. Perhaps they are just finding their own way without the benefit on a university education.

1:46 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I graduated in '58 from a small (77 graduates) town school. The co-valedicts were one of each. The rest of the top 20 were mostly (guessing at least 75%) boys.

I was about 15th, went to USAF Academy, graduated there '62 (the 4th class and truly competitive. How competitive you ask? We took GRE's as juniors when the rest of the country took them as seniors; finished third as a class behind M I T and Stanford. We graduated two Rhodes Scholars and numerous other highly esteemed scholarships in a class of 298 students.). I have been "back home" very seldom since, being busy seeing the world and whatnot, but if there was a single bum in our HS class of 77, I'm not aware of it. We had doctors, lawyers, bankers and successful business people. (And one fighter pilot. LMAO! Had to throw that in!)

I have very fond memories of more than a handful of really good, dedicated teachers. They knew their material, knew how to teach it and made you know it before you passed. The rest of my teachers were more than adequate. If that can happen in a little old town of 4,500 people, I'm betting it was pretty much the rule nation-wide. Somewhere along the way, things changed. My first shock was mid-eighties when I realized my step-son had graduated from HS and didn't know how to read! Oh, he could say the words, but had only foggy comprehension. Not a dumb kid, either. Very talented in numerous areas; talented enough to be able to fake knowing how to read, for one thing.

It seems like the K-12 part of the public education system has jumped the track. Some things I know first-hand, having custody of three grandkids. Some very important things aren't even taught. My HS frosh didn't know stuff like how many ounces in a pound, how many feet in a mile (inches in a foot, feet in a yard) until I told her. Neither she nor her sis, a 7-year-old first grader, know addition or subtraction "by rote". I'm trying to take them through the one plusses, etc. Meantime, the 7-yr-old brings home at least 2-3 pages of written math and reading homework every day, plus booklets and other material she's supposed to read at home. I don't recall having any homework in grammar school, not ever! What on Earth is taking place in the classroom all day? One project asked the little one to name objects around the house that were circles, squares, triangles, etc. When I wrote back objecting that there are no two-dimensional objects in the physical world we know and teaching that there were would lead to misunderstanding, the teacher wanted to argue about it!

In my opinion, there are too many educating "philosophies" and too little teaching of facts. There is too much turf marking, incompetent teacher protection and self-esteem passing. The system is broken down. I haven't even touched on the gender problem. The old way worked. Why'd they have to go and "improve" it?

1:46 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

Larry @ 1:46 PM: In my opinion, there are too many educating "philosophies" and too little teaching of facts.

Well said.

1:47 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the father of two boys, one of which is now in training to become a cryptologic linguist, I can attest to the lack of scholastic motivation that I have seen in my boys and their male friends. Some of these guys are extremely bright and soak up knowledge like sponges, but hate school with a passion - even college. My oldest son took his senior high school credits at the local community college, but after the first quarter quit going to class and started hanging out at the video game store during school hours. There's a palpable anomie among boys, similar to the senioritis that I had in high school but beginning in the elementary years. The sooner educators admit there's a problem and address it the better.

My younger son is a freshman this year. He nearly had a perfect first quarter - almost all Ds and Fs - except for an A in world studies with one of the few male teachers he's had. He's always hated to read - NEVER sat down and finished a book until the end of first quarter when he read nearly all of a Stephen King novel. Then, when we put a gun to his head and made him pick another book, he read "White Fang" in two days. He went to "Of Mice and Men" and was blown away. He got "The Hobbit" for Christmas and couldn't put it down. We offered to buy him a new guitar if worked harder and made a B average. And he started on Zoloft to control his frustration and anger. His grades in the second quarter? As, Bs and one C - a 3.14 GPA. It's still like pulling teeth to get him to do homework, but he's had a taste of success. And we still have a bargaining chip with his driver's permit coming up soon.

So is it the boy or the process? Too complicated for me to tell.

1:51 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the DL link.

1:58 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

GS @ 1:52 PM: Thanks for the link to the terrific Guardian article on Doris Lessing.

2:00 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Doug said...

"So is it the boy or the process? Too complicated for me to tell."

It's definitely not the boy, whom I must praise for his recalcitrance to doing things without evident reasons.

2:13 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a single 22 y/o male, started as an engineering major in college, but switched to history due to having waaaay too much finicky detail work in the math classes. It was boring. I don't want to spend my life doing math. Military history, now... :)

Not using most of the degree in my job, but learning the stuff was worth it--just not in financial terms.

I am definitely homeschooling my children at least through about 10th grade.

2:28 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if education in reading & writing has been slipping longer than we realize. My grandfather dropped out of high school, fought Pancho Villa then in WWI. His diaries from that time indicate a man, make that boy by today's lights, who could write very well. A contemporary of his dropped out of school in 8th grade yet had the ability to run a business for himself in a few years. Seems like they packed more useful information into the early years back then Does anybody have a feeling for this?

2:31 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

rik, do you think it's possible that the "pigsties" were not so much the natural result of having an all-boys class but of utterly incompetent classroom management?

2:45 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Wonderful post, article and commments. This subject is getting more and more coverage.

Anon. 10:38 suggests maybe girls were always ahead. I graduated high school in the late Sixties and our valedictorian was male. The top 10 students were about 50/50 as I remember. The highest ACT score in my class was by the quarteback on the football team whose GPA was not outstanding. Go figure.

I wonder how the boy/girl stuff stacks up by geographic regions and rural/urban. I think boys are viewed and more "trouble" as the title of the article implies. Because of this view, teachers, etc. begin with a more negative attitude and, of course, the boys pick up on it. Not all educators are this way but a few can tip the scales.

As jeffus above points out, fathers are important. The article says, "One of the most reliable predictors of whether a boy will succeed or fail in high school rests on a single question: does he have a man in his life to look up to? Too often, the answer is no." Whoa! Someone needs to post this on the wall of every divorce court. I actually believe this is more of the problem than anything happening (or not) in our school systems and to ignore it is to like the blind men trying to describe an elephant.

2:53 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Jimmie said...

One thing I did notice about the article is that is is aimed completely on academic achievement - being able to get good grades - instead of skill development and the ability to function outside of a school setting.

There are plenty of necessary professions that can earn quite a good living that have very little to do with many of the subjects taught in schools today. Where, for instance, are the shop and vo-tech classes that teach such things as automotive mechanics, metalworking, carpentry, and the like? Where are the high-school ROTC programs? Where are the music classes?

Not every child in high-school is destined for college, nor should they be. There are plenty of professions we need people to do that don't require an advanced education which skill sets just aren't being taught in today's high schools. Many of those professions are ones where boys' innate abilities would allow them to excel but they're not getting the chances to learn them. To a boy nowadays, the modern world must look like a horrifying and endless expanse of tedium.

2:58 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Memoirs of a Geisha" as a sophmore???? Thats pushing the edge beyond YA books isnt it? How to include sex ed in an english class.

I really liked the book, but would never recommend for sophmores, and its definately not a sophmore boys wonder the poor kid had no interest in the class

3:20 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooooh, long blog entry to follow on this from me.

I am still angry about the 'boy bias' I encountered during my sons' early years. My middle son is just now overcoming it as a junior in high school, and my daughter has been the beneficiary of the bias toward girls, but my anger about it is as fresh as if it were yesterday.

Thanks so much for posting this!

3:21 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The part of the article that puzzled me was the "remedy" of breaking the boys into small groups to act out parts from a book. Say what? This would have been an open invitation to my son to do something rowdy and outrageous. He HATED that sort of nonsense. Whoever up there in the comments mentioned the problem of making lessons "relevant" hit the nail on the head, I believe.

Oh, and to whoever brought up Sutcliff, good call. Eagle of the Ninth captured my son's imagination so thoroughly that he started investigating the Roman occupation of Britain on his own. I think that genetic imprinting of his ancient barbarian roots were calling out to him through this book. ha ha

3:22 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger reader_iam said...

I wonder if boys find present-day education irrelevant and girls find it inclusive, and whether that might further illustrate some of the differences between the sexes.


My (extremely bright but struggling) kindergartner could answer that one for you.

Dr. Helen, thanks for your continued focus on this issue and related others.

3:29 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I graduated HS in 1968 in New York City where there were three division of students. Academic, Business and Vocational. Academic was fairly evenly mixed boys/girls, Business was mainly girls and vocational was mainly boys. All the organizational stuff like year book, activities and so forth were done by girls, the boys just did not want to be bothered.
Jump ahead way too many years when my daughter started school and we find that there is no time for recess, or gym. There is just time to sit in your seat and keep quiet. In kindergarten my daughter who could read was going around an helping other students learn her teacher was fine with this. Jump two years when she is in second grade and she is bored because she already covered all this stuff in first grade, we are told by her teacher that she has not made a determination if my daughter is equiped to handle advanced classes. We pulled her out and are homeschooling her when they told us that she could only be in two advanced classes instead of the four she is qualified for because that would be too many classes.

The boys during all are being referred to the school nurse because they just can't sit still. Since I know those kids were smart maybe it was the absolute boredom in the classroom that was the problem.

4:06 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m a product of a 50s – 60s Catholic education in New York City.

In grammar school our classes averaged about 50 kids, slipt about evenly between boys and girls. None of the boys suffered from hyperactivity or attention deficit. The nuns had an instant cure – SMACK. Or maybe SMACK + DETENTION. If you didn’t do your homework you got detention. The boys were the ones who got smacked and got detention because we were the ones who’d act up. We didn’t have any art or music classes, just academics. If a kid failed a grade he/she got to do it over again. By 7th grade we could recite times tables backwards, forwards and inside out. We could spell very well. We had maps of the U.S. and the world burned into our heads and could name the major products produced by most states and foreign countries.

After grammar school I went to a boys Catholic high school. The brothers made the nuns look like absolute cuddlebunnies. Again, no art or music classes. Instead an awful lot of math and science, with an average of 35 kids per classroom. Again, nobody suffered from hyperactivity or attention deficit. The SMACK from grammar school turned into the PUNCH in high school. Detention consisted of standing, reading a book, for 1 1/2 hours.

Our graduating class was about 320 boys. Just over one half won college scholarships to 4 year schools. When I describe getting smacked around in high school, ladies who generally graduated from nice suburban public high schools are aghast. That’s when I tell them about the 1/2 of the class getting scholarships and ask them what percentage of their school got scholarships. They don’t have much of an answer to that.

I always tell people that my education, from first grade on taught, above all else, CONSEQUENCES. If you do bad you suffer really unpleasant consequences, so you learn how to avoid them. Do well and you enjoy wonderful consequences (like going to college for nothing). Neither the nuns nor the brothers expressed any interest in our “feelings”. They never tried to “understand” us. “Why do I have to do that” was answered by “Because I told you to”. All they cared about were academic results, and they got ‘em.

Of the kids that I knew who went through 12 years of Catholic education, 100% went on to, at least, a 4 year degree. Of the kids that went through public education the vast majority of girls went on to graduate college but only about 40% of the boys did. Seem’s the problem isn’t all that new.

The ONLY cure will be vouchers, allowing kids to escape from politically correct public schools.

4:13 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Timothy--that's one reason I didn't survive as a secondary teacher. I refused the first year to penalize boys who loved my class, learned the material, participated in question/answer sessions and then lost their homework. I was called a bad "team player" because I didn't give Cs to kids who aced my exams. I was perfectly happy to give As to the super-perfectionist and organized girls, I just thought kids (boys and girls alike) who actually showed me they had mastered the topic should get As too. I was disgusted that most of the "educators" around me valued the process much more than the outcome.

5:05 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 7th grade science teacher had one of those paddles with holes in it. Most of the guys felt it, most only once, because it was a emabarrassing to grab your ankles and get popped on the butt in front of everyone for even minor infractions. The pain was excruciating, but secondary to that. Nowadays, that's assault. Sigh. Corporal punishment, we hardly knew ye.

Teachers had some leeway affecting academic grade with regard to behavior, too. My English teachers both Jr and Sr years durn near kept me out of USAF Academy, even though I had all "A" papers and tests in their classes. Jr downgraded me to "D", back up to "C" after I/my parents protested. Sr year, I had to do assignments in study hall because after I acted up, I wasn't allowed in class or anywhere near the teacher. Had to get 'em from the principal, do 'em, hand 'em back to principal, who passed 'em to teach, who graded 'em, handed 'em to principal, who gave 'em back to me. Whole last semester in school. That was the best my parents could negotiate. Maybe I was ADHD? Not trying to be crude, but it seemed like all the girls had to do in a male teacher's class was sit in the front row and cross their legs.

I've loved to read ever since I learned. I remember best Huckleberry Finn, bios about Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, Sioux chief Black Hawk and Abe Lincoln, along with any science fiction I could get my hands on.

5:15 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, children raised in that manner do eventually have to have the question answered, though.

Why do this?
To go to college.
In college why do this?
To get a good job.
On a good job why do this?
To support a wonderful family that I don't have time to spend with because of this job (uh oh).

Eventually you have to stop pointing to the next immediate step and look at the big picture.

Many of the goals set for children today are more vain than ever, which leaves me wondering if boys are more sensistive to this and thus give up.

I made B's and C's in school. Occasionally I would make a few A's, yet I was placed in gifted classes because of my ability to rapidly catch on to things. What is wrong with this picture?

I knew grades didn't accurately represent intelligence or ability. I also knew good grades and a college degree didn't guarantee you a good job. I coasted through public school because there was no way I was going to exert myself over a "chance" at so-called success.

I didn't devote myself to a "maybe" and if I had to go through it again today, I still wouldn't. I have to wonder how many children, both boys and girls, feel this same way.

Perhaps this is where the missing parental figure plays a part? If I had had parents that rewarded me for good performance, maybe I wouldn't have coasted even though I saw no point to what I was doing.

Too many parents use activities that should be reserved as rewards for progress as ways of getting their children out of their hair, so to speak (in my case, I was allowed to spend way too much of my time playing video games). Perhaps boys are more affected by this kind of spoiling/lack of discipline?

"In my opinion, there are too many educating 'philosophies' and too little teaching of facts." --larry

I wholeheartedly agree. Growing up, I absolutely dreaded learning theory. It didn't matter what the theory was about. Even if it is about something I am interested in, do not teach me theory. I don't want to hear theory.

5:31 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry, keep in mind that corporal punishment is so demonized today because poor teachers aren't anything new, and back in the day, if you'll pardon the term, those poor teachers abused it. My mother struggles with depression and is currently in therapy because she was oft punished for simply being a unique kid.

Also, discipline too hastily applied teaches children who actually do have learning disabilities that having a disability is wrong.

Corporal punishment is effective, even God says so in the Bible (spare the rod, spoil the child), but only on children with a solid self-esteem.

5:49 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger reader_iam said...

I'd like point out that vouchers aren't necessarily the be-all and end-all.

And you don't necessarily get more input just by "going private."

"The thing is, public or private, teachers and administrators come out of the same system. They're as prone or immune to the same misguided ideas. They're educated in the same way and, largely, they educate in the same way. They live in the same society and largely buy into the same general philosophies and fads.

I say this from direct personal experience. And I linked.

5:57 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Herb, I meant too many "new and improved" teaching methods, but I get where you are coming from, too. I'm opposite. I get theory. Application is harder for me. In Electrical Engineering, I aced the classroom semester. In the lab semester, I had a hard time. I made all my circuits look exactly like the diagrams, which any EE major will tell you is not entirely satisfactory. The prof would take one look and rake all the wires out of my board. Some I had to do 5, 6, 7 times before he was minimally satisfied.

All of us are endowed by our creator with certain gifts. I mean that very sincerely. I was fortunate to be an intuitive learner, arriving at the right answers without being able to tell you how. Hardly ever had to study before grad school, where the sadists made you write every week about what you'd read. Test-taking is another gift I have. I don't think it's necessarily or directly related to intelligence. After a little experience taking tests, the ones who have it go "AHA!"and seldom, if ever have trouble passing tests, especially multiple choice and true/false. If you tell me what passing grade is (usually 80%?), I can pass a MC or T/F test on any subject, whether I know anything about it or not. Took my wife's real estate tests for her (If you tell anyone I said that, I'll deny it, LOL.) and usually scored high 90's or 100%.

Dr Helen and other commenters, sorry I've gotten so far OT. I'll shut my pie hole now. Thanks for all the thoughtful and informed commentary.

6:08 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The boys during all are being referred to the school nurse because they just can't sit still. Since I know those kids were smart maybe it was the absolute boredom in the classroom that was the problem.

Exactly. How do you make a smart kid bored? Send him or her to public school.

6:14 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

me at 6:03 said: "So that explains the discrepancy: smart girls do the busywork and do well, less gifted girls do the busywork and do well, while smart guys don't do the busywork and do ok, while less gifted guys don't the busywork and do horrible."

Even if what you say is true, there will be many moments in life when people (men and women) need to do what is essentially busywork. In fact, no matter what your career, much of life will be staying organized and doing routine work. It is not horrible that school expects students to be able to do routine work while also encouraging creative or even brilliant efforts.

If you think school is boring, just wait until you have to work for a living. People that won't sit still for boring school work won't do better just because they are getting paid for it.

6:53 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger reader_iam said...

Hmm, I don't know. I know a lot of people who sit still for busywork when paid, when they didn't in school.

I absolutely agree that a needed skill in life is to sit through the busy work. But I'd ask you: When, specifically, do you think that instruction should begin?

7:24 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Just one thing to clear up, that seems to be a repeated misconception. If we move to single sex classes or especially, schools, there is actually less stereotypy. Both sexes feel freer to move to the edges. It might seem counterintuitive, but it seems to work.

9:04 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

Possible questions for Mr. Gurian:

1. What are the pros and cons of single-sex classes and/or schools? Does the child's age/grade level or the educational subject matter make a difference in whether gender segregation is beneficial?

2. Are there specific things parents can do to better prepare their sons to do their best in school? For example, we are often told that reading to our children is beneficial but frequently boys prefer creative "pretend-play" activities. In a perfect world parents would do both, but is it better to insist on reading?

3. In light of studies noting a positive relationship between playing video games and the development of hand/eye coordination, should parents continue to severely restrict the amount of time boys spend playing video games? What about TV watching? Are there particular games and shows (sports? adventures?) that are better for boys?

4. What about the impact of day care on boys' performance in school? Are boys who have been in day care better socialized and prepared for school, disadvantaged, or does it matter? (My recollection is that studies suggest there are differences in the short-term and long-term effects of day care, but I'm hazy on this and would like better information on this subject. In addition, I think the information I've seen doesn't differentiate between boys and girls. Is there a difference in how boys respond to day care vs. girls?)

5. Is there a difference in how the typical girl and the typical boy is motivated? For example, my experience is that pre-teen boys benefit from non-negotiable discipline (by that I mean setting clear rules and consequences, not corporal punishment), while pre-teen girls respond better to reasoned discussions and negotiation. Is this true and, if so, does this affect how parents and teachers should deal with students?

6. How can parents fairly evaluate whether their sons' schools are teaching effectively? If the child does well, why rock the boat? If the child isn't doing well, how can you tell if it's because of the school as opposed to the child? (We are all told, repeatedly, that boys perform worse than girls when they are younger. How can you deal with a school system that, perhaps correctly but without fail, attributes boys' problems to age-related gender differences rather than an institutional failure to motivate and teach boys?)

10:54 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

A person can always get a college degree and not use it, but if one were to pursue a vocational career and things didn't work out ... then what? More importantly, would you encourage your kid to skip college and rely on perpetual employment in today's high tech market? Industries change faster than ever and people are living longer. That's great news for society but it's bad news for individual job security. I would be especially worried if I only had a high school education.

I'm old, but I think it's as true today as it ever was: Education is a good hedge when markets and industries evolve and change - and they always do. A profession (law, medicine, accounting, engineering, etc.) is an even better hedge.

1:29 AM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the reasons boys/young men don't do as well as girls/women is because boys are always being told that they are evil and the cause of all sorts of problems. I am in college right now and my Sociology book is full of anti-male statements. Things like how men always keep women down and that the U.S. is a male dominated society, implying that so many problems would be solved if only men weren't men ECT. the teachers are often as bad. One problem i had in HS was when in health we had a guest speaker come in from some organization and then she proceeded to state unequivocally that every man had to be regarded as a date-rapist until proven over-wise and the 90%+ of men would commit abuse (the definition of abuse was strange and seemed to be tailed to men being bad). we had to write a paper on the presentation of this speaker. That was the ONLY Paper i never turned in in HS. I could not make myself write it.

No one is going to be motivated to read a book, write a paper, listen to a lecture etc that bashes their gender.

Add to this that fact that normal male behavior (aggressiveness) is seen as bad and medicated and you get boys who don't care about school because they are drugged and constantly hear how bad they are and you get crappy school performance.

I agree that uneducated,bored men running around is bad for every one. Not just because they become a physical threat to women and other men but because it makes it harder for women to find good husbands

3:31 AM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several people have mentioned "vocational" training. Wake up and smell the 21st century coffee!

That was precisely my point earlier. Our household income is nothing to sneeze at and my husband went into the vocations. He hated grade school, but once he got into the vocation programs in high school he took off. He graduated from high school making straight 4.0 from his sophomore to senior year. He flunked his freshman year. Pontification just isn't his thing. He's a do-er. We know plenty of people with college degrees that are scraping by. Give the boys a life goal and a reward (and hopefully a good dad) and they should do well in the vocations or college.

7:45 AM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Sarah said...

Re: DRJ's #6 -

"6. How can parents fairly evaluate whether their sons' schools are teaching effectively? If the child does well, why rock the boat? If the child isn't doing well, how can you tell if it's because of the school as opposed to the child? "

I don't think that's a question that needs to be answered. If your child isn't doing well, does it really matter if the teacher is "doing everything right"? S/he is not getting through, things aren't working, etc. As a parent your primary responsibility is to your child, not to your child's school. It didn't matter to my parents whether my teachers were doing the "right things" - I was six years old and getting headaches and stomach aches every day of the year, spending two or three hours a day in the nurse's office. They switched me to a gifted program in 2nd grade and that stopped. Doesn't mean that Stowers Elementary School was a den of evil, just that I needed something different.

Re: vocational training -

When I was in high school we moved to Ohio (my sisters and I were homeschooled) and most of my new friends weren't college-bound, to say the least. The boy closest to me in age in my church group didn't even take courses in a foreign language or math past Algebra II. But while I'm still getting through college stuff, about to go to law school, and will eventually graduate with well over $100,000 in educational debt, he's been making over $50,000 a year since the age of 18, working as a stone mason. And if worse comes to worse, he's got the skills necessary to take care of himself in any part of the world; he can even build a house for his family if he wants or needs to (my mother's father did that - he built the houses my grandmother and my aunt live in today.) Which one of us is happier? I don't think you can say; I'd go crazy working as a stone mason full-time, I think; I know he'd hate college. But I know which one of us has more security.

Oh, and though it's not school, per se, the boys in my Sunday School class (all age 7/8) do just as well, and often better than, the girls. I mostly reward right answers and following the few rules in the class, and give them time to move around. I'm not convinced that there's a magic formula needed to get the majority of children on a path toward success. And the one kid I had problems with, has been switched to a different class and is doing much better (I'm in my 20's and don't quite have the "imposing authority figure" aura the other teacher does.) Oh, and my not very cooperative, bouncy, knock things over, "listen and look at me because I need attention" (!) kid was a girl.

9:53 AM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Ed Brenegar said...

Having homeschool both our sons, and having spent the last ten years involved wiht Boy Scouts, the last six as scoutmaster, I agree that boys are being left out of society in many ways. The problem functions on multiple levels. I don't think you can just lay blame at the education establishment, though it is their system. While valid, it really starts with parents and the place they decide their children are to have in their lives. Of course, it isn't that they have had good role models or training. But ultimately the responsibility falls on their shoulders. And for many they feel totally overwhelmed by the education systems as it currently exists, and a consumer culture that robs children of their individuality and dignity.
From my experience, the most important thing for children, especially boys, to learn is how to handle responsibility. In order to accomplish this requires a different parenting style than the endless schedule of activities that divert and entertain and do not teach who to be responsible for yourself and others.

10:38 AM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While growing our business, my wife has had to come to grips with my learning style—it’s non-linear, and I think it’s hard for people who thrived in a traditional classroom to understand. While she excelled in school, I suffocated in traditional classrooms—I literally quit kindergarten and floundered through every grade until I left high school with a tenth grade education. I lived for years after I quit school, filled with the conviction I was stupid.

A few years ago I was working a job near a school, and looking at the building and the buses made me physically ill. My education was a travesty. Where were the people who were supposed to help me as a boy? Where were my heroes?

The dark shit that comes with being a wild-eyed disenfranchised punk I’ll leave to your imagination. At forty-one I’ve come a long way, but doing alright hasn’t come easily—I had a lot of help from people who loved me. I was lucky. Are the boys we’re failing to educate going to get lucky? I’d rather not leave their futures to luck.

10:38 AM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

sr @ 3:31 am and jw @ 5:19 am - Your comments resonated with me. I'm glad you posted.

11:04 AM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

It bothers me, a lot, that the only reason most people can find for being fair to boys is the consequences for girls!

Excellent point, S.R. (Thanks, drj, for pointing S.R.'s comments out.) If how all this impacts girls is the point, then we should just teach boys to be good puppy dogs and to fetch and beg as trained.

Boys have rights, needs, etc. independent of girls. This needs to be fully recognized. Boys and girls (males and females) need to learn how to interact and be mutually supportive but neither subservient to the other. (Subservient - echoes of feminism.)

11:45 AM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am also interested in this question that drj suggested:

1. What are the pros and cons of single-sex classes and/or schools? Does the child's age/grade level or the educational subject matter make a difference in whether gender segregation is beneficial?

Also, does the boy’s temperament/style make a difference in the benefits of a single-sex school? For example, a shy studious boy vs. an athletic “captain of the football team” type vs. a “skateboarder dude”?

I am considering an all-boys high school for my eighth-grade son, and I have found so much more info about the benefits of same-sex high schools for girls but not much about boys.

12:48 PM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Here's a article about a few schools in Kentucky trying it or have tried it. Doesn't sound real encouraging. Two places tried it and quit.

The high school still doing it won't know for a couple of years if it's helping or not. I don't know about the classroom behavior at Lloyd High School (school in the article still trying gender separated classes) but they have the most obnoxious students cheering at a basketball game I've seen this year. The referee even gave them a warning (or next it will be a technical foul) at the game I watched.

Plus, a lot of the emphasis in the article is about how girls don't have to put up with rowdy boys in gender separated classrooms. Here is another article regarding the same school.

1:38 PM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you look up the page you’ll see my post about my 12 yrs. of New York Catholic education, including 4 at an all boys high school. I can only speak about the Catholic schools. Since you call yourself NYMom, and there a quite a few Catholic boys high schools in New York, I’m kind of guessing that you’re considering one.

Since discipline is paramount, you don’t have any of the bullying you hear about in public schools. Boys need discipline. They’re more rambunctious than girls and often fight authority. That pertains to both behavior and learning. We learned

My school was (still is) a perennial powerhouse in basketball, as well as baseball and track. The school was also a powerhouse in such things as debating, and chess. ALL activities were given equal emphasis. Athletes and debaters were held in the same vein.

In 4 years I never once saw, or even heard of a fight. Yeah, a few “tough” kids would arrive with each freshman class, but they’d quickly learn to tow the line or be thrown out. Compare that with public schools.

There is no need to try to “impress” girls in an all boys school. That’s a big deal because boys often do stupid things because they think it’s “cool” and will impress some girl. There’s no need to dress “cool” to impress the nonexistent girls. We had a dress code that included a jacket and tie, dress pants and shoes. Today the school had the same except it dropped the jacket part. The result is that everyone’s in the same “uncool” clothes so there’s no competition over stupid clothes.

When I was there, all teachers were male. Today, most are. The simple fact is that men were all boys at one time and understand them. I think the preponderance of female teachers at public high schools is one of the biggest problems. They simply don’t have the same life experience ats the boys they’re teaching.

Depending on where you live, there’s one simple test. If you know men who graduated from one of these all boys’ Catholic schools, ask them what they think of it. I know many, like myself, who think they are superb. I don’t have kids, but every one of my friends who went to a boys Catholic high school, sent their sons to them. They trusted them. They did not trust the public schools. By the way, most of the ladies I knew who attended Catholic girls’ high school hated it.

Another test is simply to look at results. What percentage of graduates go on to decent 4 year colleges. The Catholic schools put the public schools to shame. Most Catholic high schools in low income areas outpace nice suburban public schools in this. Results matter and these schools produce results.

4:22 PM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it considered sexist and discriminatory to make boys read literature about women and women's lives, when girls have been asked to read "great books" about men and men's lives for the better part of our public-educational history? If girls have succeeded by reading literature focused on the other gender's exploits (Huck Finn, and the Lord of the Rings series in grade school, and A Separate Peace, The Iliad and Odyssey in high school, for a few examples), why can't boys do so? Learning styles exist and need to be taken into account, but an important part of education is learning that your perspective on the world isn't the only one to consider. Are we suggesting that boys need to read only about boy heroes, and girls about heroines? How archaic. Better to give all students the tools to explore, enjoy, and critique books regardless of the gender of their primary characters.

I agree with the comment that pointed out that boys have mostly female teachers throughout their educational careers, and thus may find insufficient role models. That doesn't make being female the teachers' problem. If K-12 teachers were better paid, it seems likely that teaching careers would be more attractive to males who now go into other, better-paying fields. Better pay for teachers is something all parents can lobby for, whether they have sons, daughters, or both.

4:47 PM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think some people misinterpreted my last paragraph. I don't think that the reason to treat boys fairly is because it help girls. rather my point was that there are very real benefits for EVERYONE if boys are treated fairly.

Further when you tell boys that they are growing up to be rapists and abusers you are only making excesses for that behavior. Boys need to be taught that Men as opposed to males treat women with respect and protect and cherish them. In the long run this better for all genders.

The problem is that in separating masculinity from men we leave boys without a standard of how to act. instead of attacking masculinity we should use it to promote gentlemanly (by which i mean all kinds be it holding a door open to for a women to being honest to never hitting a women or making unwanted advances) behavior.

5:12 PM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heather asks "Why is it considered sexist and discriminatory to make boys read literature about women and women's lives, when girls have been asked to read "great books" about men and men's lives for the better part of our public-educational history?"

Heather, are you intentionally missing the point here? The complaint isn't that forcing boys to read about girls is "sexist and discriminatory" and I don't think anyone here has said that is the problem.

The problem with trying to force boys to read (almost exclusively) feminine literature that might suit the (almost exclusively) female teachers' preferences (Little Women, Charlotte's Web etc) or that focus entirely on spunky females emoting to themselves or at each other (Hey God, it's me Margaret...) is that BOYS DON'T WANT TO READ THEM (and probably won't).

Getting boys to read (and girls too) is the goal, Heather, right? You want boys to read and develop the skills that come along with reading, right?

It's not that these books are not good literature, it's that they're not engaging to boys. From the way you frame your question it seems that you think it's maybe time for a little payback.

That's right, let's strangle some boys' love for reading in the crib in order to get back at all those mean men in the last century who taugh the Illiad to defenseless girls!

5:26 PM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heather also writes: "Better pay for teachers is something all parents can lobby for, whether they have sons, daughters, or both."

Why in the world should we pay the teachers who have systematically attempted to destroy education in this country over the last 30 years more money? Strangle my son’s love of learning and I’ll give you a big raise!

I think we can all get behind school vouchers and the upending of the union racket that the schools currently operate under. Let's see how many of these public school mediocrities (and there are of course a huge number of exceptions) would be able to find employment in a competitive environment!

BTW, if quality is our touchstone, a degree in “education” will be seen as a detriment, not a plus.

5:32 PM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

SR @ 5:12: Another good post. I sound like a broken record, but I'm glad you are posting here.

5:40 PM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...


I think that there are many reasons why the world is better off if women/girls are engaged in education and encouraged to learn. All the reasons that make that true apply equally to men/boys. I think that's SR's point.

5:50 PM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To clarify, given get real and jw's comments:

I think it's important in literature classes to have a variety of books which appeal to BOTH genders. jw, I don't think it's true that all boys turn away from books with a psychological bent, any more than it's true that all girls despise "books with highly mechanical themes".
And, get real, just what is feminine literature, anyway? "Charlotte's Web" has a male pig as a primary character, but you classify it as "feminine." Why? Honest question, not facetious.

I'll accept for a moment your claim that if books are feminine literature, "BOYS JUST DON'T WANT TO READ THEM." This sweeping generalization could apply equally to certain books for certain girls that are also classroom standards, but are "masculine literature." According to your logic, "Girls just don't want to read them," either. Yet girls are still succeeding at higher rates in literature classes.

This isn't about payback, and I don't want any readers to suffer through a year of class that turns them off to reading. My point is the book selections must not be the boys' sole problem, since girls are succeeding academically regardless of the books selected.

It's the way those books are taught. The "boys are violent/rapists and here are lots of examples" method is horrifying, but I agree with me that it's not as widespread as jw thinks. In a well-designed curriculum, students of both genders would encounter a variety of literature, some of which they of course will enjoy more than the rest. Enjoyment isn't the only goal of an English class, though. I agree that trying to turn off readers of either gender is a bad idea. However, boys need to read all types of literature as part of their educational process, not just those that most stereotypically appeal to them on a gender basis. Students should be learning to read, understand, and critique a variety of literature. Whether or not they can identify with the characters in every single selected text is relatively unimportant.

And I'd love to hear other plans for attracting more male teachers to K-12. That's a key part of the problem.

11:36 AM, January 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article is far worse. It doesn't merely say it's because boys are now the "ignored" class, it says it's because boys simply can't compete:

"For many boys, the trouble starts as young as 5, when they bring to kindergarten a set of physical and mental abilities very different from girls’. As almost any parent knows, most 5-year-old girls are more fluent than boys and can sight-read more words. Boys tend to have better hand-eye coordination, but their fine motor skills are less developed, making it a struggle for some to control a pencil or a paintbrush. Boys are more impulsive than girls; even if they can sit still, many prefer not to—at least not for long."

So boys do bad in classrooms because of what they are. Even though 30 years ago it was reversed.

She goes on to say even later differences might be because girls "mature faster" than boys.

So this article, even while trying to point out a problem, is still bashing boys, in my opinion.

12:50 PM, January 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear lord, Memoirs of a Geisha and the Secret Life of Bees? What kind of school teaches their kids that pseudo-intellectual pap? Might as well have them watch Book Club episodes of Oprah.

It's unreal. I got through all of high school without even HEARING about the Great Gatsby or Catcher in the Rye or anything Hemingway... (I ended up reading all of them as my senior year anyway) but you can be sure I had to read The Color Purple and plenty of other crap.

4:28 PM, January 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heather- you said

"I'll accept for a moment your claim that if books are feminine literature, "BOYS JUST DON'T WANT TO READ THEM." This sweeping generalization could apply equally to certain books for certain girls that are also classroom standards, but are "masculine literature." According to your logic, "Girls just don't want to read them," either. Yet girls are still succeeding at higher rates in literature classes."

I think the problem is that, quite frankly Girls don't mind reading more "classical literature." I don't know for sure, but that's been my impression, I meet more women who've read traditional classical literature and enjoyed than men, but I also know that men, who bothered to read them, also enjoyed such classical literature. The problem is to fulfill a need for "diversity," we provide books written to fulfill our diversity need instead of quality.

As a result, boys who are less compliant in general tend to rebel more against the boring book. Girls being more compliant read it anyways, probably get less out of it, but they still read it. That's the problem. Not that there are girl books and boy books, but that there are good books and less good books, and instead of reading really good books (because Uhhhhh heaven forbid, dead white men wrote a lot of the really good books) we/they read bad literature.

Granted, there's no accounting for taste, but if someone tries to sell me on the idea that selections from Oprah's book club is good literature, ughhh...

I don't know, I don't know many people who couldn't relate to a story like Anna Karenina, but heaven forbid people read a dead Russian male.

8:55 PM, January 25, 2006  
Blogger B. Durbin said...

Ah, literature.

I have met very few males who like Pride & Prejudice, especially when it assigned in high school. Likewise, I know very few females who can stand Catcher in the Rye.

Part of this is identifying with the protagonist. Lizzie Bennet is very much a feminine character, in a very feminine book. Holden Caulfield is very much a masculine character in a male book. I know of very few girls who even have a fraction of the kinds of stresses that Caulfield goes on about. (Such stresses are often channelled into different paths.)

Furthermore, females tend to be very developed in language subtleties by their teenaged years, while males develop that appreciation later. A novel such as Pride & Prejudice is very funny— but only if you have a good grasp of "reading in between the lines." A surface reading of that book produces only a few moments of interest in between a bunch of talk and writing. In fact, it usually takes multiple readings for most people to get the nuances anyway. A book such as Catcher in the Rye is far more active, where Holden goes out and does things instead of merely reacting to them.

When a *large* number of teenaged boys don't want to read, do you really think that assigning female-written, female-oriented books is going to help? If I had been assigned nothing except for classics in the line of Catcher in the Rye in high school, I'd certainly think the classics were a bunch of crap because I HATED that book.

I second the notion that boys should head straight to the science fiction section if they want good "Young Adult" literature. Except for Life of Pi. They've come out with a Young Adult edition of that. As for biographies, why not go straight to the History section (if the store doesn't have a Biography section)? There are many good writers who are accessible at a so-called Young Adult level. Ask the bookstore clerk; a good one may recommend some, or know someone who can.

12:17 AM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had lots of fun reading through all of this.

Yup, there was no ADD in the 50's and 60's - but there was something called "minimal brain dysfunction" or something like that. I self-taught myself to read at age 3. After 2 weeks in first grade (which I started at age 4), the teacher decided I could do better sitting in the library. By the time I was halfway through 2nd grade I had read everything in the school. By the time I was in 3rd grade I was terminally bored - there was no way I was going to sit around and pretend - got smacked a lot - both in school and out of school.

In 5th grade I was placed into an experimental class - half 4th graders, half 5th graders. One day the teacher made an error in something she told the class and I called her on it. She forced me to apologize to the rest of the class and admit that MY information was inaccurate. I told my parents (who had promised me early on that if I ever got in trouble in school and was being incorrectly accused, they would go to the wall for me) - and that turned out to be a mistake.

I shut down. I have no idea how I ever graduated from high school, much less get into college - but I suspect it had something to do with my SAT scores (I had to take the test three times to prove I wasn't cheating).

I'm in my mid-fifties now, have foundered for most of my life - trying to fit into a culture that fears outrageous intelligence and belittles ignorance. Fortunately, a decade ago my fiction began selling - and I live very comfortably these days, albeit still alone...

The public schools STILL insist on teaching to the masses - those whose minds weigh in at either extreme of the bell curve are pushed aside in our market-driven obsession with "being like everybody else".

Minds are individual things, and all are capable of great things - treating them like commodities is criminal. I know my story is not unusual - and that is a sad, sad commentary on what we do to our kids - regardless of gender.

8:06 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck you ya hippy bitch im a bloke and i think you should keep your opions to yourself if it seems if pepople can sell books as easily as you i should try

9:38 PM, June 13, 2006  
Blogger Serket said...

XWL said: "(how many high schools have their own wiki page?)"
I imagine there are a lot of high schools listed. Wikipedia has a very expansive collection of information. My own high school is on there and it is in a small city of about 20,000 people. The school had about 2300 students when I was there.

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9:08 AM, May 12, 2009  
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10:16 PM, May 19, 2009  

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