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Boys and Education
By Joe Manthey

Our boys need our help.

Boys are less likely than girls to be enrolled in advanced math and science, graduate high school, go to college, or graduate from college

Boys are more likely to drop out of school

Boys are three to ten times more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder

Boys are six times more likely to commit suicide

Boys are typically 1.5 years behind girls in writing and reading by high school
Boys score higher than girls in standardized testing like the SAT yet consistently get poorer grades in school.

Our schools have become places that are not friendly to
boys.


A boy, on average, is going to be more impulsive, more aggressive, more fidgety and less verbal. And let's not forget that he's also hard-wired and acculturated to not ask for help. But instead of giving him special care academically, we put him in a female-centered environment (86 percent of elementary teachers are female) where neatness, conformity, stillness, verbal skills and fine motor movements are what is valued. That's a
classroom set up for the female brain.

Because the female brain has a larger corpus callosum -- the bundle of nerves that connects the brain's left and right hemispheres -- girls out-perform boys in reading, writing and speaking. The male brain, which is more focused on spatial relationships and activity, tends to be more complicated and academically fragile than the female brain.

And just how academically fragile are boys? A boy is more likely than his sister to be diagnosed with a thought disorder, a brain disorder or a conduct disorder. He is more likely to be enrolled in special education, more likely to receive a "D" or "F" grade, more likely to drop out, and less likely to go on to college.

Our schools have become feminized to a fault. Cooperative learning and other female-centered pedagogy and curricula prevail. The biggest attention deficit disorder of all is that of educators not even acknowledging that boys, as a group, are being shortchanged academically.

Every boy wants a challenge. When a girl is told she "can be anybody you want to be" -- from a CEO to a stay-at-home mom -- we are sending her a clear message that she has inherent value. But a boy has a hidden psychology that tacitly tells him he needs to earn his worth. He has no blueprint to follow in order to see his inherent value. All the while we assume that he is meeting his own emotional needs.

We are failing our boys for not seeing their fragility, or, if we do acknowledge such, it's often minimized because of the myth that they are "inherently flawed." Just as girls were once told they would never be good in math and science, boys are often sent indirect and direct messages that tell them they're defective, if not just plain bad.

Interesting how we want to help the girl when we perceive her fragility but not the boy.

What can be done?


Write to your local Board of Education and let them know you think boys deserve better

Encourage staff developments for Educators that help their understanding of gender difference in learning

Talk to your sons or to boys you know about their school experience, ask them if they like school and why

Demand that the government incent men to get involved in teaching. Australia is paying for scholarships for men to get into teaching. Encourage your legislators to do the same

Support single sex education as an option.

Inform yourself with books on this topic like "The Wonder of Boys" by Michael Gurian or "Raising Boys" by Steve Biddulph.




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The author is the director of Kid Culture in the Schools. He has appeared at The Wonder of Boys Conference featuring keynote speaker Michael Gurian at Sonoma State University on May 8, 2004. For more information, visit http://www.joemanthey.com/

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