22 January 2006

The Trouble With Boys

I've found a brilliant article over at Newsweek about boys failing at school.

It's really very indepth and goes on for a few pages, but made me reevaluate the problem with linear schooling as I saw it.

Right now I am fighting for a statement of special educational needs for my son who has Aspergers Syndrome. If he is eventually awarded the assistance that the Educational Psychologist says he needs, the likelihood is that he will be given a female teaching assistant, but now I have read this article I wonder if that is such a good thing.

I especially loved the observation in the article that young men starting out at senior school, 11 to 13 or older, are entirely preoccupied, like teenage primates, with finding their place in the pack. Their world view is totally wrapped up in whether this or that activity makes them look weak. If asking for help appears weak then they just don't ask.

I am fascinated by the amazing effect, in one study, of providing every boy on one program with a male mentor, because somehow then, academic success ceases to be girly, weak, irrelevant and becomes something that earns them the respect of a 'strong' male.

Yes ok so it goes against the pc view of all people as equal, but this is about teaching a child in the throes of testosterone addled misconception. Sometimes you have to step into their world to reach them, and that doesn't mean admitting defeat or in any way subscribing to the male superiority theory. It just means accepting that, during puberty at least, male and female hormones result in you effectively trying to teach the same thing to two different species.

Its not fair to penalise them for not being girls.

Addendum: A feminist view, here.

11 comments:

Ms Mac said...

As a mother of 3 boys, I am finding that schooling is increasingly tailored towards girls and the way they behave/learn.

Boisterous boys are becoming a thing of the past, sadly. Frustrating to say the least.

bulb said...

This is a problem I work with every day. There is a great lack of FATHERING!
Not only in our culture, (In for instance Islamic culture the archetypal Mature Male is almost unknown.) but as a general problem for humanity at large.
Boys need MEN to mature. Not only as a distant rolemodel, but as a tangible reality. They need to have beardstubble scratching their cheeks when they go to bed. They need to know what it is to love as a man, to rule as a man, to think as a man and to fight as a man.
Something a woman, however manly she is, can never teach them.
We're steering towards a generation of 50 cents.

Where are all the men at? I can't be everywhere at once!

HazelNutcluster said...

"Sometimes you have to step into their world to reach them"

If only parents/guardians/educators would do this more often, our children would be happier, more productive people.

Good luck with the statementing, I know how long a process that can be.

Writer Mom said...

(What's a statement in the UK?)
Great comments above.

This sent a sword right through me.
I suspect you suspected it might.
Now I've got to pull that damn sword out and start waving it around.
My son bombed his first day of 4-year-old preschool. Did fine his 3-year-old preschool...until teachers quit, the format restructured. Then they became 'concerned' about him, suggested he summer school to get ready for PRESCHOOL, which is now set up to get them ready for kindergarten...to get them ready for all the other grades leading up to ONE STUPID TEST IN THE THIRD GRADE!!! If kids don't do well on this test, the teachers suffer.
Thanks, Bush!
So my son, who has been reading for a year (predominantly self-taught) is now flagged as the kid who will slow everyone else down. He doesn't like to sit. He can't sit. You can see his mind firing non-stop...he wants to learn, he wants to move, he's easily distracted...he is JUST LIKE HIS FATHER!!!
I tell myself, this makes no sense. My child has strengths that are being ignored. Suzy leaves with a paper with a cute little glittered G on it, and my son, who knew G's since 1 1/2, refused to put his feet in paint that day, so spent his time alone with a toy in the corner...(insert sad concerned look of teacher).
This put us on a long heartbreaking journey that ended up with, "You may want to get him an alert collar, and if you're considering another child, perhaps you'd like to have genetic testing done first."
I'm angry and worn-out...and seven months away from kindergarten.
*One more note (so sorry--this is my hot button)...Jack's male gymnastics teacher has been EXCELLENT for him. Never once made us feel concerned. He always ends the day with, "Getting better and better..." Also. The six other boys bounce around just as much as Jack. It's the only time we get to feel proud & normal.

Cheryl said...

"You may want to get him an alert collar, and if you're considering another child, perhaps you'd like to have genetic testing done first."

WHAT??!!

Omg do NOT let me near that teacher.
Grrrrrrr.

The only answer is - "OK lets test him for special needs, on the understanding that if none are found you will acknowledge it is your limited, linear, female oriented/sexist teaching methodology thats at fault"

OOh what a COW.

shorty said...

As an american educator, I would like to say that boys do need male mentors. Unfortunately, many boys do not have the one male figure in their lives that they should have, their father. In the poor, factory town where I used to teach, many of my middle school boys did not have a father actively in their lives. You could just look at them and see that they were searching desperately to find their place, their role. My heart goes out to them. I hope that more mentoring programs will develop to give these boys the opportunities they deserve.

Just another American Expat said...

“Boys need MEN to mature.”

Yeah…this is probably true, but it also means that the world is in a sad state of affairs. I don’t know that many fully mature men and the ones I do know, or have known, are, or were, too busy to really do any serious mentoring. In a day of broken marriages, and 60 hour work weeks, the MAN of the 21st century will either lack proper mentoring and thus never fully mature or to become a good mentor himself or, will be too busy trying to climb the corporate ladder, or make end’s meat to concern himself with his male offspring.

As for your choice in teaching assistants, I would choose a GOOD one, regardless of sex. My wife disagrees, teenaged boys respond better to male teachers, she says.

Our younger son is tutored in math by a 40-something male who never shows up punctually at the door and has the smell of alcohol on his breath. I would not call him a mentor (Bulb is right, that’s supposed to be my job) and we have yet to see the results of his teaching skills, so the jury is still out.

On a lighter, and perhaps, slightly absurd, note…with all this talk about male mentoring, testosterone levels, and adolescent boy’s perceptions of academic success as being “girly”, what does this say of a nation GOVERNED by a woman?

ella m. said...

Personally it scares me more that we've constructed male roles no narrowly that academic success or effort is considered "girly" by boys, and that male academic mentoring while successful in achieving the immediate goal at hand, will reinforce the idea(s) that creates part of the learning gap in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Go Ella M!

Indeed, first male/female biological nature was used (by men/society) to keep women out of school, now its being used to explain why boys are not doing well. No offence, but I do not want my son to be compared to a monkey. He is not a monkey, he is a human being and as such deserves the appropriate consideration of this issue by EVERYONE namely psychologists. When society is telling my son that learning is girly? That is a problem to me. Our culture, our society, needs to acknowledge how we are all (parents, teachers, even person w/no children) are implicit in the acculturation of boys as goaded by masculinity and not faring as well as women (which crisis? come on people).

Cheryl said...

Ella,
I didn't put that very well. The article says that they fear derision if they admit they need help. Its not academic success so much as asking for directions or assistance that they see as shaming. Apparently. According to the study. What did you think of the feminist counter-argument?

Anonymous
I completely agree too.
No offence taken - go take a bite out of Newsweek, they're the ones who wrote up the comparison.
I actually have no problem with societal drives being compared cross species, but I think it cuts both
ways. Whether its enforced, inbred or what. The article misses that girls of that age are just as screwed up about how their peers will see them, to the point that some find 'best friends' to go out wearing identical clothing, or become anorexic in search of the ultimate 'acceptable' body.
Puberty is a period of uncertainty whoever you are, the difference being that classrooms are being geared toward favouring submissive behaviours. According to the article we seem to be heading back to 1930s style schooling - sit down, shut up, copy this and go away. I think thats bad for every child.

Keine Stijl said...

Thank you! I find this very interesting, I might use it for school.