I am new to boys. Our 21 month-old son has been a crash-course in understanding the opposite gender in children. People will ask me if I find it different raising a little boy compared to little girls, upon which they receive an emphatic, yes, most definitely! I have many funny anecdotes. On a serious note, I am very concerned about the “boy crisis” that continues to occur in this country.
From books like The Trouble With Boys, by Peg Tyre and Richard Whitmire’s Why Boys Fail to the recent article that appeared in “The Journal of Human Resources,” there is growing concern over the academic gap that boys are exhibiting. The article “What’s Causing the Gender Gap,” by Associate Editor Connie Matthiessen, at the Great Schools blog site, discusses how boys are consistently being outperformed by girls; are far more likely than girls to repeat a grade or drop out of school; and are twice as likely to end up in a juvenile detention facility. Moreover, the article discusses how girls are now earning 60 percent of college degrees, with an even greater disparity among minority populations.
What is behind this phenomenon? -Perhaps learning and behavioral differences. Matthiessen discusses how boys “less behaviorally compliant ways” affect their academic outcomes. Think of the stereotypical squirmy boy, who may be very bright and curious, but unable to stay in his seat and do quiet work. Mattiessen discusses how boys do not behave as “well” as girls in school at an early age, in terms of being able to: sit still; sit quietly; pay attention; demonstrate knowledge and participate appropriately in the classroom; and in general show a positive attitude towards learning. The recent journal article found that much of the grade that is assigned during the early years is based on behavior, as opposed to how you would expect a boy to perform based on testing. The potential implications of such findings is that this early non cognitive lag in learning, persists and is never really overcome. Different treatment and different experiences of the classroom produce different outcomes for boys as opposed to girls, and not favorable at that!
This is so troublesome to me on many fronts! On a personal level, I want to see my active little boy fully engaged in learning and not penalized by an environment that might not be conducive to his learning style. What troubles me as well as I wonder if this greater academic gap grows with tightened curriculum that limits and lessens time for recess and playtime, in pursuit of class time that favors a sedentary child with high test scores. As schools “race to the top” to meet core standards, we are losing learners! It feels more like teaching to the test at times, as opposed to educating the whole child. We need a learning environment that allows teachers the chance and time to engage boys and girls differently, based on their different learning styles. We need parents to be aware of this disparity and to help their children be engaged in learning, by doing their part at home to prepare them, and by advocating for the right learning environment and techniques for their child who might not meet the favored sedentary mold. Too much is at stake for the status quo…..