Gender Series: Men and Education
By Ciarah Cox, NCCJ Contributor
When children start school, everything seems to be on an equal playing field. Both boys and girls are equally successful in the classroom and equally excited about school and learning. However, this love of learning and appreciation for school declines as children get older and is especially prevalent among young boys. But why?
In her book The Trouble with Boys, Peg Tyre tells the story of a mother who receives a shocking revelation at her son’s parent teacher conference. In the meeting, her son’s teacher begins to tell her about all of her sons “problems” that he had been having in class. A few of the comments that were said about her six-year-old son were that he “frequently does not raise his hand before speaking” and he “doesn't always pay attention.” Her son was often punished for these things, usually in the form of having to put a sticker on a chart and read out loud what he had done wrong or having a note sent home to a parent. What the mother brilliantly pointed out, was that none of these were aggressive behaviors, or even strange or unusual behaviors for any normal six year old.
It is normal for any six year old, not just young boys, to not have an attention span that would be desirable to a teacher, or to sometimes not remember to raise his/her hand before speaking. Being punished for these types of normal behaviors often leads young boys to believe that they are “not good” and that school, which is supposed to be a source of learning, is instead just a source of punishment. “As soon as her six-year-old son felt her arms around him, he collapsed to the ground, convulsed in sobs. He showed her the list of misdeeds the teacher had written out. ‘Mommy,’ he cried, ‘I just can’t be good!”’
This is not an uncommon experience for many young boys and men across the country. Being led to believe that school is a place where you only go to be chastised can result in the loss of love for learning, whether it is in the school walls or in the outside world, which leads to a decline in grades, test scores and the desire to pursue higher learning opportunities. They begin to associate learning with school and school with frustration and annoyance. This leads to achievement gaps between genders. On Boundless.com, which is a site dedicated to social research, it is reported that “Boys outscore girls on most high-stakes tests, including both the math and verbal sections of the SAT.” Young boys are less inclined to enjoy recreational reading, writing or other activities that allow for learning apart from educational environments. Young boys also receive the most amounts of D’s, F’s, In/Out of school suspensions and expulsions.
These trends of gender bias can definitely be corrected. It would take more training for teachers on how to avoid subconsciously endorsing these biases. Teachers often mean well, but do not realize the impact that something as seemingly simple as constantly chastising a child for not raising their hand, can ruin a child’s love for school and learning. More rewards for doing the right things instead of chastisements for the wrong things would be beneficial. It is also up to parents, other family and friends to intervene if they see a young man going down the wrong path academically. If you see or know a young man or boy that seems annoyed with or disconnected from school, do not assume that it's just them not wanting to learn or not having respect for authority. See if there is some underlying cause of their disregard for school.
Other Gender blogs:
Monday, August 4, 2014 - Gender blog series introduction
Monday, August 11 - Female Gender and Toys
Monday, August 18 - Male Gender and Toys
Monday, August 25 - Female Gender and School
Monday, September 1 - Male Gender and School
Monday, September 8 - Female Gender and Sports
Monday, September 15 - Male Gender and Sports
Monday, September 22 - Female Gender and Body Image
Monday, September 29 - Male Gender and Body Image
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