December 29, 2005

The problems with boys and school.

Melana Zyla Vickers writes in the Weekly Standard about the gender gap in higher education:
What is going on? Schools are not paying enough attention to the education of males. There's too little focus on the cognitive areas in which boys do well. Boys have more disciplinary problems, up to 10 percent are medicated for Attention Deficit Disorder, and they thrive less in a school environment that prizes what Brian A. Jacob of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government calls "noncognitive skills." These include the ability to pay attention in class, to work with others, to organize and keep track of homework, and to seek help from others. Where boys and girls score comparably on cognitive skills, boys get worse grades in the touchy-feely stuff. Perhaps not coincidentally, boys reportedly enjoy school less than girls do, and are less likely to perceive that their teachers support them, according to studies of Hispanic dropouts.

Harvard's Jacob is one of the few scholars to have studied the gender gap in higher education. His statistical analysis suggests it is boys' lack of skill in these noncognitive areas that is the principal cause of the gap.
Let me tie this to my usual point that whatever is discovered to be true of the female is portrayed as superior. Here, we see characteristics discovered in the male portrayed as a deficiency in "noncognitive skills." But isn't this because the scientists are defining "noncognitive skills" to fit what they find to be true of girls? Once could just as well spin what the boys seem to have as "noncognitive skill." You can easily translate Jacob's diagnosis into a positive one for the boys: Boys have wide-ranging, active interests and the capacity to deftly shift from one area of interest to the next. They resist becoming bogged down in details and meaningless exercises and hold fast to their independence. They are not subservient and are straightforward in their criticisms of authority figures. But then the girls might come out deficient. And, of course, designing a classroom to suit these skills would be much more difficult.

UPDATE: Slate links to this post and ridiculously garbles my meaning!

55 comments:

Ron said...

Yes, but isn't the point of school to grind us down into being useful tools? We may talk a good game about 'independent thought,' but I don't think we really act that way. That way is intrinsically dangerous; you start questioning everyone, starting with the person at the front of the classroom, than parents, bosses, etc...what element in society really wants that?

Robert said...

The gender gap just doesn't fly. Analysis of the data indicates that post-secondary enrollment for men and for women, both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of the population, have been increasing steadily. (I have a post about it here.)
(/blatantplug)

It's difficult to understand how a failure of the schools to meet the needs of men results in steadily increases in the number of men in school.

Uncle Jimbo said...

So then Calvin (the cartoon kid) was simply placed in an environment that did not value his non-cognitive ability to become Spaceman Spiff. Far from being a maladjusted problem child he was a gender-leading visionary.

SWBarns said...

Uncle Jimbo:

Calvin was an innocent little boy with a soaring imagination who was terrorized by a local bully, had a soul destroying teacher who had been teaching too long, and a mad crush on the neighbor girl but lacked the ability to communicate with her exept with snowballs.

He went on to found his own company because he didn't fit in at his first job at a big company and is driving a Ferrari now despite all of that.

Calvin is now happily married to Sue (his high school sweetheart) he did grow up after all, just not according to some curve on the school psychologist's chart.

Slocum said...

And, of course, designing a classroom to suit these skills would be much more difficult.

I don't think that's the case. For example -- group projects. Are group projects easier for a teacher to manage and evaluate? I would say no--it's much more difficult to manage the potential group conflicts and accurately assess the contributions of each member. Or consider a more girl-friendly classroom with lots of daily assignments to track and relatively low-stakes tests vs a boy-friendlier classroom with fewer assignments to track and higher-stakes tests. Now which is easier for the teacher?

Slocum said...

The gender gap just doesn't fly. Analysis of the data indicates that post-secondary enrollment for men and for women, both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of the population, have been increasing steadily.

Please -- if the sexes were reversed in this, is there ANY chance that feminists would accept an argument like yours? For example, suppose the differences between male and female incomes was growing, but because of overall economic growth, everybody was getting at least a bit wealthier. Would feminists agree, then, that there was no gender gap (and nothing to worry about) there because men's and women's incomes were all going up (even though men's were not only higher but growing at a faster rate)? To ask the question is to answer it.

There is a significant and growing gap between female and male participation in higher education. This is a real gender gap regardless of whether overall participation in higher ed is growing, shrinking, or remaining constant.

jeff said...

Why do people seem to think that being medicated for ADD is evil?

It probably saved my life, I know it saved my academic career.

Cheryl said...

This coincides exactly with what I am finding in my son's first grade classroom. My son, while not perfect in any way, is a bright, engaging little boy who likes contests, memorizing, competitions, and absolutely does not like group work and the stacks and stacks of worksheets they do in class every day. The teacher just doesn't seem interested in engaging him--it's as if he doesn't conform to her definition of a successful student so she will not put herself out for him. I thought I was nuts, just not understanding how my son could be just not connecting in school, but the description of the classroom exactly correlates to my very short public school experience. It might not tell me how to fix the problem, but it sure is another angle to consider.

And, by the way, I think it is much easier for a teacher to teach in the "feminine" mode. After all, most teachers are women, first of all, and have an easier time understanding this style of learning. It's also much easier to grade group projects--fewer projects!!--and by telling a child to come see you when he doesn't understand, you really cut down on the amount of questions. You have to be pretty tuned in to all the children to know when the quiet ones aren't getting it.

bill said...

Jeff, I can't speak for everyone, but I don't think being medicated for ADD is evil.

However, I do think it's often poorly diagnosed and overprescribed by school counselors and teachers who can't deal with bored children (usually boys). It should be the last resort.

I'm also fascinated by the advances science is making with altering brain chemistry and scared that we're needlessly experimenting on children.

Robert said...

Slocum, in my view, what's important are trends, not snapshots.

If men's participation were declining, I would agree that there is cause for alarm. But men's participation is increasing - just not as fast as women's participation. That makes the "differential choices" explanation both tenable and acceptable. There's no oppression going on.

Most of the male-female difference is coming from women's participation in (to be polite) less than economically optimal disciplines. I can't get worked up about a differential in rates of improvement in what amounts to a luxury good.

This situation is a concern for individual schools, who have to worry about the social viability of their campuses.

Richard Fagin said...

Thank God Almighty there are still science and engineering courses in this world. It isn't "cognitive dissonance" when the building falls down, and thanks to all those boys out there doing the designing and the constuction, the buildings don't fall down very often (notwithstanding any criticism of Larry Summers).

The Drill SGT said...

Thanks Ann for posting on this one.

ADD: I submit that too many boys are medicated for just being boys by an educational staff (teacher/principal/child psych) that is predominately female. Link mental health institutions, it's easier to medicate the patients than alter the teaching process.

Ratios and problems: if 60% of the students at colleges are female and that number is going up, it's irrelevant that the total number of men and women attending college is increasing. period! In the long term this is bad for society. It portends what we see in the black community where black college grads can't find suitable mates. Long term, this will adults, who can't find mates, create weaker families and more dysfunctional children. A bad cycle to get into for the country as a whole.

Gahrie said...

I think it's very interesting that I have just been heavily dinged at work for not doing enough group activities. (I am a 7th grade SS teacher) We never did them when I was in school, and I truly see little or no value in most of them.

Pastor_Jeff said...

And yet for quite some time now boys seem to have been able to function (and even succeed) in highly structured and tightly disciplined learning environments like "the military," "organized sports," "business" and even "life."

If a bird in a cage fails to thrive, is it possible there's a problem with the environment and not the animal's lack of "non-cognitive skills"?

ShadyCharacter said...

Gahrie,

Do they tell you why they want you to do more group projects? Is there a pedagological purpose to them? Are the students complaining about not having enough in-class goof off time?

I went to public school, and I absolutely loved the dippy teachers who had us do group projects every day. It was like having an extra recess. Invariably, each group would have an earnest Sue (from Calvin & Hobbes) who actually did the assignment who, perhaps, got something out of the exercise. For the rest of us, it was a wonderful opportunity to play paper football (btw, that same scenario played out from early elementary school through high school)...

Long live the group project!

Slac said...

I always love it when you talk about your views on modern schooling and the reporting of gender differences, Ann.

I think this is the first time you combined them, and the result is very thought-provoking.

And I just want to say that I just graduated from Marquette with a BS in Econ a couple weeks ago, and I am SO HAPPY NOT TO BE STIFLED BY SCHOOL ANYMORE.

Now I have to fight with the dilemma of whether or not I should go to law school and then lead a career fighting for youth rights in education.

ShadyCharacter said...

On the topic of group projects, I've been thinking about it and the only reason I can see for having them is that it allows the not-so-bright kids a chance to coast - please disregard my prior post on this point :) - thus raising everyone's self-esteem.

Think about it, you have 5 A level students in a given class and 10 others. If you divide the class into 5 groups of 3 and put an A level student in each group, all of a sudden everyone in the class gets and A!

ShadyCharacter said...

Luckily, that's exactly how real life works...

nunzio said...

If these stats keep up, pretty soon every boy will feel like he's attending Vassar.

Gahrie said...

It gets worse. I was told to purposely build the groups so that each group had an "A" student, and a "F" student.

I was told to ignore the district provided curriculum, and not worry about covering all of the assigned standards.

Pogo said...

Gosh, just a few short years ago, academia was aghast at how schools cheat girls.

This resulted in massive changes throughout the school systems, from K through 12, and even college. The result? Now, schools cheat boys.

Problem solved!

Stiles said...

Gahrie,

Your evaluator told you to skip standards, ignore the district curriculum, and go with an arbitrary grading distribution that included an A and an F for each group? If you have this in writing, I would advise you to blow the whistle.

For Bill and the Drill Sgt., I will not dispute that some educators may offer up a lay diagnosis of ADD. However, they are not making the formal diagnosis and they are not writing the prescriptions. The ultimate responsibility for the diagnosis and prescriptions resides with the medical doctor.

Pogo said...

Gahrie,

I beg to differ. No matter how obvious the dysfunction you experienced Do NOT blow the whistle.

Unless you like being a never-to-be-employed-again teacher, never ever ever blow the whistle.

Signed,

Someone who blew the whistle.

Robin said...

I've been working in elementary education for 23 years, specifically in special education. Yeah, mostly we're all female at this end of the education spectrum but we don't have it in for active boys. Yes, I have participated in conferences that suggest investigating a possible diagnosis of ADD--but we can't make parents do it, nor force doctors to prescribe for it.

Group projects are not easier to grade because there are fewer of them. They are more difficult to grade because of the subjective component. I don't think they ought to be graded at all for that reason.

Public schools are teaching every element of our society. The rich, the poor, the gifted and the cognitively impaired. Most classrooms are a hetereogeneous grouping of students. Most schools/teachers do their best to design curriculum and activities that will teach students in a multi-modal methodology while imparting information that is increasingly more complex than what was taught 20 or 30 years ago.

Here's what schools aren't: places where students will get 1 on 1 instruction that is perfectly geared to a particular child's abilities, interests, and skills. If I had a dollar for every parent who thought the school was heinous because the teachers weren't gearing all instruction in a classroom to their child's interests and abilities, I'd be rich.

Stiles said...

Pogo,

My opinion, as a practicing school administrator with both building and central office experience, is that if Gahrie is teaching in a district where questioning this kind of guidance could lead to termination, then it's not a district worth staying in.

I recognize that there are administrators and institutional cultures that might punish whistleblowing, but it is difficult to work as a professional educator in such a climate. And in suffocating professional ethics, those schools are setting the conditions for poor performance.

Mandatory F's, ignore the adopted curriculum, skip state standards...there is much tinder here if it is in writing. What kind of student learning will occur if this kind of malarkey is allowed to metastasize?

Pete said...

I’d like to chime in on the ADD angle and the prescribing of medication.

In our case, it’s our DAUGHTER who’s been diagnosed with ADHD and we’ve found Ritalin to be a miracle drug. It took years before her teachers finally came to the realization that her problems in school might be the result of ADHD. We consulted a psychologist then with her pediatrician and with careful monitoring we arrived at a helpful dosage of Ritalin. Through this ordeal, no one was overly eager to prescribe medication. Our psychologist warned us of well-intentioned individuals with plenty of anecdotal evidence of over-prescription of Ritalin but no, and I mean no, controlled studies that prove this is being done. I’ve also found other sources that say though there are a myriad of techniques out there to help individuals with ADD and ADHD without medication, none are as effective as the medication itself.

We seem to have no problem when people must rely on medications to help control high blood pressure or high cholesterol or diabetes but when it comes to something like ADHD, well, medication is just a form of mind control. If you or your child needed corrective lenses to see well, you wouldn’t think twice about wearing glasses or contacts.

So, please, let’s dispense with this outdated notion that Ritalin is merely a tool for incompetent parents and teachers, shall we? I’ve got a daughter who is now able to function quite well, thank you very much, in a classroom environment that says otherwise.

Bruce Hayden said...

Things have changed, and I don't think for the better. I was talking to my daughter a couple of days ago, and we agreed that I wouldn't probably do nearly as well as I did in high school, if I were attending such today. A large percentage of her grade in most of her classes is dependent upon homework and class participation. I got A's and B's almost entirely on my ability to ace tests. Today, I would probably be getting mostly C's. And that means that I would not have gotten in the small liberal arts college that I attended, and, indeed, probably would have had trouble getting into the University of Colorado (which I didn't even bother applying to).

I didn't always get my homework in, and hated classroom participation. After all, much of that grade seemed to be dependent upon how well you could brown-nose the teacher, which the girls in my classes always seemed to excel at.

I could at least sit still through school. Many of the boys I went to school with could not. Now, of course, through sedation, many more boys can.

lindsey said...

"Most schools/teachers do their best to design curriculum and activities that will teach students in a multi-modal methodology while imparting information that is increasingly more complex than what was taught 20 or 30 years ago."

Too many kids aren't learning to write, read or do basic math.
A recent study found the literacy levels of college students to actually be declining. The information is not becoming increasingly more complex. Students are not studying inorganic chemistry and very few in the school system ever study calculus. Somehow something we've been teaching for centuries has just gotten more complex and impossible for large numbers of students when it wasn't before. You have millions of high school students and as a result adults who are functionally illiterate. Most of what is taught is the same material as twenty and even 100 years ago. If teaching kids to read, write and do arithmetic has suddenly gotten more difficult and complex, then god only knows what sorts of idiots are running the schools.

I suggest that "multi-modal methodology" is a significant part of the problem.

Pogo said...

Stiles, as a practicing school administrator you should know that even if "it's not a district worth staying in," whistle-blowing is a career-ender for many if not most people.

Once you whistle-blow, it is extremely unlikely a "good" school or district will look past that, or look upon you as a desirable employee.

It's almost like magic.
He: "So," says the prospective principal, with the recent phone call to your prior boss still in his ears, "what happened in your previous job?"

Me: "Oh, um, I, um, was seeking new opportunities?"

He: "We'll call you."

Sorry, Stiles, unless you fully accept (and even expect) never to be employed in that city, or maybe even that field, ever again, unless you have that kind of courage, well, don't be a whistle-blower.

No, no, never, ever, uh uh uhhh.

Signed,

A former whistle-blower.

Kathy said...

Besides, what's to blow the whistle on? That type of grouping has been standard, required or at least strongly suggested practice in many schools for a long time. It's been ten years since I taught high school, and we were supposed to do similar activities then. It's not that you're supposed to give one student an A and one an F; it's that you're supposed to put different levels of students in the group. That way the smart ones teach the dumb ones, and everyone learns to work together, which we all know is vital to success in the modern world. That's the theory, anyway. I hated group work as a student, and I hated it as a teacher.

SWBarns said...

My great grandfather was digging potatoes 18 hours a day at an age when I was learning algebra. Even 50 years ago if you weren't good in school you left and got a job, often earning a wage that would support a wife and kids. It's not that topics are "complex and impossible for large numbers of students when it wasn't before." The fact is that life is tough for someone who drops out of school now where in the past there were options.

Some folks aren't wired for algebra or English, let alone inorganic chemistry (which by the way is a truly painful subject). Today they are put through the ringer and eek out a H.S. Diploma or people tut-tut about how he failed or the system failed him.

HaloJonesFan said...

And it jives pretty well with modern private-industry performance-review practice. Even if your department is composed entirely of double-PhD engineers who routinely invent things that save the company, you're still required to rank most of them as "average", with a few "below average" and maybe one or two "above average" if the executives are feeling magnanimous.

37383938393839383938383 said...
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37383938393839383938383 said...

You know, I never perceived it as discrimination until I started hearing the rants against patriarchy out of the foaming mouths of feminist converts in college (and realized that much of what they were decrying did not exist in a form that targeted women, but did exist in a form that targeted men), but to be honest I found all of my schooling to be less competitive, less focused on independent-thinking, and less oriented toward learning actual knowledge than I expected. Instead we were always supposed to treat politely comments that were demonstrably false or ignorant, work collectively, even with indolent freeriders, and come to some consensus that always seemed left-of-center rather than try to one-up each other or win. Even law school was that way.

Ross said...

Given the


Most folks have probably seen the study showing that college graduates have on average lower literacy levels than they did even 15 years ago, so it's not entirely clear what this schooling is achieving for the women.

Given that men are far more likely to go into the military and the trades -- honest professions both -- I'm not entirely sure there's a crisis here. What are the guys doing instead of pursuing higher education?

Slac said...

What you teachers and administrators here think of Montessori education?

It is structured so that every student is required to have a one-on-one relationship with the instructor. The other side of it is that a lot of responsibility to do the work in a timely manner is assumed onto the student (not to, say, a taskmaster) and that groups form spontaneously.

I find all of these prospects wonderful. I was educated in a Montessori school when I was very young. I was such a happy child. And I excelled. Some of you might remember me boasting about how I learned to write cursive when I was 4.

I invited you to please look up Maria Montessori and consider being a leader in changing your school systems to closer match her philosophy.

No, I beg you.

Ross said...

And of course, the richest fellow in the known universe -- Bill Gates -- dropped out of college.

Stiles said...

Pogo,

I would agree that there is risk involved, but once tenured a teacher can usually out-survive a principal. Not always, especially if the local union is weak. And there is no doubt that a principal can control budget and assignment in ways that can make a teacher's job unpleasant and fail to support them with students and parents.

I would also agree that applying to another school or district after a major confrontation with your principal can be difficult unless you are in a high demand area or in a high demand license area. In that situation, you want three things. One, have very solid recommendations excepting the principal. Two, apply to schools where you have friends or colleagues from professional associations who will vouch for you. Three, apply for positions where the hiring administrator has been established in the region for several years. Administrative networking doesn't always work against the teacher when I have concerns about a peer's philosophy, judgment, or track record. If the interview committee presents a question asking you to describe a time you disagreed with a colleague or administrator, take advantage of the opportunity to describe the issue objectively and professionally.

We could also get into how districts should have sanctioned avenues in place for staff concerns to be raised at low risk, but I don't want to move the comments off the theme of the article. I am sorry that your personal experience ended awfully. I have been more fortunate. Which experience is more likely for Gahrie, I cannot say.

Robin said...

While it is true that the basics of reading,writing and mathematics haven't changed in the last 100 hundred years, when we teach those elements has changed. We now present in the kindergarten curriculum things which we used to present in first grade. We have also added to the depth of the curriculum--for example what used to be the junior high or high school curriculum in science (chemistry, physics) is now taught in fourth and fifth grade.

Research into reading instruction tells us that waiting until children are more developed--6-7 years old, produces better readers. Unfortunately, the pressure of high stakes testing and the requirement to demonstrate comparable student achievement by third grade means schools are presenting the curriculum earlier and earlier to give themselves an edge.

The fact that everyone has gone to school, does not make everyone an expert on schools , just for the record. For example, cooperative learning or group learning activities which are taking such a beating in our discussion have been forced into school curriculums by the business community who said students weren't prepared to work cooperatively when they came to the work setting.

As for declining literacy--heck--compared to the educated person of the last century, we're all a bunch of morons. They read the great works of literature and were usually copious letter writers and diarists. Their intellectual resources weren't wasted by watching television or playing video games. There are many educated persons who can't tell you the last book they read. Is it a shame? Yes, is it because the education system is failing--I don't think so.

AlaskaJack said...

If you really want to see how far primary public education has regressed, take a look at the McGuffey Reader, circa 1836, revised 1874. I did and I was shocked. The Sixth Reader has selections from Tennyson, Blackstone, Jefferson, Bacon, and Disraeli among others. I think the Sixth Reader was for the 7th or 8th grade. But I might be wrong on that.

If the latest literacy study on college grads is accurate, only about 31% would be able to make any sense out of this book.

tiggeril said...

As for declining literacy--heck--compared to the educated person of the last century, we're all a bunch of morons.

I'd like to see them write an e-mail, use Google, figure out the features on your average tv/vcr/dvd player/iPod, use a copier/fax machine, use a graphing calculator, or make popcorn in a microwave. Some things are relative.

Kathy said...

If you really want to see how far primary public education has regressed, take a look at the McGuffey Reader, circa 1836, revised 1874.

Yep, that was what pushed me into homeschooling. I read the Little House books again and realized that, even starting school at a later age than we do, and going for no more than a few months a year (and that not consistently), Laura had achieved educational heights students here rarely do, so I looked for the texts they used and bought the McGuffey Readers. In the end we decided to use a different curriculum, but it's still based on the same sorts of texts. (www.amblesideonline.org, if you're interested.)

I'd like to see them write an e-mail, use Google, figure out the features on your average tv/vcr/dvd player/iPod, use a copier/fax machine, use a graphing calculator, or make popcorn in a microwave. Some things are relative.

You know, they did lots of complex tasks. Once they understood the basic premise of how those things worked, most of them would have had no problem performing the tasks you mentioned. They're not that hard.

I invited you to please look up Maria Montessori and consider being a leader in changing your school systems to closer match her philosophy.

I know this sounds pessimistic, but you seriously underestimate the ability of modern school bureaucracy to screw up any good system or theory. Schools go through a 3-4 year cycle of theory. Every few years, someone introduces a new revolutionary way to do things (sometimes it's an old one, like Montessori). Then all the teachers go to lots of workshops. Then it gets implemented, and things usually get worse not better. Sure, there are exceptions in places where the administrators really buy into it, but usually it's just a change meant to be cosmetic, and the teachers know that so they no longer even really hope for improvement. (This is a generality, of course.)

Given that men are far more likely to go into the military and the trades -- honest professions both -- I'm not entirely sure there's a crisis here. What are the guys doing instead of pursuing higher education?

The article does mention that enrollment in engineering and other more typically "male" areas is down and is having to be supplemented with foreign students. This may not be a crisis but does seem to indicate a problem, at least in my opinion. Besides, if a large number of male students are not reaching their academic potential because of they way they are being taught, that's an issue.

Finn Kristiansen said...

jeff said...
Why do people seem to think that being medicated for ADD is evil?


Cause Tom Cruise says it is. Now be quiet!

As for whistleblowing, one must be sure to "blow it" to the right audience, and that may not be the principal. Often enough the principals are more concerned about their performance ratings, and will impose any number of impossible tasks and rubrics on the teachers, while turning a blind eye when student test scores miraculously jump several levels closer to God.

Robins says:

Research into reading instruction tells us that waiting until children are more developed--6-7 years old, produces better readers.


Uhm, Robin. So you believe the "research"? If you have kids, how long did you wait before teaching them to read? That reminds me about the time my sister got yelled at one year for putting up the alphabet in her kindergarten classroom in NYC. The principal insisted that it would intimidate the kids and turn them off to learning, despite the fact that they were, up until that moment, learning and enjoying the alphabet quite nicely.

MD said...

Interesting points on the McGuffey Readers....

Just to add another anecdote since we are all going anedotal...my father came here from India over thirty years ago to teach mathematics at a university. He says he can no longer give the same tests he used to; they were harder in the past (he's at an engineering school). Apparently, the kids aren't up to it when they get to his class.

David said...

My parents taught me the extraordinary value of reading at a young age. I had difficulty plodding along with the poor readers and usually skipped ahead. The teacher would then spot me on a different page (each page had a different picture on it) and asked me to continue from where the previous student had ended.

I finally put 2 + 2 together and realized that my poor citizenship grades were due primarily to my failure to follow the slowest readers in the class.

My citizenship grades improved dramatically when I began keeping track of where the class was with one finger and continued reading on my own without getting caught short.

I wonder if I would have been diagnosed with ADD in later years? The good news is that it taught me how to multi-task early on. The bad news is that I wet my pants because the teacher told us to not raise our hands for anything for the next 30 minutes while she graded papers.

Gives new meaning to the 'see Dick run' series!

onelmom said...

When I received my son's new pre-school class roster in the mail a few weeks ago, I noticed that at least 2/3 of his class are girls. It's a Montessori school in a New England town with a "top" public school system.

This lone datapoint makes me wonder how parental expectations and priorities fit into the mix. Where are the brothers of the girls in my son's class? Are parents sending their daughters to pre-school, but not their sons?

The Drill SGT said...

On guess on the 2/3 girl population:

More single child families and less tolerance/understanding about "boys being boys".

I suspect that the mother of some of those missing boys, either on her own or with feedback from other parents have decided that 'young John, just isn't ready this year for the social skills required of the perfect pre-schooler.

Ann Althouse said...

OneLMom: How young are these kids? Maybe it has to do with a requirement of toilet training and the fact that boys tend to take longer at this.

onelmom said...

It's a mixed-age classroom. Most of the kids are between the ages of 3 and 6.

Toilet training is required, but children who start in the "young children's community" (ages 15 months - 3) are trained at school.

The other "readiness" requirements seem less stringent than traditional preschool. The children must be able to follow simple directions, engage in a one-on-one lesson with the teacher, and work on an activity independently. They do not screen for the ability to sit still and be quiet, which is one of the reasons why the boy/girl ratio took me by surprise.

knoxgirl said...
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knoxgirl said...

I suggest that "multi-modal methodology" is a significant part of the problem.

Yeah, when I saw that, I was like "huh?"

John Harvard said...

What about law school?

The design of traditional Socratic classes seems to be about as boy-friendly as can be: gladiatorial combat in the classroom, followed by an all-or-nothing exam at the end of the year.

So why are women forming majorities in law school, and, eventually, at the bar?

Is it because few courses are truly Socratic anymore, and the extracurricular activities - law review, moot court, clinics - are schedule-intensive group exercises better suited to Sue than Calvin?

Or did the preceding 16 years of female-oriented education eventually give women law students the cognitive skills to tough it out for 3 years of simulated boyhood, while destroying the boys' interest in any more schooling, even when it seems tailor-made for them?

JH

Slac said...

onelmom, that's like the Montessori school I went to here in Milwaukee (when I was 3 and fairly well potty-trained, thank you very much, Ann!) though I don't remember the girl/boy ratio. But while there I made friends with both boys and girls who were older than I was and - purely on my on free will - challenged myself to work ahead so that I could do their level of work alongside them.

Let me applaud you for making such a wonderful decision in giving your child such a great start his life. I hope that you have more opportunities to send him to more schools that are as progressive as Montessori. (From what I hear of coastal school systems, though, that shouldn't be too difficult).

The thing that's great about Montessori is that the unequal ratio you see will have minimal or no adverse effect on your child's education. He will probably never suspect there is something "wrong" with there being more girls than boys in his grade. That's just how the distribution turned out this one instance.

He'll probably show you the "long tail" of a Zipfian statistical chart of frequencies where one sex outnumbers the other in school classes along with their magnitude (accompanied with a log-to-log graph, of course, showing a straight line) and say, "look, mom, normally we think of statistics we think of the normal curve and Chebyshev's theorem, which tells us that most frequencies occur close to the mean, where the number of girls equals the number of boys... but the fact of the matter is, one sex outnumbers the other a high majority of the time, and a 2/3 majority in one class is not as out-of-the-ordinary as we might think... I would predict that it occurs about seven percent of the time."

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating in that last paragraph. He wouldn't say that. He'd probably realize that looking at his class alone is an n=1 instance and to make an inference about it alone is a statistical fallacy.

;)

But maybe that sex difference isn't due to anything other than a natural distribution. I bet somewhere in California there's a Montessori school where the boys are 2/3 of a class.

Slac said...
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Slac said...

Kathy, thank you. I think I needed to hear that.

But it clearly works in some places... why not others?

Robin,

Here's what schools aren't: places where students will get 1 on 1 instruction that is perfectly geared to a particular child's abilities, interests, and skills. If I had a dollar for every parent who thought the school was heinous because the teachers weren't gearing all instruction in a classroom to their child's interests and abilities, I'd be rich.

Sounds a lot like good 'ol Montessori to me. And that is heinous. What problems have you had in implementing progressive-style education that meets these standards better? Is it the bureaucracy, like Kathy mentioned?