January 23, 2006

Boys are losers.

It's becoming quite the meme, isn't it? Pardon me if I laugh at all this new reporting about how boys are innately inferior. Of course the studies show that, it's a natural consequence of following the rule all these years that whatever is shown to be true of girls at a biological level must be portrayed as superior. And then there's the other part of the gender game: If girls are falling behind, it's because what is good about them is being crushed by bad people who must be exposed and thwarted. If boys are falling behind, it's because what is bad about them holds them back and we haven't hit upon a good enough remedy yet.

55 comments:

XWL said...

Everyone knows that if you construct an entity from snakes (or snips as the rhyme is sometimes composed) and snails and puppy dog tails that they are going to be no good.

It's simple science people.

(and every study proves it)

Whereas clearly the opposite gender are responsible for all the obesity problems we face (a main ingredient for them being SUGAR).

Tara said...

I don't know if that's really true. In the recent kerfluffle about boys in schools, the blame is being placed on the schools' methods and expectations.

Dave said...

Between your blogging and Dr. Helen's blogging about how boys are viweed as inferior than girls, I am thinking of getting a sex change operation....

(Yes, that's a joke.)

Jake said...

Dave:

It is not that much of a joke. If a boy wants a decent education, he has to wear a dress to school.

reader_iam said...

Gearing up for another conference at my son's school today.

Oh joy.

I wish I had a dentist's appointment instead, which no doubt would be both more pleasant and more productive.

Meade said...

Precisely, XWL. But what those studies fail to show is the evil that occurs after the girls hook us boys on their sweetly addictive sugariness -- they tempt us with the harder stuff - spice. And like puppy dogs, we follow them anywhere - panting, drooling, and sleeping out in the rain - desperately hoping for one more fix. Boy, are we losers!

Ross said...

I read this in the story:

In the last two decades, the education system has become obsessed with a quantifiable and narrowly defined kind of academic success, these experts say, and that myopic view is harming boys. Boys are biologically, developmentally and psychologically different from girls—and teachers need to learn how to bring out the best in every one. "Very well-meaning people," says Dr. Bruce Perry, a Houston neurologist who advocates for troubled kids, "have created a biologically disrespectful model of education."

And I don't really get "boys are losers" vibe. I get more of a "school sucks" vibe. But then I'm a boy, so maybe my reading skills are weak.

AlaskaJack said...

If there is to be any chance at all in getting a handle on this disaster, the first thing that has to be done is to enact the Carol Gilligan law: an act prohibiting Carol Gilligan and her whacky ideas from coming anywhere within 2 miles of a public school or a public school board.

Meade said...

In seriousness, this related essay strikes me as being spot on and somewhat refutes the Althouse Axiom.

"It is in the adamancy of this refusal that boys will be boys, turning away from rather than seeking to repair or smooth over such ruptures as girls tend to do. This may explain why more boys disconnect from school. It also suggests, as my work with girls has shown, that an effective strategy for preventing boys' psychological difficulties and educational problems would involve recognizing their sensitivities, building honest relationships and strengthening a healthy capacity for resistance."

bearbee said...

Interesting to speculate what modern societies would look like if gender roles had been reversed, in terms of technology, science, medicine, law. Would we have invented/explored/developed such things as the printing press, industrial machinery, telegraph, whiskey, engines, airplanes, electricity, A-bomb, the zipper, vaccines, crop rotation and development, space flight, the band-aid, weapons development, in-door plumbing, x-rays, contraceptives, concept of individual freedom and liberty, bubble gum, organ transplants, Mr PotatoHead, etc.?

Dave said...

Jake: I have to admit I really don't understand this whole issue.

Granted, I was a boy roughly 25 years ago, but I seem to have had a fine education.

Of course my personal experience indicates nothing about general trends, and I don't have kids of my own.

So I suppose the rational thing to do would just be to chalk up this controversy as one of those things I just don't have any perspective on.

Jake said...

Dave:

Here is what happened. Teachers used to naturally give boys more attention and help because they needed it. The reasons they needed it has been discussed on this blog before. Girls, who needed less attention, did just fine in school. This extra attention given boys tended to equalize their achievement with girls.

Then a bogus study came out saying that teenage girls have image and confidence problems. The study was bogus because all teenagers, both male and female, have image and confidence problems. Feminists screamed that girls were neglected in school. MSM was happy to run with this falsehood.

As a result, teachers stopped giving extra attention to boys with disastrous results.

Old Dad said...

Forty years ago when I was in grade school, no one in their right minds doubted that there were real differences in learning styles between boys and girls that had to be addressed.

As a result, we had at least one hour of recess every day, and an hour of PE two or three times a week. Science class often took us out doors. Lessons were often hands on and often got us out of our chairs. When we got out of line we got paddled.

Handling a class of twenty to thirty fifth graders is very hard work and takes great skill, but it can and often was done with great success. Sometimes I think we make it too hard. If your plan calls for ten year old boys to sit quietly and listen for long stretches, you will fail.

cbi said...

Disclaimer: I don't have any kids. I am a female.

When I look at the book lists of my niece and nephew it is all about girls! The books deal mostly with relationships and emotions and feelings. There are few, if any, dealing with adventure, danger and fighting good/evil. No wonder boys pass on reading the material.

My nephew is ROWDY. He likes to explore my parents land pretending to be whatever (usually something violent). He likes to chase the goats or the horse for the purpose of not catching them but hoping they will turn around and chase him. My niece would rather read a book or pet the goats/horse. Anyone want to guess who gets into more trouble at school?

It's a shame that the women's rights movement as morphed into the vein of women (attitude and behavior) are simply better.

Kathy said...

If your plan calls for ten year old boys to sit quietly and listen for long stretches, you will fail.

I think Old Dad's right here. I use a homeschool curriculum (www.amblesideonline.org) that's heavily based on reading and writing (although not writing until much later than what public schools do these days), and yet boys do well with it. But this curriculum emphasizes short lessons (15-20 minutes in the elementary years) and making each lesson different from the last (so if we just spent 15 minutes reading we're now going to write, or sing, or run, or do something else). And I've seen the moms with boys (or very active girls) comment that they have their student jump on a trampoline or run around the couch briefly in between these lessons to burn off energy. Some let their child work with legos or other quiet activity while being read to.

Pogo said...

News item:
Boys are Bad
Women and Minorities Hardest Hit

v said...

Better late than never, I suppose. Great post, but it would've been even better had it been written five years ago.

Elizabeth said...

Well, on the positive side, at least boys aren't having to wait hundreds of years for anyone to give a hoot about their education. No one seems to be arguing that they are ineducable, and society would be better off if they stayed home.

37383938393839383938383 said...

Well, on the positive side, at least boys aren't having to wait hundreds of years for anyone to give a hoot about their education. No one seems to be arguing that they are ineducable, and society would be better off if they stayed home.

This is the kind of nasty, evil, cynical attitude that public school teachers have that is responsible for the problem. I wouldn't be surprised if Liz here were a teacher.

Elizabeth said...

Critical, of course I am. And I'm looking on the bright side!

sonicfrog said...

Hey. Can I start getting welfare 'cause I'm "educationally dislabled"?

PS. I am finishing my Masters in Ed. this next month, and I can't begin to describe some of the gobldy-gook I have heard come out of some professors mouths. My favorite was that "all testing should be banned from schools because testing doesn't apply to real life". A classmate, who runs his own auto parts outlet, stood up and completely refuted the prof., describing all the different tests that his employees have to take to get hired and remain working in that industry. The professors response? Oh, I didn't know that. I like the professor personally, but I am amazed at how isolated some of these "learned folk" can be. And yes, he did go into teaching right after he graduated from college in the 60's.

David said...

So the logical outcome of this situation is that the largest majority of prisoners are male, single mothers are the poorest, and abortion laws allow women to safely have relations with males who won't commit to them!

What is the divorce rate in this country? 50%?

I think this situation deserves more study!

Elizabeth said...

sonicfrog,

I gave up supporting Education as a distinct course of study when I started getting the results of Whole Language writing/reading instruction in my freshman composition classrooms. What a debacle. And now, not to disparage testing on the whole, there is way to much focus on it in public schools classrooms. I get students--smart, disciplined students--who have little experience writing beyond a single senior paper, because their time has been focused on drilling for standardized tests. It's not just writing; they don't know how to synthesize information from one area to another, or form a big picture view of related topics.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

If boys are falling behind, it's because what is bad about them holds them back and we haven't hit upon a good enough remedy yet.

I think this dire need calls for a massive federal government program, a new "Manhattan Project" as it were, to be run by a suitably concerned Democratic President, don't you?

reader_iam said...

Dave:

I think the point is that you were a boy of 5 (you're 30, right?) 25 years ago.

That's a significant period of time, in both senses of the phrase, in terms of both education and general societal attitudes. That's why your experience is roughly apples today's oranges, I'm thinking.

I do appreciate the interest that this topic is spurring around the blogosphere. Maybe something will actually happen!--if not in the time frame I'd prefer, given my son's age and situation.

knoxgirl said...

....gee this gives me something to look forward to as the mother of a 5-month-old boy....

sonicfrog said...

eliz wrote:

It's not just writing; they don't know how to synthesize information from one area to another, or form a big picture view of related topics.

And the funny thing is, that is the whole focus of the edication elite today and was part of the reasons they switched to the whole language philosophy. They say the reason it failed is because it wasn't implemented properly. Isn't that what they said about communism and the USSR.

SteveR said...

Knoxgirl:

calvertschool.org

Very traditional and not overtly idealogical. It worked for us.

Slac said...

Boys will gladly sit down for hours and hours if they are doing something which interests them.

Please, people.

Ross, I'm reading many similar stories to the one you quoted. There's far too much of a laboratory approach; the experts say school sucks because they are "biologically disrespectful."

They're just plain disrespectful. There's no need to bring chromosomes and DNA into this.

Unless, of course, people are interested in learning about chromosomes and DNA. In which case they better find a really good school. Cuz, damn, if they don't, they're going to be really bad experts, and we are in danger of taking them seriously.

Tony said...

Critical, of course I am. And I'm looking on the bright side!

Liz, you're a walking, talking advertisement for home schooling.

HaloJonesFan said...

"I get students--smart, disciplined students--who have little experience writing beyond a single senior paper, because their time has been focused on drilling for standardized tests."

I don't really understand this problem.

"Well, they spend all their time learning what's on the test!" So this means that the tests are difficult, requiring knowledge of advanced concepts to pass? Why is it a problem that we require students to demonstrate such knowledge before they graduate? "But it actually isn't that hard, it's very basic and it wastes time to test for it!" So why do the students need to work so hard to pass it? Doesn't that imply that the methods of teaching basic concepts aren't working?

Slac said...

Sonicfrog, testing doesn't apply to real life.

It is perfectly fine and possible to lead a successful life without ever taking a test outside of school.

The tests you would take, if you chose to take them, are there because of that. Your choice. You don't have to take them.

Compulsory testing (read "school tests") have absolutely no application to real life.

me said...

"Compulsory testing (read "school tests") have absolutely no application to real life."

Umm...yeah they do. Studying for and passing a test build the skills of working hard, self-discipline, and oh yeah, learning the material. I do believe in test anxiety and all that, but being able to answer reading comprehension and math questions show that students know how to read and do math, which is necessary. How else can we know if kids are learning the basics? I dont' believe in the severe testing regime we have today, but I do think some testing is necessary and beneficial. Furthermore, standardized testing is necessary to move ahead in higher education: SAT, ACT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT -- and those aren't going away any time soon. The reason mandatory testing conducted every year that can label schools as "failing" and take away funding blows is because the teacher's have to try to make sure EVERY SINGLE STUDENT passes. So, drill drill drill, and cut out enrichment activities, field trips, art, music, p.e., and recess. I hated art and p.e. but I'm sure glad my school had them.

Elizabeth said...

Tony, fit me for a sandwich board. I need a second job so I can donate money to your funnybone transplant fund.

Elizabeth said...

Halo, that's a useful technique you have, of making up an opposing argument, and even going so far as to put little quotation marks around the words you make up, so it looks like someone else actually said them! They ought to come up with a name for that. Maybe, I dunno, strawman?

Tests are good, tests are necessary. Writing is, too, and they need to make room for more of it. Students would do better on their tests if they could write better. Writing is a means of understanding, of thinking. Students benefit from it. Tests demonstrate students have attained understanding of material. They're good, too. Let's not chuck out one for the other.

Slac said...

Tests are only necessary when a student says they are.

I don't think tests simply cause anxiety. I think they supplant the individual freedom of people for the interests of the state.

Go on and tell me they don't!

reader_iam said...

Tests are good and necessary tools, used properly and at the proper time. (And of course writing is very important--though I think the emphasis on it TOO early can backfire.)

The move toward standardized testing in the earliest grades (and the corresponding assessing and pressure to meet certain goals PRIOR to that) means that the pressure is pushed downward to as early as kindergarten, where it clashes with biological and developmental realities, especially for boys.

I think we need to make clear distinctions.

And, Ann, thanks for continuing to hit these issues. I linked to both this and Friday's post.

reader_iam said...

That should be "Thursday's."

Slac said...

Meade, that was a great article.

I encourage everyone to read it because the paragraph Meade quoted is very out of context.

Let me quote the paragraph that came before it,

The implications of this for school were brought home to me by an incident involving one of my sons. He was in the second grade, and a sign on the blackboard read, DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK. One day, when the teacher chastised a boy for asking a question, my son called out, "Don't be afraid to ask," and promptly got into trouble. His first-grade teacher, recounting the story to me, recognized a sensitivity and honesty she had encouraged and valued. What often appears as boys' intransigence, as disruptiveness, indifference or confrontation, may instead be a refusal to engage in false relationship.

It is in the adamancy of this refusal that boys will be boys, turning away from rather than seeking to repair or smooth over such ruptures as girls tend to do...

mcparsons said...

Attended my daughters National Honor Society induction. 120 students, 40 boys. The girls were all nicely dressed. The boys shuffled across the stage, hands in pockets. My reactions:
- The species is doomed.
- I wish I was back in high school - the girls are cute and the competition is lame.
- Girls should be the most concerned as this is your mate pool.

Girls who do well in school are "smart", "ambitious", etc. Boys are "nerds" and "geeks".

reader_iam said...

What often appears as boys' intransigence, as disruptiveness, indifference or confrontation, may instead be a refusal to engage in false relationship.

I can read this now with at least some dispassion. But the first time I came across this sentence much earlier today, it made my cry.

'Cause I think there's oh, so much truth in it.

Meade said...

Cry with joy for your son, right, reader_iam?

Wouldn't "refusal to engage in false relationship" be an indicator of mental health?

Aspasia M. said...

Do you all really think that American boys are failing at school? I live in a University town, and there are lots of bright male students here.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eli Blake said...

mcparsons:

Girls who do well in school are "smart", "ambitious", etc. Boys are "nerds" and "geeks".

There is a cultural shift that way.

I deal with a lot of young people in my job, and it has gotten to the point that if a young man wants to go to college, some of his peers consider him 'effeminate.' Going to work is cool. Going in the military is cool. Even going to prison is cool. But going to college, for a young man, is decidedly uncool. Unfortunate, but that is the way things are headed.

AlaskaJack said...

For context, here's the rest of Gilligan's spiel:

"A new set of terms 'emotional intelligence', 'relational self' and most recently 'the feeling brain' heralded a cultural shift...Emotions and relationships once associated with women have become desirable attributes of manhood."

But here's the problem according to Gilligan: these new concepts "are seen to compromise masculinity" and "boys often repudiate these human qualities." And so we need "an effective strategy" to re-educate little boys out of what they think are the natural qualities of manhood
,i.e.,courage, honor, loyalty, compassion for and protection of the weak by the strong and the belief that justice should always triumph over injustice.

Gilligan is simply mouthing new age psychobabble that means absolutely nothing. And this kind of nonsense is exactly what got education for boys so wildly off-track in the first place.

reader_iam said...

To be clear, I'm not giving Gilligan a pass, overall. I've been aware of her research for a very, very, very long time.

That said, the sentence still struck a deep chord and did, well, what I said it did.

I'm pretty wrung out over this topic, for now and, probably (but who knows what any give day will bring, really?) for quite a while. But it would surely be a great topic to write about the reluctant shift in point of view among those who so passionately pushed one meme in the '90s (belatedly, I'd say, given that it was, by that time, an earlier problem already well on its way to being addressed, no needless hyperbole needed by then) but who now, apparently, don't really want to reap what they've sown.

Maybe Gilligan is coming 'round. Maybe she's trying to find a way to make "what's gone before" sustainable now.

Note that her sidebar doesn't say when the notable incident with her son occurred. Aren't you curious? I sure as hell am. I thought about blogging about that, but am not up to it now. Pick a time frame ... pick another .. pick another ... and what the heck could that mean against the greater backdrop of her work.

Think about the implications. Think hard.

It's what I should do, and will ... just not right now. Whether I ever blog about those unaddressed and unanswered questions, or not.

Simon Kenton said...

Sonic Frog quoted a professor in the Edschool:

'My favorite was that "all testing should be banned from schools because testing doesn't apply to real life".'

Here in the fire department, we get tested for everything. My most recent was the engineering test, which had 127 questions, required 85% to pass, and was failed first time by my fellow examinee - a fellow with a doctorate in physics. Then you have to pass the driving test. Then the emergency driving test. Then the pump operation test. Then you get to apprentice. My fellow examinee and I shared our feelings with the proctor. He seemed to care very little about them. What he cared about is that we not wreck the equipment; not let it get burned over; not kill ourselves rolling a truck with 8 tons of water sloshing around when we are descending black ice on a mountain road; not kill members of the public while driving intemperately; do make the water reach the flames. These tests matter, because we have an implicit agreement, perhaps even a covenant of sorts, with the people we are to serve.

Elizabeth, as not infrequently, I'm with you:

"I gave up supporting Education as a distinct course of study when...."

But I may have beaten you to this one. It was a hell of a while ago, decades and decades, when I attended some ed classes my ex-wife-to-be was taking and thought, "These people are incredible. Absolute bottom feeders. Inspissated, impacted cloddishness. Two electrons short of a hydrogen molecule." I was wrong, of course, but not completely; not wrong about the the imbecility or the monstrous hubris of people who have never learned anything being certain that they know how to teach others to teach how to learn. Not, of course, to teach particular things like astrophysics or orbital mechanics or gerundives, but ... To Teach. To teach, intransitively.

But they have the focus and diligence and strength and doggedness of the genuine 4th-raters at making sure their environment is stocked with colleagues and replacement colleagues who will never see anything but splendor when the emperor walks by.

Ross said...

He was in the second grade, and a sign on the blackboard read, DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK. One day, when the teacher chastised a boy for asking a question, my son called out, "Don't be afraid to ask," and promptly got into trouble.

OK, there's the trouble, right? The teacher's sending messages so mixed that it deserves its own diagnosis in DSM-IV. But no ....

His first-grade teacher, recounting the story to me, recognized a sensitivity and honesty she had encouraged and valued. What often appears as boys' intransigence, as disruptiveness, indifference or confrontation, may instead be a refusal to engage in false relationship.

If "refusal to engage in a false relationship" means calling BS when a boy sees it, I'm glad schools are teaching that lesson. It's a shame, though, that so much BS has to be purveyed in the process of teaching kids how to recoil therefrom.

Kathy said...

Simon, I'm with you on that. I despised my education courses because they were worthless. I would defy any of my instructors to have taught the high school classes I taught. They'd have been eaten alive! And I wasn't a good classroom manager, but I did make do.

HaloJonesFan said: So this means that the tests are difficult, requiring knowledge of advanced concepts to pass?

Actually, that's not the case. I taught 10th grade English. In Texas, that's the first year students take the test required for graduation. (This was a little over 10 years ago. The tests are different now.) Along the way, prior to 10th grade, students (in the average classes, not the advanced) had been prepared only with the required skills on the next upcoming test. These are minimum skills, so there was no pushing them to learn beyond that minimum level. I got 10th graders who had never written a coherent paragraph, and my entire focus for the first 5 months had to be on getting them to write a 5 paragraph essay that made sense and stayed on topic. We did that, read Julius Caesar, and tried to learn to write a research paper. That's all we could manage, because they were already so poorly prepared coming in. Teaching to the test, when the test measures such minimal skills, is not successful. The significant content that we should have covered fell by the wayside so I could *try* to get as many as possible to pass the test. Those who already were able to pass learned nothing new. All of them were bored out of their minds by years of constant test preparation.

Don't take out all the extras. That's what makes the whole process meaningful. One mistake I made as a teacher was making my class too easy. I would make things so easy and still have large numbers of students fail my class. I realize now that if I had made the work more challenging I would have almost certainly had more success.

I was lucky. I didn't get in trouble for the number of students who failed. My friend who taught math had to fill out detailed reports explaining why each student failed and what she had done to remediate them. This in a system where any failing grade on a test was allowed to be replaced by a retake of the test, and just doing your homework counted for a huge part of your grade. There was really no reason for anyone to fail. I had a kid who could barely read who passed and occasionally got a B. The kids didn't take regular class exams or assignments seriously because they knew they could do them again later, and although their grade wouldn't be as high almost none of them cared. Parents seemed to be perfectly happy wtih a C.

Cousin Don said...

Yup, cultural shift is that when I was in public grade schools both boys and girls who did well were nerds.

One reason I went to a Private Catholic Preparatory School for high school.

AJ Weberman said...
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Elizabeth said...

Simon, the fire department example is a good, practical illustration. Thanks for that.

Kathy, I'm so glad I don't teach below college level. I've never had to adapt grades to meet school system expectations. If someone misses a test in my class, they get no points. If they score a 42, that's what they get. Plagiarism? An F, and a report to the Student Judicial Committee. I've changed a final grade only once, when a student was able to show me that she'd submitted a paper on time via online course software, and the software server had failed to deliver it. We're under pressure to raise our retention/graduation rates, but not through grade inflation. That actually distinguishes my school from a couple of much more prestigious private institutions across town.

Kathy said...

I've never had to adapt grades to meet school system expectations.

Actually, it's worse than that even. It's the law here that for any failing grades (on tests or major assignments) the students have to be provided remediation and an opportunity to retest. The best they can do on the retest is 70, but for most of my students that was A-OK. This was one of those well-intentioned but really stupid policies. See, the important thing is learning, so giving a failing grade is counter-productive. We need to re-teach the material and let them try again. In reality, however, they don't actually remediate (at least, not most of them, the ones who always scrape by with a low C), they just try again to see if maybe they can do better without actually studying.

Slac said...

The important thing here is that no one is required to join the fire department.

No one is compelled by law ever to take a test against their will in adult life.

Yet we force every single child we have to take tests over and over and over again.

No should be against tests. Obviously.

They should, however, revile forced tests.