Using evidence and not ideology as their guide, officials in these countries don’t hesitate to recommend sex-specific solutions. The British Parliamentary Boys' Reading Commission urges, “Every teacher should have an up-to-date knowledge of reading material that will appeal to disengaged boys.” A Canadian report on improving boys’ literacy recommends active classrooms “that capitalize on the boys’ spirit of competition”— games, contests, debates. An Australian study found that adolescent males, across racial and socioeconomic lines, shared a common complaint, “School doesn’t offer the courses that most boys want to do, mainly courses and course work that prepare them for employment.”This tracks the "Gendertopia" hypothetical I use in my Constitutional Law II class when I teach about Equal Protection and classification by sex. And it ties to the topic, raised in the previous post, about schools using nonfiction books to teach reading, an issue I tied to the boys-falling-behind problem here.
Hoff Sommers stresses recognizing the differences between boys and girls and taking steps to help boys (which of course lights a fire under those who've argued that girls have been held back and if anyone's going to get special help, it should be girls). I recommend avoiding all that drama and ideological struggle by embracing what are, after all, the best American values. We don't need to follow Britain and Canada. We should forefront individuality, autonomy, and freedom.
How? Have a variety of schools, built on different learning models that are built on preferences that relate to things that could be portrayed as stereotypically male and stereotypically female, but don't talk about how the learning styles are male or female, and don't bias the individual children and their parents to match the boys to the boy style and girls to the girl style. Give them choice and freedom. If your son or daughter wants to learn how to read with science books, to experience a teaching method built on games, contests, and debates, and to figure out how things work by taking them apart and putting them back together, he or she could pick the school that works like that. And there's an equivalent school — perhaps with the cooperative projects and long periods of quiet reading — that can be chosen by boys and girls who flourish in that environment.
I realize that I'm being stereotypically feminine in wanting to move forward in a way that makes everyone happy and avoids discord, but I'm sure that the schoolchild version of me would pick the school built on the stereotypically male learning model. Don't dissuade girls like the young me from going to that school by calling attention to it as a solution for the problems of boys. And don't propagate the idea that boys are a problem, that masculinity is a disease! That's all so unnecessary, and it's offensive to the core American values of individuality and freedom.
I know Christina Hoff Sommers is trying to stir us up and we need to rouse ourselves, but once roused, people will fight, so let's have some impressive harmony-enhancing solutions at hand.