¶ … statistics showing that English boys are performing worse than their oversees counterparts. Then I list some of the possible reasons boys are falling behind and some of the solutions. I end with what I feel is a viable solution to the problem of boys falling behind.
Are boys in England falling behind there female counterparts? If the answer to this question is yes, then why, and what can be done to address the problem. In an age of fierce competition, it is no longer enough to just let "boys be boys" The question is How can we balance the learning needs of boys with the needs of girls. It seems society is on a pendulum, first favoring boys, then favoring girls. We cannot go back and forth, favoring one gender at a time. The pendulum needs to stop swinging, but how do we balance the needs of boys with the needs of girls in a classroom?
While it might seem obvious, the best way to fix a problem is to go to its source. That is to say, what is the source of the differences in the sexes? Is it biological or is it social and historical. Women's Suffrage began in England in the 19th century. In the Victorian Era, women were seen as being morally superior r to men, they were placed on an absurd pedestal. Part of the rational against women's suffrage was that women had to be shielded from active society as a way of shielding their virtue. Gender roles were typical; double standards ruled the day. Men were totally free societal constraints by comparison. When the Women's suffrage movement began, it faced a lot of resistance. Many men and women had ideas of gender so ingrained in them that they could not imagine women being able to vote.
Most sociologists agree the differences between men and women are not merely sociological, but biological as well. Men and women look differently, inside and outside. Men are generally larger than women are. The brain structure is slightly different (men have larger hypothalamuses than women do). Women seem to use more of their brain, especially when talking, reading, or writing. Men seem to be better at certain types of mental tasks, such as visualization and rotating objects in space. That men are visual and women seem to be more effective communicators is no sociological accident, it is a byproduct of evolution, which itself is a byproduct of social roles back when we were monkeys. This wasn't a devious plot; it is the way mammals are set up. Women have babies and are primarily responsible for protecting and raising the next generation. Men go hunt. It seems like that is just the way it is. Biology and sociology work to create gender roles. Mooney Marini says in her paper,
Although there is reason to believe that some sex differences in behavior and attitudes have a biological basis, the existence of historical and cross-cultural variation in gender role differentiation and stratification provides strong evidence that social influences play an important role in the determination of differences between the sexes. (Mooney-Marini, pg. 122)
These gender differences are no reason to favor one gender, or give up entirely on the other. Few people in the modernized world hunt and gather. Life for humans is very different than it was 20,000 years ago. There is no question that biology still plays as much of a role as sociology, but altering the sociology may be as good as the impossible, which is altering the biology.
Are boys really falling behind their female classmates? The data would seem to suggest this is indeed the case. According to the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement...
Furthermore, English males scored among the lowest in the seven countries surveyed, only scoring slightly above The Netherlands and nearly 40 points below boys from the United States. The study also showed that English girls are not doing as well as their foreign counterparts. English girls scored 30 points below American girls. (Americans had the highest scores for both males and females, according to the study).
The problem is not limited to England, although it is most pronounced in England and Wales. In Canada, 11% fewer boys than girls graduated high school in 1999. This is up from a 3.5% difference, favoring young women, in 1991. Educators in Canada say the growing failure of boys is due to the collaborative teaching style that has been used in Canada since the late 1980's. March Holmes, Professor Emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in education said, " Boys like to have a direct task, be responsible for it, and know when it is finished." (Literacy Trust).
There are other factors that may contribute to boy's disinterest in school. Researchers at Birkbeck, University of London say the underachievement of teenage boys may be due to the idea that studying is not considered to be masculine. Boys at that age are struggling top prove that they are men, meaning they focus on wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and being good at sports rather than concentrating on school work. Boys who are seen as smart or studious end up being labeled as a geek or nerd, or possibly even gay. They risk ostrization, as well as bullying to get high marks. The study, entitled "Young Masculinities" said other behaviors seen as masculine by teenage boys, such as cussing, control issues and dominance issues, had a deterious effect on classroom performance (Channel Cincinnati).
Why is the gender gap growing? Is it because of teaching style, a sociological concept of masculinity, or is it something else altogether? A more fundamental question is "are boys and girls being treated equally in the classroom?" There is evidence that teachers and parents treat female children differently than they treat male children. In her paper, " Double Standards in the Evaluation of Men and Women," Martha Froschi says men and women are judged and evaluated differently.
The application of a more lenient standard to the man ensures that more ability is assigned to him, regardless of level of performance, than to the woman with the same record. Thus double standards contribute to the maintenance of the initial, status-based assignment of competence and are another component of power and prestige order of the group. (Froschi, pg. 239)
In other words, men are judged less harshly than males. In a collaboration-based environment, a female may have to work harder to prove herself, whereas the teacher may assume the male is competent. When it comes to test time. The female, who has been forced to work much harder than the male, then scores higher, because she had to learn the material. The male did not perform as well because he didn't ever learn the material well. He didn't learn it well because the teacher assumed he was competent. When he didn't perform well in class parents and teachers do not punish him. They are lenient with him, figuring he is just being a boy. They do not know, or do not want to know, that he is falling behind his female classmates. Conversely, the female is assumed to be less competent than the male. She has to work hard, really learn the material, in order for her parents and teachers to approve, tom think she is competent. She ends up smarter and more knowledgeable than her male counterpart because society forced her to learn what they assumed the boy knew.
Do teachers really cater to females? That is a very difficult question. Some would say yes, others would say no, while some believe classrooms and teaching styles cater to males. The problem is that teachers need to have the time and energy to meet the needs of all of the students, regardless of teaching style. The problem females had with classrooms before was not the teaching style, it was that teachers had low expectations and didn't pay enough attention to the girls. Teaching style changes over time. It is varies with different cultures; it adjusts to the needs of the specific classrooms. Even at the same school, different teachers have different teaching styles. Some students may prefer a different teacher because of his/her specific style, but that is no reason a person should fail or do poorly in a class.
A combination of misplaced expectations, catering to females, and distorted views of masculinity have probably all contributed to the current problem. The combination has made the problem difficult to sort out and straighten out, but if we got ourselves into this mess, we can certainly work our way out. How do we fix the problem?
I think most people would agree that both boys and girls share a right to a proper education. It is not only in the best interest of the individual, but in the best interest of society as a whole to…
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