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The Boys Are Not Alright January 17, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought, Teaching.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

If women are from Venus and men are from Mars, then girls and boys are light years apart. Nowhere is this more evident than at school. I recently came across a 12-minute video, Gaming to Re-engage Boys in Learning, that features a former third-grade teacher, Ali Carr-Chellman, discussing why so many boys are turned off by school from ages 3-13.  Ms. Carr-Chellman, who now teaches at the Penn State University College of Education and is a game designer, cites three reasons why boys have such a difficult time in school. The statistics cited, “For every 100 girls…” are from The Boys Project.

As a teacher and the mother of two boys, I found this fascinating. This year I applied for and received my first grant that provides funds to add more high-interest books for boys to the classroom library. I wrote about boys’ reading preferences in Boys Book Club.

Just last Friday I told my boys I was going to bring in my son’s old Spawn action figures, so they could play with them during Friday Club.  But first, I needed to confiscate all of their weapons.  There was a collective groan, so when I watched this video, I had to laugh.

WARNING: You might never look at boys the same, and that could be a good thing.


1. Tracy - January 17, 2011

I watched the film. I disagree with a lot of it. I have a 16 yr. old son & 11 yr. old girl. Not sure why the presenter is so stuck on boys- unless she has them? Girls have been squelched & left behind forever in favour of boys…ADHD…I am ambiguous. I grew up in school in the 60’s-70’s- and I can tell you the teachers demanded respect & got it- no ADHD. Not disrespecting true emotional disturbance, but it feels a press free-for-all to me. All the boys in my class were called on their behaviour & made up for it. Perhaps it’s not the children but the adults in charge who are responsible? (Tongue-in-cheek- of course it’s the adults)…

My son happens to take my, his mother’s, approach to learning & is focused~ my daughter is a gypsy of unknown origin who is equally intelligent. I support their endeavours & encourage it.

My own opinion is the problem is indifference in parents to try to participate & help their children- the narcissistic epidemic…


The word “colour” always gives it away – Are you in the UK? In the U.S., every child is told that they will go to college. There is no university track/vocational track though I think there should be. Any teacher can tell you that not all children are meant to go to college. It’s hard for me to be ambiguous about ADHD as I’ve had students who were and watched how they were unable to function/focus in the classroom. FYI – I teach in an urban public (in the UK that would be a state school). Over half of our students live in poverty. If you’re remembering your own school experience in the 60s and 70s, keep in mind that was half a century ago. I’m just speaking as someone who’s in a classroom every day – in 2011.

Yes, girls have had a raw deal since the dawn of history, but as the “for every 100 girls” statistics show, boys “win” in every category that does not bode well for success. You’ve commented numerous times and always use that &amp expression. I actually went to the Urban Dictionary trying to figure out what it means, but I’m still clueless. Please enlighten me. 🙂 Jan


2. Catherine Sherman - January 17, 2011

I agree with the video and your post. I think about this a lot looking at my own two children. Girls are more likely to sit still and seek approval, so a classic classroom environment is more suited for them. My daughter always dutifully did her assignments and sat quietly in class, more or less…(However, the girls were pretty wild when I was a chaperone on field trips.)

My son couldn’t sit still, and it never even crossed his mind to seek approval. He did want his teachers to listen, however. He’d talk their ears off about his theoretical inventions, etc., but not to get a good grade. His inventions amused them outside of class, but my son also wanted to talk constantly to everyone IN class, which did not amuse them. He also used his graphing calculator to program and play games during class.

After one semester in the gifted program in elementary school, he was shut out because as the “gifted” teacher told me, “he had behavior problems.” What was the ONLY behavior problem she listed? He talked too much! This teacher wanted a group of easily controlled children. The ones she chose were all smart, but quiet. In a way I saw the gifted classes as a reward for good behavior, on top of good grades. I was always in the gifted classes, and I was very very well-behaved. I’m not sure it really got me anywhere.

A perfect curriculum for kids like my son would be a series of two- to three-week long classes that produced projects, combining a variety of disciplines. Some of the projects you’ve described sound like these. There would be very little time sitting in chairs. This is very difficult when you have as many students as you do, which is why the classic classroom was devised as it is. Crowd control, maybe.

Maybe the whole curriculum could be put in a video game, and then everyone would be playing the game interacting online with one another. I’ve read for years that the class classroom situation is set up for the stereotypical female personality. Anyway, it worked wonderfully for me. I love reading, I love tests.

One thing that this video doesn’t address is why men are so much more successful in life financially than are women, setting aside the child rearing issue and discrimination. Could it be that male aggression and drive — a need to bring home the bison to the campfire? Doing well in the classic classroom situation doesn’t always prepare you for doing well in life.

Even though it was my son who bounced around a lot, (Maybe ADHD, except he could focus on short-term projects) it was my daughter who was suspended from high school for nine days because she brought a paper opener to school to show her friends. Her brother (the son described above) gave it to her for her birthday because she collected dragons, and it had a dragon handle. It did not have a sharp edge and it had a blunt end. A ruler (which is allowed) would have caused more injury. That was an example of the stupid no-tolerance described in the video.

As you know, this is my first year teaching a GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) cluster of students in a regular classroom. Gee, one of the characteristics of GATE kids is that they LOVE to talk about what they’re interested in! It’s being able to direct that excitement into producing something that’s the challenge in education.

We’re so tied to the testing as the sole measure of what a child has learned, that I often feel like I’m teaching at a junior college. With the increase in class sizes this year, it’s become more difficult to do art and other activities that require kids to get up and move around. I’m sure for some of my students, their day must feel like one very long Trans-Atlantic flight sitting in Economy Class. 🙂

I, too, was a people pleaser, something that girls often earn praise for, but doesn’t serve them well in the business world. I, too, loved to read and loved taking tests as I did so well on them.

Regarding Zero-Tolerance. My younger son was suspended from school in First Grade for Sexual Harassment. He’d kissed a girl at recess on the behind. My only question was, “Was she wearing pants or a dress?” The answer was pants. The irony is that this is my son who is gay. I can laugh about it now, but at the time it seemed way over the top.


3. Tracy - January 22, 2011

Hey Jan- sorry for the delay in reply- been busy with kids flying over-seas…ADHD & others: as I said, I don’t dispute it’s existence…When I recalled my school years- it was not the matter of the culture nor decade- but the teacher-in-charge. I was bussed to an all-black, sheriff’s presence school for jr.high (in the US, regardless your catch of my now “colour” description). I can tell you that in my school- the same boys who were “out of control”, in one class- were “under-thumb” the next- according to the teacher…So, when i say this- it isn’t to undermine ADHD- but more to sort of elevate it as a true issue for those who suffer- not those who are simply lazy or called to task…

PS- don’t know what the “amp%” you refer to?

In the U.S., every child is told that they will go to college…A USA lie.


4. shoutabyss - January 30, 2011

That is a very thought-provoking video. I tend to trust the speaker’s opinions and conclusions because of her experiences. No doubt that gives her a lot of insight and I think she has some good points.

The thing about zero tolerance is what I often refer to as “the cork being in too tight.” Who is more likely to blow? One who can blow off steam or one who won’t or can’t? That’s where the pressure is allowed to build.

I think our nation has become a bit fear-based. Why have to harshly deal with the butter knife in the lunchbox lest, God forbid, something ever does happen then it will all be our fault. Society is always out looking for someone to blame.

At the same time, we shrug off things like bullying until it’s way too late. That has been an issue that has been building for decades and is only now finally getting something like real attention.

I don’t know much, but I sense the speaker’s insights should be an important part of the discussion. Thanks for sharing the video!

Shout – Yes, we have become a fear-based society. When that happens we tend to overreact to whatever we perceive to be even the slightest threat. And yes, when the controls are so tight, things have a tendency to blow up in a big way. (Tunisa? Egypt?) I agree with you on bullying. Too bad it has taken the countless suicides of young people to spawn this discussion, since bullies have been hiding in plain sight. That IS one area that I, personally, have ZERO tolerance for. 🙂 Jan


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