It’s not just boys who will be Boys.


December 27, 2010 by readlisaread

There has been a lot of articles written and general theorizing in the last few years with regard to the job schools are doing for Boys.  It seems our 1950’s designed bricks and blackboards-every-one-in-a-row schools aren’t cutting it for half the population.  Boys need activity, and different kinds of visual stimulation, and to read stories about flatulence instead of ponies.  There is a lot of truthiness in these statements, but whenever the generalizations start, I get that squinty look.

I'm not sure I fully buy in

I'm not sure I fully buy in

There are a few illogical bits right off the top, not the least being the implied question of whether or not today’s average school meets the needs of ALL its learners.  Secondly, have boys changed so much since the advent of school that suddenly we have a crisis in our inability to educate them properly? Finally, what is it that schools are supposed to be teaching?  Information, or how to fit into society.  If it’s information, then we have a BIG problem, and not just with 50% of the student body. If what we are really doing is socializing the little beasts, then we aren’t doing such a bang-up job there either, judging by the steady numbers of bullying incidence, teen suicides, unplanned pregnancies and STDs.

Whenever I hear anything that is split by gender, I get suspicious.  Not because I think it leads to iniquity, but more because I think it leads to backlash.  First, (and I do mean first, like before-papyrus-was -invented first) girls weren’t even allowed to be educated, and neither were boys unless their families were SomeOne. Eventually, some girls and more boys were included, and then we arrived at our “modern” system, that educated all boys and girls equally.  This is where the trouble started.

They dont actually all look that similar

They don't actually all look that similar

Before society knew it, women not only wanted to learn to read and write, they wanted the vote, too, and proper healthcare, with perhaps the occasional Female Doctor.

All this education led to Civil Rights and Womens’ Liberation, and it’s likely responsible for Global Warming too, but that’s another Post.  Did we take a wrong turn in the ’70’s and start only educating little girls, to make up for centuries of inequality?  Or did something else go awry?

Maybe we should worry less about being more inclusive and instead concentrate on being less exclusionary.  I’m thinking that if we employed some of those changes that would appeal to boys, there would be a number of  learners who would benefit, regardless of their gender. While we are at it, let’s throw in a few other practices, like an education that encourages children to use technology ethically, and makes allowances for learning at a different pace than age-peers.  Also, are there situations where streaming improves all of the learners’ experiences? And it would be nice to avoid the inevitable backlash, a few years down the road, where schools are deemed not girl-friendly enough, or too trades-focused, or too academic-focused, or with too much physical activity or too little…..and back swings the pendulum (at a glacial speed, of course)


  1. Melinda says:

    I think that the problem of boys education, and much more lies in the fact that the stereotype of “man” and “boy” HASN’T changed since 1950’s. “Boys will be boys” is still alive and kicking and since a boy is what a girl isnt, and what a girl is has grewn, the tight norma we create for boys shrinks.
    Recently, in Finnish media they had a big thing about this, and an interview with boys from a high school even they said that “its expected of them to be more interestes of fixing with motorbikes and being cool”.

    So personally I quirk too when I see something like this – the school system is old, and it was long ago built for only boys. So logically the fault is not in else than the roles we are brought up to play.

    Found my way here trough an article on boya learning, very well written, just had to comment 🙂

  2. readlisaread says:

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Melinda! I am always stoked to get a comment!!

  3. sheila says:

    I did alot of research on this in the early 2000’s. Gender studies on playgrounds in the suburban Boston area showed teacher responded more kindly when girls had spats than when boys acted and received “knock it off”. In addition, the Feminist movement fostered programs directed at girls in the math and sciences. Not long after we were graduating girls 3 to 1 in college. Voila, a recent book Date-A-nomics shows the same correlation of educated women to men in NYC for dating. No one said boys were better off than girls so we may have been better off investing in both sexes. The feminization of schools has had a serious impact on societal norms

  4. ALISHIA says:

    Okay so i really need advice on something. My boyfriend has 5 Fs and 1 D in school. Hes in 9th grade and doesnt seem to care much about his work. When i ask him about how that class went he use to tell me good and he took really good notes, but hes slacking AGAIN. i use to do a lot of his work for him and help him out, but how do i help him if he doesnt help his self. We have talked about this a lot and he keeps telling me he is trying but if he really was trying i would see effort. sometimes when he has a substitute in a class he would cut up and skip the class, that makes me mad because he should be working to pull his grades up and he has MISSING ASSIGNMENTS HE COULD BE MAKING UP. I try not to get so mad because i dont want to sound like his mother and not his girlfriend. but his mother has punished him from coming over to my house or me going over to his house and it has been like that for a while now. Its starting to really get to me because we have breaks coming up for 2 weeks so that means i cant see him for 2 weeks.. What do i do to motivate him or help him out, i feel like i have tried everything. please help thanks.

  5. readlisaread says:

    Alishia, thank you for your question (although, I’m not usually an advice columnist….) It sounds to me like your boyfriend is having a hard time taking school seriously. If 5F’s and a D aren’t motivation for him, I’m not sure how you can help him. I have found that not much other than intrinsic (or self) motivation does the trick. What does he like? Can he get engaged in anything else, and perform at a high level? Like sports or mechanics? He needs to find his passion, and then make connections between it and school– good luck to you 🙂

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