No class today. Reading news. Bored.

In Praise of Skinned Knees and Grubby Faces –the general backlash argument that moden society wussifies boys and favors girls because playgrounds don’t have mulch anymore and there are too many class discussions in school. What ever happened to good, old-fashioned school boy hazing? The world was so perfect back then, why did it ever change?

Pave playgrounds with razor blades, but please quit somehow equating the reaction to our lawsuit happy society with treating boys like girls.

What *is* wrong with a few skinned knees, afterall? On boys or girls. What is wrong with having a pocket knife and whittling sticks? I bled my fair share on the playground and I got whacked in the head by a baseball bat when hitting tennis balls with the boy next door. In addition to playing with my Barbies. Why the assumption that our interests, if not the same, can’t overlap? I was horrified to read an article that, while repudiating the fun-proofing of playground equpiment, said it did not suggest we bring back the monkey bars or the merry-go-round.  I couldn’t believe it: “What do you mean they got rid of the merry-go-round??

And then there’s the education angle.

“If boys don’t like x or y they shouldn’t be taught it or taught that way.” I’ve read that boys don’t like group work and that it’s absurd we expect them to sit still, though wouldn’t that rule out independent study as well? Someone else says:

girls would often complete a project because they were “meant to”, even if they were uninterested, but there was evidence that boys needed a sense of purpose.

The Guardian, June 13, 2006

So boys need to be lone wolves, free to predate their classrooms with a profound sense of purpose?

Boys don’t like group work? What are team sports? Boys can’t sit still? What do you call that thing they do in front of the Play Station? And there are all those jobs in company board rooms and on research teams, as judges and writers, that require exactly those skills that are apparently against boys’ natures, and yet that many many boys somehow grow up to do successfully. What am I missing?

Is it possible that neither boys nor girls are simple creatures and that activity and rest are both important in our education and development? I know it sounds far-fetched. As my mother once said, if I subsitute the word “school” for “work” which I think retains her intended sentiment: “They call it school because it’s school. If it was supposed to be fun, they’d call it fun.” Wise woman.

Back in 1989 there was this book published called Failing at Fairness by Myra and David Sadker in which they addressed the conventional wisdom that girls are better at English and humanities while boys are better at math and science and showed that statistically, girls scored above boys in *all* subjects through elementary school, falling behind in *all* subjects, including humanities, by high school. Now, one would hope that in 18 years something would have changed; still, this is not ancient history.

But are schools *really* failing boys at all? Who says? Some guy who pines for the days when brothers could convince their younger siblings to jump off of garage roofs with social impunity? As the teaser for a book with that title reads:

Failing Boys? Issues in Gender and Achievement challenges the widespread perception that all boys are underachieving at school. It raises the more important and critical questions of which boys? At what stage of education? And according to what criteria?”

I like the solution proposed in this article:

Boys should be made to do more household chores so as to develop a work ethic that would stop them falling behind at school.

The Guardian, June 14, 2006

Even if the same person further argued that “boys were disadvantaged at school because classrooms had become “feminised.”” At least he doesn’t consider housework feminine? Progress?

However, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, criticised what she called an overemphasis on the problems boys faced at school.

She said: “The focus on boys’ underachievement and the apparent success of girls in fact hides problems of underachievement for many girls from working class backgrounds.

“These days we seem to hear nothing else but concerns about the underachievement of boys. I have struggled hard to try to remember the same amount of energy being expended in debate, consternation and general handwringing surrounding underachievement of girls in the past or indeed now.”

The school curriculum had already been adjusted in an attempt to help boys, she said.

Ms Keates said she was “not surprised” men were now trying “to fight their corner”. “Their role in society and in the economy is changing dramatically. The decline in manufacturing and in industries such as mining – the changing nature of work funnels men towards jobs in services which have been predominantly performed by women.

This change, the fear it generates and its impact on traditional notions of masculinity have led, I believe, to the claim of male disadvantage being elevated out of all proportion, distracting attention from the problems faced by girls and women. Of course there are issues for boys and men in terms of education and life chances but there are also issues for girls and women.”

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One comment

  1. Group work was against my nature, but that didn’t mean I could get out of it. I am becoming increasingly disturbed with the amount of blame being placed on everyone but the kids’ parents and the kids themselves.

    P.S. When will you be back in PA?


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