Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gender and Achievement

In his article "The Boys Have Fallen Behind", Nick Kristoff makes a case for why boys are doing worse than girls.

The average boy has a lower GPA (-0.23), is 2x as likely to be suspended and 3x as likely to be expelled, and 25% more likely to drop out, earn fewer degrees and do more poorly on achievement tests. Add in that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and you get an almost "perfect storm".

I think that what we have here is a change in the focus and attitude of classrooms and schools in general - more "sensitive" and less competitive, more inclusive and less exclusive. Teachers cannot be sarcastic or mean, or even critical. Bullies are immediately squashed or there's hell to pay. Letting "Boys be boys" is a no-no. Literacy across the curriculum. 21st Century Skills. "Show your work" has become "Write a report that includes ..." English teachers are assigning Flannery O'Connor and Maya Angelou instead of Hamilton's Mythology.

  1. The move to limit bullying is a good one, of course, but there does need to be some discretion to say, at times, "Tough it out, kid. That isn't really bullying."
  2. Teachers shouldn't be mean, of course, but there also shouldn't be a total ban on pointing out errors or letting the class trade papers to correct each other's work.
  3. Kids should learn to write, of course, but the math classroom isn't necessarily the best place for that.
  4. There's nothing wrong with one right answer.
  5. AP and Honors classes should have prerequisites. Hard and fast ones.
  6. Challenges work for boys. Competition is an incentive.
  7. Single-sex classrooms are AN answer.
  8. Sometimes, "The Answer" is sufficient. You don't always have to get an explanation of the blindingly obvious. The "AFCS Proof" is acceptable.
  9. Shakespeare is rude, crude, but strangely acceptable.  Feel free to point all that out.

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