My first reaction upon seeing the title, “Why Can't a Boy Be More Like a Girl?” was, “Why would we want boys to be more like girls? Boys are perfectly fine the way they are.”
The article was actually a summary of a TED video of Ali Carr-Chellman, discussing why boys are more likely than girls to tune out and fail at school. Unfortunately, her hypotheses are just as absurd and sexist as the title of the article:
- Zero Tolerance for boy toys, such as toy guns and violence. Boys are not allowed to write about subjects they are most interested in - whether it be about a favorite video game or about violent tornadoes. Boys feel that a teacher "tells me what to write". If a boy does display an interest in these types of things, the question that inevitably arises is "Should we send this child to a psychologist?"
- Fewer male teachers in the classroom sends the message to boys that school is for girls and "I don't belong here".
- "Kindergarten is the new second grade." Today, what students once learned in second grade is now being taught in kindergarten. This "compressed curriculum" is due to accountability measures that teachers "must get through" regardless of readiness for No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Race to the Top, and other standardized measures. Compliance, not the love of learning, is the rule of the day.
Let’s examine the violence hypothesis. First, there is only a partial ban on violence at school. I doubt that many science teachers are banning research or presentations on violent natural phenomena, particularly if they are relevant to the content standards. And why should such bans, when they do exist, affect boys differently than girls? Plenty of girls like to play video games and watch anime with violent themes. I’m not even convinced that this “ban” is a new phenomenon. In the 1970s, my parents were called in to meet with my 4th grade teacher and told to get me psychiatric help because I wrote a short story about a boy acting out violently in response to a racist attack against him. Fortunately, my parents had enough sense to encourage my writing and ignore the teacher.
While it may be desirable to have diverse teachers, there is no reason why a boy cannot be inspired and motivated by a woman or why he needs male teachers to feel like he belongs. Indeed, if this sexist hypothesis was true, then how would it be possible for single mothers to successfully parent?
Lastly, it is true that kindergarten has become more demanding and rigorous, especially because of NCLB. But why should this affect boys and girls differently? Shouldn’t they both be tuning out and resisting the confinement and stultifying effects of constant test preparation?