Account Login

5,396,965 Views
May 19, 2014
Presented by
Christina Sommers

What ever happened to letting "boys be boys?" Take these two cases: In one, a seven-year-old boy was sent home for nibbling a Pop Tart into a gun. In another, a teacher was so alarmed by a picture drawn by a student (of a sword fight), that the boy's parents were summoned in for a conference. In short, boys in America's schools are routinely punished for being active, competitive, and restless. In other words, boys can no longer be boys. Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, explains how we can change this.

The typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing, gets lower grades, and is less likely to go to college.

  • The typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing, gets lower grades, and is less likely to go to college.View Source
  • Women earn 57% of bachelors degrees, 60% of masters degrees, and 52% of doctorates.View Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

Want to make school better for boys? Bring back recess. 

  • Schools have been reducing recess since the 1970s.View Source
  • The lack of recess is one of the many reasons boys are struggling more than ever in school.View Source
  • Unstructured play increases children’s educational performance.View Source
  • Read Christina Hoff Sommers on how to make education better for boys.View Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina SommersView Source

Modern academic settings are much more hospitable to girls than boys.

  • Boys are three times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD and more often involved in crime and drug and alcohol use.View Source
  • The result: the typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing, gets lower grades, and is less likely to go to college.View Source
  • Read Christina Hoff Sommers on how to make education better for boys.View Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

In grades K-12, boys make up 70% of suspensions.

  • Boys are struggling more than ever in school.View Source
  • Boys are five times more likely to be expelled from pre-school and make up 70% of suspensions in grades K-12.View Source
  • One example of a draconian policy that particularly targets boys: administrators’ “zero-tolerance” policies for firearms, which have gone off the deep end, even punishing boys for chewing Pop Tarts into the shape of a gun.View Source
  • Read Christina Hoff Sommers on how to make education better for boys.View Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

Our schools should understand that boys and girls learn differently and respond better to different teaching methods. 

  • The typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing, gets lower grades, and is less likely to go to college.View Source
  • Women earn 57% of bachelors degrees, 60% of masters degrees, and 52% of doctorates.View Source
  • Teachers should be trained in bringing reading to disengaged boys, who are struggling more than ever in school.View Source
  • Boys would often particularly benefit by having reading support from a male role model.View Source
  • Read Christina Hoff Sommers on how to make education better for boys.View Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

More women earn bachelors, masters, and doctorates degrees than men. 

  • Women earn 57% of bachelors degrees, 60% of masters degrees, and 52% of doctorates.View Source
  • Read Christina Hoff Sommers on modern education’s “war against boys.”View Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

If we want boys to stop failing in school, we must engage their imaginations. 

  • Boys are struggling more than ever in school.View Source
  • Teachers need to come to terms with the young male spirit and their need to use their imaginations. Boys would often particularly benefit by having reading support from a male role model.View Source
  • Read Christina Hoff Sommers on how to make education better for boys.View Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

To the extent that there’s such a thing as academic “privilege,” it is women who now have it.

  • The typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing, gets lower grades, and is less likely to go to college.View Source
  • Women earn 57% of bachelors degrees, 60% of masters degrees, and 52% of doctorates.View Source
  • Literature claiming male privilege in educational settings is not generally published in peer-reviewed journals, and verifiable data in such studies is often missing.View Source
  • Teachers should be trained in bringing reading to disengaged boys, who are struggling more than ever in school.View Source
  • Boys would often particularly benefit by having reading support from a male role model.View Source
  • Read Christina Hoff Sommers on how to make education better for boys.View Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

Schools’ draconian disciplinary policies are crushing boys’ chances to succeed.

  • Boys are struggling more than ever in school.View Source
  • Boys are five times more likely to be expelled from pre-school and make up 70% of suspensions in grades K-12.View Source
  • One example of a draconian policy that particularly targets boys: administrators’ “zero-tolerance” policies for firearms, which have gone off the deep end, even punishing boys for chewing Pop Tarts into the shape of a gun.View Source
  • Read Christina Hoff Sommers on how to make education better for boys.View Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

In modern education, girls are treated as the gold standard, and boys are treated as “defective girls.”

  • The typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing, gets lower grades, and is less likely to go to college.View Source
  • One of the reasons for this trend was suggested by psychologist Michael Thompson, who said, “Girls’ behavior is the gold standard in schools. Boys are treated like defective girls.”View Source
  • Related reading: How to Make Education Better for Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

Today’s classroom culture is very antagonistic to boys who act like normal boys.

  • The typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing, gets lower grades, and is less likely to go to college.View Source
  • One of the reasons for this trend was suggested by psychologist Michael Thompson, who said, “Girls’ behavior is the gold standard in schools. Boys are treated like defective girls.”View Source
  • Related reading: How to Make Education Better for Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source
  • Related reading: The War Against Boys – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

Being a normal boy is a serious liability in today’s classroom.  Boys tend to be disorganized and restless. Some have even been known to be noisy and hard to manage. Sound like any boy you know?

But increasingly, our schools have little patience for what only a couple of decades ago would have been described as “boyishness.”  As psychologist Michael Thompson has aptly observed: “Girls behavior is the gold standard in schools.  Boys are treated like defective girls.”

As a result, these “defective girls” are not faring well academically. Compared with girls, boys earn lower grades, win fewer honors they’re are far less likely to go to college.  Boys are languishing academically, while girls are prospering.  In an ever more knowledge-based economy, this is not a recipe for a successful society.

We need to start thinking about how we can make our grade school classrooms more boy-friendly. Well, here are four reforms that would make a very good start.

1.  Turn boys into readers.

In all age groups, across all ethnic lines, boys score lower than girls on national reading tests.  Good reading skills -- need I say? -- are critical to academic and workplace success.  A major study in the UK discovered, not surprisingly, that girls prefer fiction, magazines, and poetry while boys prefer comics and non-fiction. Boys whose eyes glaze over if forced to read Little House on the Prairie may be riveted by the Guinness Book of Records. Boys will read if given materials that interest them. If you’re looking for suggestions for books that have proved irresistible to boys go to guysread.com.

2. Inspire the male imagination.

Celebrated writing instructor Ralph Fletcher contends that too many teachers take what is called “the confessional poet” as the classroom ideal.  Personal narratives full of emotions and self-disclosure -- these are stories girls commonly write -- and these are prized; whereas action stories describing, say, a skateboard competition or a monster devouring a city, these are not.  I recently read about a third-grader in Southern California named Justin who loved science-fiction, pirates, and battles.

An alarmed teacher summoned his parents to school to discuss the picture the 8-year-old had drawn of a sword fight -- which included several decapitated heads. The teacher expressed grave “concern” about Justin’s “values.” The boy’s father was astonished, not by his son’s drawing which to him was typical boy stuff, but by the teacher’s overwrought -- and female-centered -- reaction.

If boys are constantly subject to disapproval for their interests and enthusiasms they are likely to become disengaged and lag further behind. Our schools need to work with, not against, the kinetic imaginations of boys.

3.   Zero out zero-tolerance.

Boys are nearly five times more likely to be expelled from preschool than girls. And in grades K-12, boys account for nearly 70% of suspensions, now this is often for minor acts of insubordination and sometimes for entirely innocent behavior. Hardly a week goes by without a news story about a young boy running afoul of a school’s zero-tolerance policy.

Josh Welch, age 7, was recently sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart into shape it into a gun. Josh -- like many other boys punished for violating zero-tolerance policies -- was guilty of nothing more than being a typical 7-year old boy.

4.  Bring back recess.

Believe it or not, recess may soon be a thing of the past. According to research summarized by Science Daily, since the 1970s, schoolchildren have lost close to 50% of their unstructured outdoor playtime. And much-loved games have vanished from school yards. In schools throughout the country, games like dodge ball, red rover, even tag have all but disappeared; too damaging to self-esteem or too “violent” being the usual excuse.  One popular classroom guide suggests tug-of-war be replaced with “tug of peace.” Boys need to work off their energy.  They need to be free to play games they enjoy. And keeping them cooped up inside all day will not help them learn.

As our schools become more feelings centered, more competition-free, more sedentary, they move further away from the needs of boys.  We need to reverse the boy-averse trends. Male underachievement is everyone’s concern. These are our sons. These are the young men with whom our daughters will build a future.  If boys are in trouble, so are we all.

I’m Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute for Prager University.

You Earned A Badge

Course: War on Boys

Join PragerU now to claim it

  1. Watch The Video
  2. Claim Your Badge
  3. Take the Quiz
  4. Gild Your Badge

Like what you see? Support PragerU today