One for the boys
One of those gut feelings that we can’t seem to shake is that modern schools and institutions are often failing boys. In our lifetimes, we’ve seen a necessary change in young women’s roles and opportunities to the point that there are now more females than males in college studying for the law, business and other professions.
At the same time, America’s change from an industrial society to the electronic age means a change in the qualities and skills needed to succeed. Suddenly, we talk more about networking and social skills than rugged individualism. Physical strength becomes less important. Boys horsing around is labeled aggression. Being more passive, not rocking the boat, is often rated a plus.
We’ve all seen brilliant boys who seem to be misfits in school. Even more so than girls, boys may be lousy in the classroom but have an overriding interest or ability in which they can be near genius. Standardized tests and grades don’t always tell the tale.
When Albert Einstein at 16 tried to get into a top polytechnic school, he didn’t test well enough, aside from mathematics and physics where he excelled. Last week, John Gurdon received the Nobel Prize for medicine for his life’s work on stem cell research. Yet as a college student, he ranked last in his class in biology and his school master declared that his hopes to be a scientist were “ridiculous.”
You can only wonder where the likes of Einstein and Gurdon would end up today. Would they persist and add to the world’s knowledge, or would they be dropouts living their lives at a far lower level than they are capable of? We’ve all seen such cases and it’s not all due to fewer jobs in a tough economy.
One area where boys test worse than girls is reading, so we were glad to see Kate Evans’ article in the September 26 Morgan Messenger about reading being the focus for county schools this year. Whether traditional books or e-books, reading is essential to learning.
We were particularly heartened by School Superintendent Dave Banks’ remark that it is important to find things that boys want to read. This may mean sports or adventure stories rather than what are billed as the childhood classics, which often appeal more to girls.
When your editor was in elementary school, he learned a lot about story telling from comic books and a lot about math from baseball statistics. There is more than one way to learn. One size does not fit all.
When we’ve tried to explain our concerns about boys, we’ve often gotten a blank stare, especially from women who’ve never raised sons. Yet boys and girls are clearly different in their social interactions, communication styles and even in how they learn.
While it’s good that girls have come more into their own, boys shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.