Sunday, January 03, 2010

feminization of education?

Have we feminized the American classroom? Certainly, there is a shortage of male teachers, particularly in the lower grades. Certainly, sedentary classroom structure and restraint of natural activity places boys at risk of disengagement and disinterest. Some see in this the evil hand of radical feminism. The following is from one of many internet articles on the subject, this one by Don Closson, The Feminization of American Schools:
"...recent statistics reveal that from the elementary years and beyond, girls get better grades than boys and generally fare better in school. Although girls have all but eliminated the much-discussed math and science gap with boys, boys' scores in reading and writing have been on the decline for years. At the end of eighth grade, boys are held back 50 percent more often, and girls are twice as likely to say that they want to pursue a professional career. Boys are twice as likely to be labeled "learning disabled" and in some schools are ten times more likely to be diagnosed with learning disorders such as ADD. Boys now make up two thirds of our special education classes and account for 71 percent of all school suspensions. There is also evidence that boys suffer from low self-esteem and lack confidence as learners."
These facts aren't hard to follow, but are hard to ignore. In addition to what's happening in elementary schools and high schools,there is an equivalent under performance and under representation among boys in colleges and graduate schools.

Christina Hoff Sommers, regarded by some as an anti-feminist and a W. H. Brady Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank believes that our boys suffer from a school environment that "favors feminine traits and that attempts to squeeze boys into an androgynous mold from which they naturally rebel." Some like Sommers see boys as threatened by radical feminism... that there is a concerted effort to push young women ahead to the economic and educational status they deserve by making schools less boy friendly.

But I don't see an evil plot, but rather, a refusal by school administrations to design schools that take advantage of the child's most natural inclinations... to be actively engaged in learning. It is cheaper to put 30 desks in a room and lecture than to have small class sizes and physical activities that engage the children's hearts and souls in learning. We all, girls and boys learn better, and retain information longer when we learn hands-on. This is something you can test in your own life, but that we are ignoring in the lives of our children. Hands-on learning is neither masculine nor feminine but benefits all children.

Last night as my wife an daughter went shopping, I watched Mike Rowe's program, Dirty Jobs. He was helping in the making and repair of diesel locomotives. There is dignity in honest work, in effort and skill, and yet it is a shame that many boys gain the impression of themselves from schooling, that they don't like it, they don't fit in it, and they aren't good at it. Put the hands back in education and they will learn otherwise.


  1. Anonymous12:34 PM

    In my Montessori pre-school classroom, I am constantly trying to come up with Practical Life activities (purposeful, daily life activities) that are attractive to boys. However, wood-working and the like are constantly being vetoed by administration because of their "dangerousness" and potential for injuries and liabilities. I wish they could see your first graders at work, and I wish parents could understand that scrapes and bumps are an intrinsic part of a child's education.

    My male students ARE on the whole more active and impulsive than the females, but I see that as being an indication that their hand-brain needs are not being met...

  2. I've had people react to our use of knives in the classroom. "Don't they cut themselves?" "Not twice." I respond. We have far more serious injuries on the basketball court. Would the same parents remove the hoops and take away the balls?

    There is a very sound basis for crafts in school. Your exploration of materials in the making of things is fundamentally your first scientific exploration of the universe. Take away crafts, and your have removed the foundations of science. But parents really don't get this, do they? We need to explain it to them.

  3. Anonymous5:57 AM

    So sad to see administrators veto something that's both valuable for learning and fun for the students. Administrators, of course, only go into classrooms to act important.


  4. The issue has relevance, not only for the boys affected and their families, but also for society as a whole. If a society fails to educate a segment of its population to the maximum of its potential, the who;e society loses that capacity. In the current situation, this segment is largely made up of boys. See for more on this topic.