|The Report, April 29, 2002, p. 51
Boys are people too
Experts finally realize that male children
have unique educational and social needs »
By RICK HIEBERT
wisdom in modem western culture is that girls face a variety of problems growing up
because of society's patriarchal and sexist nature. Last month in Toronto, however,
teachers, psychologists and youth workers from across Canada gathered to discuss a crisis
in boyhoodproblems, some say, exacerbated by ignorance and feminist bias.
U.S. scholar Christina Hoff Sommers' 2000 book, The War Against Boys,
argues there is, indeed, a feminist prejudice against boys. Experts ignore boys' problems,
produce studies with shoddy or non-existent research alleging male privilege, and want to
"rescue" boys from their masculinity, she asserts.
But, according to Health Canada, Canadian boys suffer 60% of all physical
abuse of children, 55% of neglect, 47% of all psychological abuse and 51% of sexual abuse.
"We [mistakenly] believe that boys can take care of themselves, that they are tough,
that they don't need nurturing," says Fred Matthews, Central Toronto Youth Services'
director of research and co-chairman of the Toronto conference. "There's a real lack
of knowledge amongst teachers and other helpers about the unique needs of the male
Society seems to think violence or psychological abuse against boys is
acceptable or even funny, Mr. Matthews continues. For example, the media downplays the
seduction of boys by older women. "Elm Street magazine published a profile of the
B.C. teacher who slept with her student and put the teacher, looking pretty, on their
cover, with the caption 'Is this a sexual predator?' The magazine would not treat a male
teacher who had slept with a girl that way," he believes.
Canada would be wise to adopt British programs that target young male
offenders, Mr. Matthews says, or give boys remedial help. "We need to find ways to
put boys' exuberance, leadership qualities and energy to good use, instead of crushing
them," he says. "Perhaps we need to look at boys-only schools, at least for part
of the day."
Another expert worries that change, based on a better understanding of the
male psyche, might be difficult to achieve, however. "The field is far more
female-dominated than it used to be," says Chuck MacKnee, a Trinity Western
University psychology professor. "Two-thirds to three-quarters of those taking
graduate studies in psychology are women. Even with no gender bias, some of the
boy-specific issues may just be overlooked."
Society must face up to the fact that boys are falling behind in schools and
universities, he adds. One solution would be to encourage the strengthening of families.
"Boys can be more challenging to raise, but that doesn't mean that girls an
'better,"' Prof. MacKnee says. "Boys are different than girls, and society needs
to remember that."
sense for a too-common problem
Schoolteachers need not bother consulting Canada's faculties of
education for help in teaching boys more effectively. Most such institutions seem more
interest[ed] in propagating feminism than providing practical solutions to a problem that
sees boys dropping out of schools more often than girls, graduating with lower marks and
taking fewer post-secondary courses.
Nevertheless, an increasing number of teachers have discovered a common-sense
book on the subject, Boys and Girls Learn Differently!, published last year by
U.S. educator Michael Gurian. Among many useful ideas, he suggests boys and girls be
separated during their middle school years (Grades 6-8), because it "is the time of
greatest hormonal upheaval."
An "ultimate" elementary classroom, responsive to boys' needs,
use boys-only groups when appropriate;
encourage close bonding between teacher and student;
appreciate boys' "normal Huck Finn male energy" and direct
it toward learning and character development;
pay special attention to the more sensitive and less competitive
allow physical movement in the class;
allow boys to engage in plenty of physical activity, from hugging the
teacher to getting "down-and-dirty" during recess;
ensure there are men in boys' educational life, especially from Grade
never allow chairs to be kept in a row before Grade 3;
offer plenty of storytelling "to help the male brain develop its
imaginative and verbal skills";
give boys lots of things to touch and otherwise sense,
"especially when reading and writing are being taught."
It should come as no surprise to any student of human
nature that Mr. Gurian's ideas work. 'The insights and innovations in Boys and Girls
Learn Differently! have been applied in our classrooms with phenomenal success,"
said Dan Colgan, superintendent of schools in St. Joseph, Missouri, "leading to
better academic performance and better behaviour."
April 29, 2002 The Report
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Copyright © 2002
United Western Communications Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.
Notes by FFL:
The War Against Boys, by Christina Hoff Sommer,
Book information and links to review and article
See also The Invisible Boy, by Frederick Matthews,
quote from, and information on study report
The White Rose
Thoughts are Free