22 School Practices That May Harm Boys

http://www.illinoisloop.org/gender.html

22 School Practices That May Harm Boys

(by Kevin Killion, March 2006)

Just what is going on in modern progressivist schools that could account for the plummeting academic performance of boys? Let’s consider which of these changes seem to be a factor. Many of these are discussed in more details in the articles listed below.

 

  • Teaching Methods
    1. Whole language instead of phonics (research shows differences between boys and girls in the extent of harm done by whole language) (more)
  • Classroom Organization and Practices
    1. Collaborative workgroups, which favor social interaction over personal skills and knowledge
    2. Desk seating in clusters or pods, instead of directed towards the teacher. Clusters dramatically increase the number of distractions, and substantial research finds that students (all students) really do learn better when desks face the teacher. (more)
    3. Emphasis on multiple simultaneous classroom activities — a major source of distractions — instead of focused, whole-class, engaging instruction
    4. Trend towards “project-learning” that is overwhelmed by play-like art projects and social activities, instead of dynamic direct teaching of content knowledge and skills (more)
    5. Reduced emphasis in classroom on competition: spelling bees, geography bees, awards, etc.
    6. Reduced emphasis in school on competition: valedictorians, GPAs, honor rolls, etc.
  • Subject Material: Interest
    1. Assigned literature skewed lopsidedly towards social issues, and away from novels of high adventure, courage, patriotism, etc. (Also see our pages on the IllinoisRebecca Caudill awards and on literature.)
    2. Almost total absence of fact-based biography and non-fiction in literature and reading classes. (more)
  • Subject Material: Bias
    1. “Modern” textbooks and recommended literature often go to extremes to remove male role models as lead characters and examples. (Read more regarding this issue intextbooks and in literature.)
  • Assessment and Expectations
    1. Schools now emphasize process over facts (more):
      • In history and science, “research” and “hypothesizing” now takes the place of knowing what happened or how things work.
      • Even in mathematics, the goal is no longer the mastering of good methods in the pursuit of correct answers. Instead, classwork involves “discovering” different methods and verbal ability in describing the approach taken. (Albert Einstein would not have done well in today’s math classroom. He once said, “I rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterward.”)
    2. Assessment via chatty essays emphasizing verbal skills and expressions of feelings, instead of objective measurement of knowledge and understanding (more)
    3. For whatever reason, boys tend to be less skilled than girls in producing neat, clear handwriting. But research finds that “Illegible or poor handwriting can hinder students in getting fair and objective grades from their teachers … [T]he quality of students’ handwriting influences how teachers evaluate papers; students with better handwriting receive higher grades than those with poor handwriting.” The result? Boys get lowered grades due to the written form of assessment. (more)
    4. Scoring of these essays by factors unrelated to the subject material at hand (e.g., math exams that give points for use of complete sentences, use of upper and lower case letters, reference to personal beliefs and experiences)
  • Attention, Distractions, Physical Activity
    1. Inattention seen as a psychological disease to be drugged rather than a social deficiency to be corrected
    2. Over-medicalization of attention issues: Instead of harnessing the enthusiasm of “hunter”-type alertness and guiding students in its control and application, typical lack of classroom attention is seen as a psychological malady that requires use of powerful psychotropic drugs.
    3. Classroom decorations, postings and colors that are over-the-top, resulting in an environment that is jarring and distracting rather than simply warm, inviting and encouraging.
    4. Elimination of recess, a healthy outlet for physical energy
    5. “Softening” of gym activities, reducing or eliminating vigorous or competitive ones (e.g., dodgeball), while increasing yoga, stretching, and other less active ones. The result is the loss of this physical outlet, and a conveyed sense that something is less acceptable about those other activities, which are enjoyed by many boys.
  • Teacher Biases
    1. More girls than boys report that they are called upon “often.”
    2. More boys than girls report that teachers won’t let them “say things they want to say.”
    3. Teachers often respond well to students who are verbal and active in class discussions, and often that’s a big advantage for girls. As a reporter observed in a recentTribune article, “In an advanced-placement government class Wednesday, the girls excitedly responded to questions about the U.S. Constitution without raising their hands while the boys gave an occasional answer. ‘They’re louder and talk a lot more…’ noted [a senior boy].”