If You Have Boys- You Should Read This

Boys are falling behind….boys are in crisis…I have been hearing more about this lately- on blogs, television, op-ed pieces, and books.  Sunday Morning on CBS ran a story on this last month.  It featured a dean from Kenyon College explaining how she has trouble getting qualified male applicants for her school.  She pointed out that college enrollment for men has been slipping for the last four decades. What is going on?

Schools Are a Factor

The argument is being made that schools have traditionally rewarded communication skills (verbal & written), those who can sit still longer and have self-control--things girls are better at.  It would seem as class sizes grow it is harder physically for kids to have room to move around.   Educational cuts in PE, the arts, and vocational classes could all be contributors too.

Learning  is Not Cool

The take away I got from the dean was that males think “academic disengagement is more manly.” 

It’s not cool to be smart.
It’s not cool to be engaged.
It’s not cool to do homework.

I remember my son’s middle school teacher saying at a conference how important is was to “not lose the boys”.  I didn’t see this as a problem, but as the year went on, I began to understand what she meant as those middle school attitudes grew.  This is more than a middle school phase though- what the trends show is more like a culture shift.

Loose the Swagger

Fellow Mom Congress delegate Melissa Taylor’s recent blog at Parenting.com highlights a book that goes more in depth on this topic—Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug Culture  by Lisa Bloom. The title refers to the attitude that has been instilled in boys that they are “all that”.  Men and boys in this country rate themselves higher in their actual abilities and intelligence levels than they really are….hence the swagger.  The author says parents need to help boys see that hard work is the where self -esteem comes from.  Swagger offers ten rules to follow to help us raise our sons from topics such as jobs, drugs, media literacy, respect, and college.

What Can Parents Do?

    • Talk to your son’s teachers about the classroom environment and their needs
    • Be a partner with your child’s teacher to set high expectations for learning
    • Set expectations for homework, schoolwork and college
    • Make reading a priority
    • Build self-esteem through hard work and accomplishments

I think I will be adding Swagger to my summer reading list! Will you?

What do you think about boys’ attitudes towards education?  What works for your child in the classroom or at home? I welcome your comments! Tweet, share, subscribe, or contact me at lisa.schoolzone@gmail.com


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  • That CBS Sunday morning piece was interesting. Here is a related post, which speaks to the "boy crisis" and what one professor is doing in the White House to try and address the issue.


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    As a teacher, I have noticed the decline in boys in my AP Physics classes.. The classes are now dominated by girls. The boys just don't think it is cool to be good at physics.

  • Very disappointed to hear that. Glad that girls are getting motivated. AAUW and other women's organizations have taken steps to involve girls in science. Now I guess we need to include boys and advocate for science study for all!

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    Until we begin looking at differential treatment from an early age and show just how our individual environments create different mental/emotional/social conditioning; how average stress is made up of layers of mental frictions that take up real mental energy, and how differential treatment creates real advantages for girls today, we will continue to be at a loss to explain the growing Male Crisis. Pleas do not buy into the genetic models, for they will only make it much worse for Male students.
    The problem is more complex than school curriculum or boy chemistry. The problem involves two entirely different treatment of Males and Females beginning as early as one year of age and increases in differential treatment through adulthood. This is creating the growing Male Crisis in the information age. The belief Males should be strong allows more aggressive treatment of Males beginning as early and possibly earlier than one year. This is coupled with much "less" kind, stable, verbal interaction and less mental/emotional/social support, knowledge, and skills for fear of coddling. This increases over time and continued by society from peers and teachers to others in society. This creates more social/emotional distance from parents and other authority figures who have knowledge; higher average stress that hurts learning and motivation to learn; more activity due to need for stress relief; more defensiveness and wariness of others further hindering emotional and social growth; and higher muscle tension (creating more pressure on pencil and tighter grip) that hurts writing and motivation to write. It creates much lag in development creating a learned sense of helplessness in school. This differential treatment continues on through adulthood, almost fixing many Males onto roads of failure and more escape into more short-term areas of enjoyment. Also the giving of love based on achievement that many Males thus falling behind academics then turns their attention toward video games and sports, risk taking to receive small measures of love/honor not received in the classroom.

    Since girls by differential treatment are given more positive, continual, and close mental/emotional/social/ support verbal interaction and care from an early age onward this creates quite the opposite outcome for girls compared with boys. The lower the socioeconomic bracket and time in that bracket the more amplified the differential treatment from a young age and increased in more differentiated over time.

    http://learningtheory.homestead.com/Theory.html My learning theory explains how individual environments create large differences in learning over time and provides tools to improve our lives.

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    I hope we can begin to see through the the veneer of "not cool to study or perform academic work". I hope this will then allow us to see the more primary problem facing boys today. I feel many of those boys have been lagging in academics for a long time and now are not able to take the AP Classes. I can see why this position is taken by many professionals. They sincerely believe in the genetics models with no interfering, environmental or differential treatment influences. Since they then sincerely believe on average, boys and girls are equal, they can only assume the verbals they are given that "it is simply not cool". We need to see how the differential treatment they are receiving is creating the academic problems. My comment toward the bottom, below this one shows such differential treatment effects. We need to also see the belief boys should be strong allowing "more ridicule and discipline for failure" then creates and either success or ruin scenario for boys. Since they must continually generate love and honor through some achievement, this keeps boys' esteem and feelings of self-worth lower, something society put in place to make boys strong and keep trying. Oh, with the higher average stress from the differential treatment, you also have improper pace and intensity fed into attempting to perform mental work. For many boys this can create a much added intensity to average stress to further hurt learning from an early age that hurts more so in say, high school where they are already behind in reading, math, and complex science areas. Oh, I feel abstract thinking is very necessary for reading and higher math and science areas. This requires lower layers of average stress and also proper pace and intensity along with the verbal skills (usually not provided by parents, teachers, and peers from much more social/emotional distance and fear of coddling.

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