Thursday, May 31, 2007

Boys Will Be Boys

We don't usually agree with much on the op-ed page of the conservative New York Post, but we did like today's piece from Christina Hoff Summers, author of "The War Against Boys," in which she promotes the a new publication from England, "The Dangerous Book For Boys."

In "Snips and Snails, A Book For Real Boys," Summers describes the obvious appeal to the male of the species of the runaway bestseller from two British authors:

"The Dangerous Book for Boys" is all about Swiss Army knives, compasses, tying knots and starting fires with a magnifying glass. It includes adventure stories with male heroes, vivid descriptions of battles and a history of artillery. Readers learn how to make their own magnets, periscopes and bows and arrows. It gives rules and tactics for poker and marbles - and secret moves for coin tricks.

Summers goes on to discuss the sorry state of education of boys today in American public schools, something that, sadly, we have witnessed first hand. Schools want boys to act like girls and learn like girls, but for some reason the boys just aren't taking to it. More boys are failing and fewer are going on to college--indeed, nearly 60 percent of today's college undergrads are women.

At our son's middle school, teachers assign all kinds of "projects" in which more points are given for form than substance. A neatly done project, with nice little labels, that precisely follows the stifling "rubric" handed out by the teacher (the principal, assistant principal, counselors and 90 percent of the teachers are, of course, women), will score far more points than something that creatively--but maybe with some mess, and maybe not on the schedule laid out--gets across the point being taught. Most projects end with an oral presentation, a skill at which girls of this age are far more accomplished. So, guess who does well on these projects?

In the fifth grade, our son was required to read a bizarre book about a girl who goes into some kind of space time warp. The Curmudgeon helped him get through literally weeks of vocabulary assignments based on this book, which could be described as nothing other than young chick lit. Imagine the howls of protest if the school made the girls learn vocabulary based on "The Battle of Midway" or "Disaster At Johnstown"--the Curmudgeon's two favorite books in elementary school.

We've tried, of course, to get our son to see it all as a game--score as many points as you can, just like a videogame. But it's not working, not for him, and not for most of the other boys in school either.

We realize some of this comes from our well-meaning lefty colleagues. Summers describes how the National PTA urges schools to replace the competitive "tug of war" with a cooperative "tug of peace"--which is pure nonsense.

It's time to wake up to the fact that our schools are failing boys.

1 comment:

Miles said...

I agree wholeheartedly. School doesn't let boys be boys, and with kids' off days so pre-planned for them, I don't know if life lets boys be boys either.