Dads Weigh In On Why Boys Fall Behind

Host Michel Martin continues the conversation about why boys fall behind in school.

She speaks with a group of parents and experts: author Christina Hoff Sommers, New York University education professor Pedro Noguera, University of Virginia Dean Bob Pianta, and Glenn Ivey, father of five boys.

CHRISTINA HOFF SOMMERS: Well, I think we first have to admit that on average girls and boys are different and to pretend that they’re identical and to structure the classroom around an ideal child, which for many teachers would be a girl, is going to fail our male students terribly. And there are some wonderful innovations, including single-sex classrooms, trying to get more male teachers and more male mentors in our school, to bring back sort of high-level vocational education where kids get college preparatory courses, but they also can spend half the day preparing for careers. These boys are thriving in schools like Aviation High – and girls are too, but more boys in aviation and technology schools in Massachusetts. This is an excellent model and it’s being used throughout Europe and we should be doing that. And ultimately, I think just acknowledging that we are doing a better job educating our daughters than our sons.

PEDRO NOGUERA: I think that single-sex education is an option that we should make available and that there is some evidence that, in the right settings, that boys can be quite successful when teachers are aware of their biases and allow the classroom to be more interactive and active learning to be a part of the learning experience. I would say girls benefit from that too. And so we should avoid the tendency to think boys and girls are so different that girls benefit from being able to be physically active and develop their voice in the classroom as well.

However, boys especially need to develop social and emotional intelligence. They need to learn how to work cooperatively. They need to learn how to listen. They need to know how to develop and articulate themselves. If boys don’t develop these skills early, they find that they are at a huge disadvantage.

I would also remind us that boys are much more likely than girls to engage in violence. And that violence as a problem in our society is a male problem. And it concerns me a bit that we frame this as boys as victims and not understand the ways in which masculinity also results in women being victimized and boys victimizing each other. And I think that if we don’t understand how masculinity contributes to this problem that we will I think simplify it and just call it a war on boys and not recognize the way in which men perpetuate this problem in many ways.


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