Friday, October 23, 2009

You can take the boy out of school, but you can't take the school out of the boy

After coming up with schools for blacks only last year, the Toronto District School Board is now considering the idea of schools and classrooms for boys only. The problem is reasonably obvious, even egregious: by most indicators, boys fare far worse than girls at school. The director of the TDSB argues, as others do, that this is the result of a feminization of schools. Boys and girls learn differently from each other, which is probably a reasonable enough argument, and proponents of boys-only schools believe that public schools are heavily tilted in favour of girls.

There is scant evidence of this tilt presented in newspaper articles on the topic, and I don't recall much of it. Sure, an inordinate amount of time in my middle school was devoted to expressing a variety of complex ideas through poorly-acted skits, but I attribute this more to the softness of the curriculum, though I'm told that it has only gotten harder since we so unjustly crammed five years of high school into four (for some reason, nobody complains about that anymore).

If the classroom is not an unnaturally feminine domain for boys, then it's worth considering, as you see here and there, that males are simply ill-suited to the sort of docile, sedentary lifestyle required for success in both education and employment these days. To this end, the incipient boys' classrooms would allow for more mobility, perhaps, and periodic bouts of using classroom implements as athletic equipment. Unless you believe that women are simply more intelligent than men, this is probably not the answer either.

But the answer is not far from here, I think. In high school, it was far more acceptable for boys to be complete buffoons than it was for girls. Perhaps this reflects the fact that males tend to take more risks, are more likely than females to be both spectacular successes and spectacular failures, though my impression is that we accept idiocy and failure more from boys than we do from girls. We accept that boys will be rowdy and difficult to control and we tend to excuse their failures. Like any other group of people that has low expectations placed on them, they underachieve.

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