While at the European International Schools Conference in Madrid, Spain., I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Dr Michael Thompson, the author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (1999) and The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child Achieve in School and in Life (with Teresa Barker, 2004).
After identifying that schools 25 years ago schools realized that girls were underachieving in math and science and purposely developed plans and changes that have greatly decreased that underperformance, Thompson challenged the educators to consider the need for something similar to address boys’ underperformance in reading and writing today. (Some colleges are having difficulty maintaining enough male enrollments.)
He posed the following list of possible causes for that underperformance and then asked the audience to vote indicating what their thinking was as to the most impactful cause. Those of you who have read my book, Tapping Student Effort- Increasing Student Achievement will see why his list intrigued me….(my presentation on Tapping Effort was presented the next day):
1 There’s a better match between girls’ brains and school—or schools better adapt to girls’ brains.
2 Girls are given a more consistent, encouraging message to do well in school.
3 We are asking too little of boys- low expectations. [Problem boys get moved to special education.]
4. Schools are hostile environments for boys. [Cutting back on recess]
5.Teacher don’t know how to teach boys.
6. Boys live in a different academic culture and have a different strategy for doing school. [If I can work for an hour and get a B, why work for three to get an A?]
7 Boys don’t have the support they need from men.[35% of boys are raised without fathers]
8 There are more distractions in the lives of boys. [Internet offers adventure and competition.]
9. The lives of women and men have changed—we are in a transition culture (boys are in despair). [Maybe our messages to boys are unclear.]
10 Patriarchal attitudes of boys persist and handicap them. [Because I am a male, its okay not to do well in school.]
How would you vote?