As we get ready to send our kids off to school again, one author is asking a scary question. Has school become too hostile to boys? Christina Hoff Sommers says zero tolerance policies at school, reduced physical exercise, and test-obsessed/risk-adverse instruction are all making school harder for boys than ever before. Parents of little boys, do you get the feeling your sons aren't exactly welcome at their schools?
The data does show a growing gap between boys' and girls' achievement in school. Girls are getting ahead. Shouldn't we be glad? "Efforts to re-engineer the young-male imagination are doomed to fail, but they will succeed spectacularly in at least one way," Sommers says. "They will send a clear and unmistakable message to millions of schoolboys: You are not welcome in school." Here's how Sommers thinks we're getting it wrong.
Zero tolerance policies against violence go too far: As schools become increasingly violent, they've begun cracking down with stricter rules. But Sommers says some of these rules come down too hard on boys, whose play is more socially aggressive. Boys get suspended more often. They get into trouble for things like pretending to shoot others with a pencil. Schools "criminalize the male imagination," Sommers says.
Not enough physical exercise: We've seen recess and gym classes fade away into almost nothing, and Sommers worries boys especially now have nowhere to take their restless energy. Some of that pent-up energy can turn into aggression, which gets boys into even more trouble.
Straitjacket education: With today's obsessing with standardized testing, risk-taking and creativity have gone out the window. Now it's all about sitting in your chair and drills. Sommers believes approach to education is especially challenging to boys.
I don't know ... as the mother of a son, I really get what she's saying here. All of it. I've seen how boys engage in violence-fantasy play, and how nervous that makes teachers. I'm not a fan of huge, sweeping gender generalizations, especially since I've known plenty of kids who defy them.
And I think exactly the things she spells out here are also harmful to girls as well. Girls need more exercise too. Girls need a more playful, creative approach to education as well. Is school "hostile" to boys? Maybe -- but the changes we should make to address that could benefit kids of both genders.
Do you feel like school is hostile to boys compared with girls?
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