It's articles like the following one, written by Desiree Cooper and printed
in the Detroit Free Press on May 15, 2000, that give me confidence that
there is yet hope for our sons and brothers.
Text reprinted under Fair Use Exception beginning here.
I know your middle school-aged son.
He won't sit still in class. When he remembers to write down his homework
assignments and do them, he forgets to turn them in the next morning. He
has lost at least two articles of his clothing and one textbook this year.
His favorite subjects are recess and lunch. He hates English. The only
thing he'll read are sports and video game magazines. He is an
The reason I know your son is because he's just like every other American
middle-school boy, including mine. And according to child development
experts, our boys are perfectly normal.
While you've been worrying about whether you're raising a future criminal,
science has been telling us that boys respond better to hands-on,
action-oriented teaching. Boys require much more physical activity during
the school day. And they develop fine motor, language and social skills
much later than girls.
Round peg, square hole
So if we all know this, schools must be using unique strategies to address
boys' needs the same way they've been addressing the needs of girls for the
last 10 years. For example, administrators must surely be suggesting that
boys start school at an older age than girls. They must be offering boys
the opportunity to do all assignments on the computer if they find writing
difficult. By now they're surely offering reading material that's full of
adventure and mystery.
Because they know it doesn't work, they must have stopped lecturing to kids
all day. These days they've got to be using more effective, hands-on,
experiential methods. And, until he has matured, your son's teachers have
certainly devised systems and incentives to get him to remember his
homework and to turn it in.
"Not hardly!" says Karen, a Detroit attorney who says she's tired of "going
to the seventh grade" with her son. "He's so unorganized. He can't find his
completed homework even when it's in his book bag."
Karen says that school is the last place where her son's developmental
needs are being met. She feels alone in her struggle to get her son -- who
has scored high on standardized tests -- to perform his best at school.
"My son only has two male teachers. I think that's part of it. It's just
all these women telling him what to do."
Going to school on boys
That's not the only problem with how we educate boys, says William Pollack,
an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and
author of "Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Boyhood" (Owl
Books, 1999, $13.95). According to Pollack, teachers routinely ignore the
developmental problems boys face with reading and writing. When boys act
out, it's perceived solely as a behavior problem, not one based upon their
different learning styles.
The result, he said, is that eighth-grade boys are 50-percent more likely
to be held back a grade than girls. By high school, they comprise
two-thirds of all special-education students, 71 percent of all school
suspensions and are up to 10 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed
with attention-deficit disorder.
If I know your son so well, how come so many schools don't know who he is
and how he learns? How is it that schools nationwide have managed to ignore
the learning needs of boys even while they've adjusted to the needs of
My guess is that boys have much to teach educators -- if only they're
willing to learn.
- Desiree Cooper
Amber V. DeWine
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