My interest in this forum or any that provides an opportunity for an open
honest discussion of the issues is always to "keep the dialogue going."
There is rarely any advantage to cutting it off in my experience. That
I want to react to the following quote from your posting:
"But the boys' problem is a real one: They have been socialized to defy
their mothers, and hence maternal discipline; and they have been
socialized to defy women's authority, hence the authority of women
teachers, who are clustered in the lower-paying jobs during the years in
which reading/writing are taught. Teachers struggle to teach reading to
boys who are not socialized to the goals of communication and therefore
relationship--which is what reading and writing are about--but the girls
are socialized from the git-go to pay close attention to relationship
and communication, because they are the subordinates always looking to
superiors for cues on how it is safe to behave."
While I can certainly see and understand the issues you are raising here,
broad generalizations that you are making about boys simply do not hold up.
To use them borders on the kind of hyperbole that opponents of gender
regularly use to make their points. You do clearly identify some of the
"variables" that we need to focus on in our efforts to address the problems
that many boys face, but to suggest that this is the experience of all boys
or to call it the "boys' problem" only adds fuel to the argument that there
is a "war against boys." I could never characterize boys as "unsocialized"
or "uncivilized"...mostly because that has not been my experience. These
certainly not the boys that I have worked with in my gender equity
nor are they most boys.
That said, are communication and "connection" themes or variables in boys
development on which we need to focus? Yes, they most certainly are. Are
"emotional literacy" and "healthy relationship" elements that some of our
traditional views of masculinity do not support. Yes, they are! My own
perspective, both philosophically and programmatically, leads me to believe
that redefining masculinity and the messages that support the disconnection
you address in many boys' lives is far more productive than the argument
boys are unsocialized.
As for your statements about elementary teachers, again, while that may be
true for some, as a former elementary teacher and a teacher educator it is
simply not reflective of the picture I have seen. The thousands of
I have worked with have, by and large, been open to understanding and
with the complex dynamic of gender in their classrooms. Lately, this is
particularly true with respect to how it affects boys in elementary
However, they are clearly not characterizing their work as a struggle
I do presume you are not trying to set up an "us vs. them" argument here.
not, I wonder about the efficacy of the way in which you frame your
>From my experience, it would be ineffective to attempt to facilitate a
change process with educators were I to begin with the premises about boys
that you make in that paragraph. The issue of gender in our schools and in
our society is far more nuanced and layered with complexity to warrent such
broad generalizations that only serve to fan the flames of the supposed
"gender war." This is not a war...or, at least, it is not my war. I would
hope we are in this work to win the hearts of others who see the advantages
of redefining the ways in which gender roles are constructed, but not
the dismissal of half of the population as unsocialized. That feels like
are throwing the "baby boys" out with the bath water. And, last, it is a
real disservice to the many men and boys I work with who share the same
In closing, I would like to suggest a wonderful book that Susan Shaffer at
the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium recently published. It is called "Why
Boys Don't Talk and Why We Care: A Mothers Guide to Connction." The
are Susan Shaffer and Linda Gordon. It is $14.95 and can be ordered from
Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium by phone: 301-657-7741; by fax:
or online at: www.maec.org. Its value extends far beyond the focus on
mothers and it paints an accurate picture of the complex lives of boys
from both the literature and numerous focus groups with boys, girls and
parents conducted while putting the book together.
I have appreciated the advocacy you express here and hope that we can truly
"keep the dialogue going."
Craig P. Flood, Ed.D.
NYS Career Options Institute
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