[EDEQUITY Male Dialogue] Boys and Literacy (Reading & Writing)

From: Craig Flood (CFlood@aol.com)
Date: Wed Dec 13 2000 - 10:58:40 EST

Some thoughts about Boys, Literacy and School:

One of the issues that has been getting quite a bit of attention with
to boys and school is the issue of boys "lagging" behind girls in reading
writing beginning in the elementary years. The test scores bear out these
"lags" at all levels. One of the arguments has been that boys are not
getting the attention paid to them in these areas because of gender equity
efforts focus on girls. However, if we look at the disproportionate
of boys in remedial reading and special education classes that clearly
on the academic areas of reading and writing that charge begins to fall
apart. It certainly does not entirely explain the lag, but at the same
the critics of gender equity do not make the special education and remedial

ervices connection.

I had an interesting discussion with Susan Shaffer last month following a
workshop she attended about gender differences in the statewide writing
in Maryland. While I don't have notes from that discussion, Susan shared
some fascinating information about the content of boys writing that was

Admittedly, we need to take a deeper look at the assessment statistics and
tease out other intervening variables. I think some of Deborah Mulligan's
Opening Statement addresses the issue in the reading programs that she has
implemented in her school. In fact, educators in Australia and New Zealand

appear to have made a good start in identifying "literacy" as a boy issue
schools. I am particularly intrigued by Deborah's focus on literacy skill
acquisition, while also attending to relational issues and connecting boys
with adult male role models and mentors. This is a wonderful example of
curricular integration. Such goals to me are far more meaningful and
substantive than Hoff Sommers suggestions that we return to the use of "war

poetry" and "classroom competition" to bring boys back into the educational


Further, I recently found an thoughtful and research based treatment of the

intersection of literacy and masculinity in a wonderful book, "Masculinity
Goes to School," by Australian educators, Rob Gilbert and Pamela Gilbert.
The entire book is fascinating and provides the most in-depth examination
the broad issue of masculinity and schooling, as well as the discussion of
why literacy is an problematic issue for some boys in schools in a chapter
entitled, "Boys and Books."

There are very clear parallels to what we see in American schools, but we
only just beginning to examine the issue seriously here. I would suggest
that the Gilbert's book provides the basis for a serious look at literacy
a gender equity issue for boys much in the same way we have treated math
science. The book cites several studies that indicate an inherent conflict
between cultural attitudes and perceptions of "literacy" and traditional
masculine expectations.

Wayne Martino's work with adolescent males, cited in the book, offers a
window into boys attitudes about English and writing as academic subjects.
quote one boy, "English is more suited to girls because it's not the way
think...most guys who like English are faggots." In another study of
and literacy, Sue Nichols found four factors that contributed to a
of reading by fathers: 1) reading and physical activity are defined as
mutually exclusive, 2) rejection of fictional narrative, 3) reading being
perceived like "schoolwork" and "homework" as conforming to authority, and
interest in math and reading seen as mutually exclusive. Interestingly, my

doctoral research on attitudes about mathematics revealed parallels for
girls. And, not surprisingly, also revealed the importance of fathers
attitudes about math as a strong correlate.

Any thoughts?


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