Answering back - One answer at least

P. Vogel (
Sun, 15 Nov 1998 22:33:56 +1100

Jane and Sue wrote:
> * how to resist the temptation to provide our own answers.

I found the book quite interesting in that it did propose some arguments
I hadn't heard before. My main interest in in boys' education, so I tend
to approach any books on gender and schools looking for insights from
that angle.

The subtitle of the book is "Girls boys and feminism in schools" and the
introduction says that the purpose of the book is to examine the impact
of "remaking gender in more life ehancing ways". So the intention to not
provide your own answers was a good one.

However my feeling after reading the book was that a major objective was
to study the ways in which boys and men inhibit gender reform. There are
a number of specific sections which concerned and confused me, but the
first sign of a position being taken is in the section starting "Boys
are the new disadvantaged". The very first sentence of this section
describes boys as 'Strutting and fretting'. This emotive opening sure
enough leads on to some argument that I just couldn't follow. Like many
before you, you quote the Teese study as evidence that boys are not
actually underachieving.

But the quote says that "boys too are disadvantaged. Their school
careers, on the whole, seem to be less successful, to terminate earlier,
to be characterised by failure at an earlier point in time, and to be
more frequently accompanied by motivational and behavioural problems".

The point is also made that the gender gap gets bigger as we move
further down the socioeconomic scale.

I could not see how this supports your case at all. Perhaps you could
explain this.

The next section heading is "What about all the poor boys?" which I
naively interpreted as meaning that there was now going to be disucssion
about why the poor boys (i.e. low SE) were doing so badly. However I
picked up the wrong entendre of this double entendre; the heading was
apparently chosen to ridicule the idea that boys are actually faring
badly. You end the disucussion abruptly with the statement that "we will
not enter the debate here" - curious, given that the debate was just
held and your position declared incontrovertible.

This leaking-out of your prejudice unfortunately undermined my
acceptance of the rest of the book, which as I said does have some
interesting insights to offer. If you're willing, I'll ask you some
specifics about these later.

best wishes,

Peter Vogel

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