Pay closer attention: Boys are struggling academically

At home, dads read to their daughters and throw footballs to their sons. In elementary school overwhelmingly female teaching staffs naturally teach in ways that connect better with girls. Fidgety boys are quickly defined as suffering from reading disabilities. In middle school, teachers – still unattuned to the boys’ disadvantages – take no action to correct swelling reading gaps.

That brings boys to the pivotal ninth grade, the first year when they run up against the heavily verbal, college-track curriculum that school reforms demand of most schools. And the boys flounder.

The trend holds through the remaining school years: Girls shine; boys fade. —Pay closer attention: Boys are struggling academically (Yahoo/USA Today (will expire))

My son is doing his best to pay attention to a collection of Beatrix Potter stories that my wife wants to read to him. Naturally, the Peter Rabbit tales are of interest to my son (whose name is Peter), but in the latest story in the Beatrix Potter collection, a little girl who has lost three handkerchiefs and a “pinnie” goes looking for them and encounters a hedgehog who does laundry for all the forest animals. Thrilling. Peter listened dutifully, but didn’t ask a single question.

Halfway through the story, I realized that a “pinnie” is probably a “pinafore,” but that didn’t really help Peter understand the story very much.

I’m much more interested in reading to him from the Young Jedi Knights series (which is pure entertainment, but deals with character issues such as friendship, loyalty), or adventure/education hybrids like The Magic Treehouse or The Magic Schoolbus.

While the teacher in The Magic Schoolbus books is Ms. Frizzle, she is a science teacher, which breaks the stereotype somewhat. And all these books, including the Jedi books, feature problem-solving boy/girl teams (two friends, a brother and sister, a whole class) as protagonists.

During an English faculty meeting at my previous school, when some female faculty members were promoting a program to make the sciences more interesting to girls, I offered the suggestion that one way to get more girls in the sciences is to make English and the humanities more interesting to boys. What followed was an awkward moment of silence.