After decades of worrying that girls were being shortchanged in male-dominated schools, people are now worrying about whether boys are the ones being shortchanged by schools that are better suited to girls.
In a new EdNext forum article, Richard Whitmire, author of the new book Why Boys Fail, debates Susan McGee Bailey, principal author of the 1992 report How Schools Shortchange Girls. Among the points made in the article:
Richard Whitmire: Literacy skills never mattered so much as they do today. In 1989, the nation’s governors met in Charlottesville, Virginia, to launch the school reforms we see today. Essentially, the goal was to put as many students as possible on a college preparation track. The governors were right to set that goal, and educators were right to respond by teaching those skills in kindergarten and first grade. The problem arose when nobody realized that boys are ill-equipped to acquire those skills that early, at least not with the teaching methods used in the past. As a result, too many boys fall behind, conclude that school is for girls, and never try to catch up.
Susan McGee Bailey: Despite widespread concern about boys’ literacy skills, we rarely look seriously at the lingering stereotypes that play out every day in our schools, homes, and communities. Gendered assumptions about literacy are at the heart of the problem, in much the same way that gendered assumptions about science and math have inhibited girls’ persistence and achievement in these areas. It’s a “girl thing” to read; real boys don’t sit around with a book. Parenting practices contribute to this.
Also available on the website, Richard Whitmire talks with Education Next about why boys are failing and what could be done to help them.