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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Affirmative Action for boys?

     One of our daughters informed us this week that she will be having a baby boy in November.  Nothing unusual in that except that our current five grandchildren are all boys.  I wondered what the odds of having six children of the same sex would be and it is 1 in 55.  I don't know if the odds are different if the children are from different mothers.  Interestingly the odds for having six girls is 1 in 73.
    These streaks seem to be running in my wife's family.  My wife is one of five girls  and my wife gave birth to three girls.  My parenting experiences with daughters ran to Strawberry Shortcake, Smurfs, Cabbage Patch dolls and Rainbow Bright.  Now with grandsons it is Thomas the Tank Engine, Lighten McQueen and Buzz Lightyear.  Has anyone figured out how to harness the energy power of a young boy??
     Title IX has given my daughters opportunities in sports and academic areas that were unknown to girls growing up in the 1960's.  The lessons learned on the sport fields for girls has translated into woman looking at their capabilities in ways that translate to women taking a more active role in many parts of our society.  I have joked that women in my generation wanted to be equal to men and women in my daughters generation feel that being equal to men is a step down.
     So now that I have grandsons and watching the report recently on CBS news and other news media that report how boys are falling behind girls academically it does raise the question of whether the education model that is followed in most schools is better geared to girls.  Seventy-two percent of high school valedictorians are girls.  As the chart below shows woman are more likely to graduate from college.
    One theory of why this trend is occurring is described by Roy F. Baumeister (Professor of Psychology at Florida State U), Invited speaker to the 2007 meeting of the American Psychological Association:
  "Let me raise another radical idea. Maybe the differences between the genders are more about motivation than ability. This is the difference between can’t and won’t. Return for a moment to the Larry Summers issue about why there aren’t more female physics professors at Harvard. Maybe women can do math and science perfectly well but they just don’t like to. After all, most men don’t like math either! Of the small minority of people who do like math, there are probably more men than women. Research by Eccles has repeatedly concluded that the shortage of females in math and science reflects motivation more than ability. And by the same logic, I suspect most men could learn to change diapers and vacuum under the sofa perfectly well too, and if men don’t do those things, it’s because they don’t want to or don’t like to, not because they are constitutionally unable (much as they may occasionally pretend otherwise!). Several recent works have questioned the whole idea of gender differences in abilities: Even when average differences are found, they tend to be extremely small. In contrast, when you look at what men and women want, what they like, there are genuine differences."

    To add my "two cents" to this reality I would go in a different direction.  Much of education instruction today still requires students to passively sit and listen to a teacher or instructor for long periods of time.  This passive style fits better with girls than boys.  Boys are more active learners in a hands on way that allows them to move from one area to another.  The changing action of video games seems to reflect this reality.  I have certainly seen this in the differences from raising daughters and now experiencing grandsons.  I remember reading to my daughters for long periods of time and watching them play with dolls for hours. I haven't seen that ability in boys. Maybe schools need to recognize this fact in how they create a teaching environment for boys.


Julia McCready said...

Passive learning is not really good for anyone. Girls may have an edge because our culture inculates them from birth to "be good." My daughter hates all of the sitting and does much better with hands on learning.

Hoco Connect said...

I agree totally with your comment. Active learning is superior to passive learning. Schools have provided some opportunities for this but much of it is outside the regular school day.