mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Boys Punished for Being Boys


Boys are being penalized in schools simply for exhibiting traits characteristic of their gender. So writes teacher Jessica Lahey in The Atlantic, who claims that her colleagues are failing to understand and engage boys in the classroom:

Something is rotten in the state of boys’ education, and I can’t help but suspect that the pattern I have seen in my classroom may have something to do with a collective failure to adequately educate boys. The statistics are grim. According to the book Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys: Strategies That Work and Why, boys are kept back in schools at twice the rate of girls. Boys get expelled from preschool nearly five times more often than girls. Boys are diagnosed with learning disorders and attention problems at nearly four times the rate of girls. They do less homework and get a greater proportion of the low grades. Boys are more likely to drop out of school, and make up only 43 percent of college students. Furthermore, boys are nearly three times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Considering 11 percent of U.S. children—6.4 million in all—have been diagnosed with a ADHD, that’s a lot of boys bouncing around U.S. classrooms.

Fear of generalizations aside, anyone who has spent time with both girls and boys knows that they tend to behave differently. It’s only logical, then, that different teaching styles might on balance have different benefits for boys and girls. A study Lahey cites confirms, for example, that boys function better in competitive environments. But American public schools have shifted classroom learning environments away from competition in favor of cooperation and egalitarianism. Many schools have done away with the distinction of “valedictorian” for fear that such titles hurt those not fortunate (or diligent) enough to claim them. Physical education teachers are urged to refrain from identifying winning and losing teams.

American public schools as we know them today had their origins in the industrial revolution and were intended to produce workers fit for the tedium of repetitive factory work. There’s no question that this rank-and-file, sit quietly, eyes-forward learning style doesn’t work for young boys bursting with energy. But it’s less often remarked that this system is outdated when it comes both girls and boys. We’re long past the time when we should seek to forge young souls into cogs that fit snugly into a big blue model machine. The new jobs market is screaming for entrepreneurial skills, for young people who are capable of recognizing and serving needs that society isn’t even aware it’s lacking.

Boys may be hurt the most by our outmoded learning environments, but they’re certainly not alone.

[Punished child image courtesy of Shutterstock]

Features Icon
show comments
  • wigwag

    I completely agree with the sentiment of this Via Meadia post with one exception; Professor Mead is wrong to echo the idea that it is discriminatory to claim that more boys than girls have ADHD.

    Like autism, Aspergers Syndrome, Fragile X and Klinefelter Syndrome, ADHD is a neurological disorder not a psychological disorder. All of these developmental disorders are biologically based and have a genetic underpinning which impacts either brain structures, brain chemistry or both. Autism is 4 times more common in males than females; male patients with Fragile X are far more severely impacted than females; Klinefelter Syndrome impacts only males. It is not some repulsive form of political correctness that causes more males to be diagnosed with ADHD than females, its biology.

    Some neurological disorders affect more females than males including synesthesia (6 to 1 female/male and Rett’s Syndrome (100 percent female). Non-neurological diseases can also be impacted by gender; 90 percent of lupus patients are female and females are also more likely to get multiple sclerosis.

    Young boys are far more likely to suffer from language delay syndromes than young girls and boys are dramatically more likely to exhibit savantism.

    Some years ago Larry Summers was hounded out of the presidency of Harvard for merely suggesting the politically incorrect possibility that on average males had more ability for higher mathematics than females; as it happens, Summers speculation that got him fired is entirely correct; there is significant evidence for it. It is not an accident that boys who tend towards Asperger’s (and even frank autism) tend to be very good at math and pretty bad with language and social skills.

    The bottom line is this; the brains of males and females are not the same. More boys are diagnosed with ADHD and developmental disorders because more boys have ADHD and developmental disorders.

    • jakee308

      It’s DIAGNOSED in more boys than girls because of the current cultural viewpoint. He’s not saying more boys HAVE ADHD but that more are diagnosed with it. And it’s interesting how the behaviors that are supposed to indicate ADHD are congruent in many ways with the behavior of NORMAL BOYS.

      • wigwag

        The debate about ADHD is a very interesting one; as happens in so many debates where the science is still in a muddled state, each opposing camp tends to fall into the trap of questioning the other sides motives. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that as with many neurological disorders there are no biomarkers; all the symptoms are behavioral. That no biomarkers have been discovered doesn’t mean that ADHD is not a real physiological condition; there are no proven biomarkers for schizophrenia, but it is obviously a real disease.

        The prevalence of ADHD is debated and probably ranges somewhere between 2 and 16 percent of the school aged population. Critics scoff at this and say that the high prevalence rate is ipso facto evidence of extraordinary over-diagnosis. To them it is inconceivable that treating so many school aged kids with ritilin or ritilin analogues can possibly be the right thing to do.

        The critics could be right but their argument really doesn’t hold water. Close to 37 percent of the American population suffers from hypertension and close to 75 percent of this population is treated for it. More than 30 percent of the population has hypercholesterolemia and are (or should be) treated for it.

        The high prevalence rates of high blood presssure and high blood cholesterol makes no one doubt that those disorders are real. Most people would lament that those disorders are under treated not over treated.

        Why is it different for ADHD. Is it that critics are still so old fashioned that they can’t bring themselves to accept that brain disorders actually have a basis in biology not psychology?

        • jeburke

          High blood pressure and high cholesterol are physical problems associated with aging. “ADHD” is a “psychiatric disorder,” much as homosexuality was deemed to be such a disorder a few decades ago. To ignore the obvious cultural forces driving the definition and diagnosis, not to mention treatment, of such a disorder is foolhardy. Among the “symptoms” that indicate this supposed illness in a boy (or girl) are squirms and fidgets in his seat, daydreams, is constantly in motion, and gets bored unless doing something he enjoys. The full list of these “symptoms” should, by itself, convince anyone that the whole thing is preposterous and has taken hold because feeding pills to “hyperactive” boys is a handy tool of social control in schools (once, not all that time ago, an occasional wallop with a stick did the same job).

          Interestingly, there are serious scientists who theorize that “ADHD” is genetic and developed mostly in the male gene pool because selection favored risk taking behaviors and women tended to choose more action-oriented, risk-taking men as partners. The irony may be that much as the average American woman might not admit it, they still do — just not when the males involved are five and 10 year olds who are harder to control in their school rooms.

    • Dusty Thompson

      The “science” of Global warming infects many others “sciences” also… Its not SCIENCE its lies. ADHD is just an excuse for an out of control child that was never taught that the word no means NO… So much BS disguised as science to fit a political agenda….

  • qet

    It is a mistake, I think, to believe that entrepreneurism is a matter of taught skills. Entrepreneurism is simply capitalism, commerce, business, essentially no different now than it was centuries ago. The kind of person who succeeds in business is best represented by the Uncle (Uncle Ben?) in Death of a Salesman, who tells Biff: “When I was 17, I walked into the jungle. When I was 21, I walked out. And by God, I was rich!” It is more attitude than anything–a certain fearlessness, risk-taking, self-centeredness, ruthlessness (Bill Gates anyone?). In short, qualities, often associated with masculinity, that public education sees as its primary mission to stamp out, eradicate (as your examples of valedictorians and winning indicate). In other words, it is not so much what is being taught as it is the behaviors that are being encouraged or suppressed.

  • Corlyss

    Maleness has been identified as a psychopathology that must be “treated” and eliminated.

    • DukeLax

      The new “Empowered” American gender-feminists do not hate all males equally. In fact if one was to observe the new mandatory college classroom gender-studies programs, one would observe the only males that are being attacked are the hetero-males.

    • Leslie Dawson

      Finally men are getting their balls back and standing up to the man-hating culture of feminism: MANHOOD101. C O M

  • DukeLax

    American gender-feminists “Empower” themselves with perverse manufactured statistics Alliances with American law enforcement. Punishing young boys for nothing is a way for “Empowered” gender-feminists to flex their new muscles.

  • NWOslave

    This has been going on for at least half a century. If boys scores have been going down over the decades, and they have, than of course it’s a corrupt education system. This is what the system has been shooting for all along. It won’t get better it’s going to get much worse. Unless you’re a girl or gay, don’t even bother with those indoctrination camps called school.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service