This week the Globe and Mail published a small article called “Five Reasons Why Boys Are Failing.” A friend of mine sent me the link to the article and, as I read it, I was more and more astounded. Here are the five reasons boys are failing:
1. Role Models
2. Video Games
3. The Boy Code
4. Developmental Differences
And, wait for it,
I’m going to speak to the last point, but I have to say that one of the things that concerns me about this article (which is written about elementary school and high school boys specifically) is its dearth of critical thinking.
Don’t get misread me. I’m not implying that I don’t want boys to do well in school. I am, however, certainly implying that this article suggests the shift to more single-parent homes, the emergence of stars as role models, the masculinization of “toughness,” and the size of one’s brain cannot be the only factors in an individual’s education. If the system isn’t working, it isn’t working for everyone. The underlying message in this article seems to be that if these five issues are solved boys will do better.
Huh. Which boys? Where? Boys in Hobbema? Boys in Bella Bella? Boys in the G.T.A? Boys in Yarmouth? But I digress.
OK, let’s look at section five: This section is accompanied by a still from the 2008 film remake of Anne of Green Gables. Referred to as “the darling of English teachers everywhere” Anne of Green Gables is also a good way to stop boys from wanting to read. Well, as performance artist Dayna McLeod has shown, Anne can also make you gay. So watch out.
The argument in this section claims that boys don’t like flashbacks, but prefer linear narrative; they don’t relate to their English teachers who are “mostly all women,” and they prefer male protagonists. Disregarding for the moment the lack of evidentiary support here’s my issue: making declarative claims about choice seems, oh, I don’t know, presumptuous at best. At the worst it is myopic and deterministic. These claims shut down the potential for making choices, they disregard those boys (and men!) who don’t prefer linear narrative (or girls and women who do…), and most insidiously, these claims assume that a teacher—male or female—isn’t teaching his or her students the critical thinking skills they need to think through a text’s construction.
The Globe article is by no means the first to talk about the feminization of education. As one of the commentators notes, Christina Hoff Summers has been writing about this for a while. Yes, this C.H.S…
I’ve only started to touch on the myriad of issues here. As I see it this article indicates a gendering of education that is binary, Anglo-centric, and dangerously conservative. But maybe I’m being grouchy. What do you think?