Skip to main content

Are girls smarter than boys? The age-old debate lands on my desk

My current project is editing a book about how to teach boys to read and write. Yes, you got it: The premise is that boys and girls are biologically wired to learn differently -- and, get this -- boys develop literacy skills more slowly than girls. So we need to go easy on them, which in teacher-speak is called "differentiate instruction." And K-3 teachers need to teach them how to be good men by using picture books that contain positive male characters and positive messages about masculinity.


This project is a challenge on many levels. First of all, it's written like ass. That's right, I said it: ass. But that's what I get paid to do, un-assify it. So I'll do my best.

However, I have such a problem with the fundamental argument here, that it's all I can do to remain professional and not write queries like "Are you freaking kidding me?!" in the margins. OK, so I think we all can agree that girls are more verbally inclined than boys (which is a much nicer way to say what my husband would put it, I know), but I'm wondering is slowing down your speech, talking more loudly, and catering to boys' more active lifestyles is the way to go in most classrooms...or does this just perpetuate the "bring everyone to the middle" style of teaching that's been the norm in American classrooms for the last 10 years (thank you, GWB, and your ridiculous NCLB)?

On a personal level, though, as the mommy of a precocious, energetic 3yo boy, this book alarms me. The second part of the authors' premise states that boys have shorter attention spans and more violent interests because of TV and video games. I've read the research studies, people, so I know this is true---we're ALL developing attention troubles because of our sound-bite-infested world. But even more troubling than their ranting about the evils of cable television, the authors make these sweeping claims that seem to perpetuate the stereotypes they're trying to debunk.

Despite the flaws, though, I'm happy to have someone suggest that the way to reach boys is through good picture books. I think books are crucial to a fulfilling life, period. But I'm slightly unnerved by the authors' claims of moral education based on picture book characters. Of course all parents want to instill virtues in our children, but isn't moral education somewhat subjective? How much of it should be tackled in an elementary school classroom? I don't know that it should be totally left to the teacher, especially when the teacher is 9 times out of 10 a woman, and what does a woman know, really, about being a good man?

Perhaps this is the rub: In an ideal world the teaching of morals and how to be a good man wouldn't be left to the teacher. But we all know we don't live in an ideal world. So maybe my job here is much bigger than just editing a book.


Popular posts from this blog

Grace happens

Today Honey's roommate in room 364 at Maine Medical Center was discharged. Some other day I'll tell you about why Honey is in the hospital again, but this story is about the roommate because it's way more interesting. Let's call him Elton, because all I really know about him is he plays guitar in an Elton John tribute band and he's originally from the very northern part of England, bordering Scotland. (Or as Honey described it, "that place in England where the Roman Empire decided, nope, those Celts are crazy, and put up a wall.")

Elton was in room 364 before Honey arrived, and what struck me immediately, besides his delightful accent and soothing Liam-Neeson-esque voice, was his gentle, good-natured manner. He was going through heck from a botched surgery and compartment syndrome - pain and gore and fear of losing the use of his dominant hand - yet he spoke kindly and softly to every person who came into his room. Every time a nurse walked in, Elton gree…

Math lessons

I was really great at school as a kid...but I'm really lousy at school as a parent. And I was reminded once again of this while sitting at my son's conference yesterday.

Seventh grade has been hard on all of us. Beyond the obvious physical changes -- Happy has grown at least 5" since this summer and now looks me in the eye (yeah, remember I'm super tall!), his voice is weird, he can't get out of his own way -- we're all trying to navigate his ever-changing need for independence. His teachers want him to take more responsibility for his learning, which in theory sounds like a great plan for all kids at this age; they have to not only learn how to learn but also learn how to advocate for their learning.

In reality, though, when you're the world's most laid-back 12-almost-13-year-old who really only wants to listen to music, play drums, video games, and action figures, taking responsibility and advocating for your learning is not highest priority. In fact…

Happy curls?

I dreaded the passing of the peace each Sunday when I was a little girl. Every week the old church ladies would comment about my hair...
    "Shirley Temple curls!" they cooed; I didn't know who Shirley Temple was.
    "So soft!" they petted; I didn't want their wrinkly, gnarled fingers on my head.
    "I pay a lot of money to have hair like yours!" they exclaimed; I couldn't figure out why anyone would pay money for frizzy, fluffy, brillo-pad hair.

I hated my curls. I felt embarrassed by my hair -- it was short, kinky, cut badly -- quite different from the long straight hair my friends all wore at the time in my life when I just wanted to fit in. Oh, how I wanted a ponytail! Or a braid my hair on a Sunday morning with ribbons hanging down, that was a dream.

Today during the passing of the peace, I found myself next to one of the older ladies in our church. Every week I marvel at her elegance, the way the dresses, the slow and grace…