The Educational Curriculum And The Gender Education Gap
One of the reasons proposed by one psychologist for why we see no difference between the genders in scholastic achievement in home schooling, is because parents let young boys read and learn in their own way. She argued that when it comes to reading for example, parents will often let the young boys read the adventure and non-fiction books they want to read as opposed to the fictional based literature often taught in schools. The psychologist further went on to say that schools often cover works and material emphasising feelings and relationships. This often appeals to girls but not to the boys. As a consequence of this, boys switch off, lose interest and their grades plummet. Yet we know from standardised tests that they are quite capable of being as good as girls at reading and writing when they apply themselves. Indeed that is what home schooling demonstrates.
During my experience at school, many subjects were often english based with little emphasis on maths or spatial skills. Assignments and tests focused heavily on essay writing, even in the sciences and less on problem based questions that better suited boys. Work on tests and assignments also generally involved more of an emphasis on memorisation and less on abstract thinking, which better suits boys learning style. I found these features of the coursework to be the case across the board during my education (even in the sciences). In my final two years at high school, english was a compulsory subject and yet maths was optional. Language based subjects (French, Spanish etc) were given bonus study score points to encourage people to do them (these bonus points increase students final grades in senior high school in Australia), whilst maths, IT, science and technology based subjects did not. This is despite the reality that there are serious skill shortages in STEM fields and IT (which is at least partly due to the boy crisis in education and the fact that most of those people interested in such fields are men).
All of these characteristics of the education system I have mentioned above, favoured girls and their cognitive strengths. They did not cater to or utilise the cognitive strengths of boys. With the content of our education so lopsided as to favour the strengths developed in girls but not in boys, it is like asking boys to fit a square peg in a round hole. We are asking boys to match girls in an institution that does not cater to their natural abilities. We know that boys can perform as well as girls in school, when their schooling caters to the strengths of boys as much as it does girls.
Another thing worth mentioning about the educational curriculum, is the lack of opportunities for boys to pursue studies that they find interesting and masculine. In Australia many boys do not really like school because it is irrelevant to their future aspirations. They sit there in class, twiddling their thumbs, dreaming of the day when they can leave school and work in a garage or construction site. They want to pursue trades and other jobs which do not involve a university education or doing study like reading the works of Shakespeare. Despite the myth that we are told at school about university being the be all and end all, there is nothing wrong with doing a trade. I know, I have been to university and my brother has done a trade. We both turned out fine. Many trades are highly skilled now and are knowledge based. Think of the training required to become an electrician, a plumber or a refrigeration mechanic. Oh and by the way, you don’t need to go to university to be successful or earn a good income. Electricians, plumbers etc can earn big money and are in high demand. Rest assured, in a knowledge based economy their skills will be highly sort after.
Why are we forcing these boys to sit through subjects in their later years in high school when they are irrelevant to their future aspirations? No wonder they are bored and unmotivated! Imagine if we forced girls who love english to study engine mechanics in their later years at high school! I agree that both genders need at least some common foundation in education. However in the later years of schooling, these boys should be given the freedom to pursue training for a trade in place of booky subjects of no relevance or use to them. In fact why don’t our high schools have classes that provide training for a trade or run joint programs with technical institutes in their senior years? Indeed some do, but not nearly enough. Again the education system is catered way too much to meeting the needs of girls. This bias is not surprising given the heavy involvement of feminism in the education system.
Both Dr. Warren Farrell and Prof. Christina Hoff Sommers (her other presentation is also linked here) have spoken about the fact that the vast majority of national attention, education policies, education programs, teaching material, affirmative action initiatives, laws, activist and professional organisations, bureaucratic resources and educational research are geared toward supporting girls and completely ignore boys needs and concerns (sometimes even intentionally trampling on them). There have literally been hundreds of special programs targeting girls that have been implemented since the 1970s and hardly any for boys. None of these programs have been repealed or redirected toward boys, despite the fact that girls have been overtaking boys in education for some time now. Furthermore as Barbara Kay noted, the delivery of the general cirriculum itself has been altered (and still is) to cater to the learning styles of girls and ignores boys pedagogical needs. With all of that considered, I think one of the key solutions to the boy crisis in education will be the removal of the feminist influence from our education systems (Just to name a few places within the government where they are doing damage. Our legal systems being another). Prioritising the needs of women and girls above the needs of men and boys in the name of equality, while boys are clearly the struggling minority, is nonsensical.
Frankly the way we have our school systems set up makes no sense. For instance, not every boy will want to go to university, so why are we running our school curriculums like that? Perhaps if we had more of an emphasis on the programs and the opportunities I was talking about, more boys would be switched on in class. They would work harder in their junior years because they would know their study would be required to get them into these later programs in senior high school. Their learning would be tailored to their interests and long term goals. Schoolwork would become an essential means to an end they actually care about, rather than a means toward a personally irrelevant end. The importance of having a personally relevant and desirable future goal to motivate someone cannot be understated.