Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Christina Hoff Sommers: helping boys succeed in school

An article from the leftist Time magazine by feminist Christina Hoff Sommers.

Excerpt:

Being a boy can be a serious liability in today’s classroom. As a group, boys are noisy, rowdy and hard to manage. Many are messy, disorganized and won’t sit still. Young male rambunctiousness, according to a recent study, leads teachers to underestimate their intellectual and academic abilities. “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools,” says psychologist Michael Thompson. “Boys are treated like defective girls.”

These “defective girls” are not faring well academically. Compared with girls, boys earn lower grades, win fewer honors and are less likely to go to college. One education expert has quipped that if current trends continue, the last male will graduate from college in 2068. In today’s knowledge-based economy, success in the classroom has never been more crucial to a young person’s life prospects. Women are adapting; men are not.

Some may say, “Too bad for the boys.” The ability to regulate one’s impulses, sit still and pay attention are building blocks of success in school and in life. As one critic told me, the classroom is no more rigged against boys than workplaces are rigged against lazy or unfocused workers. That is absurd: unproductive workers are adults — not 5- and 6-year-old children who depend on us to learn how to become adults. If boys are restive and unfocused, we must look for ways to help them do better.

She introduces three ideas to fix the problem, and here’s the third one:

In his delightful Boy Writers: Reclaiming their Voices, celebrated author and writing instructor Ralph Fletcher advises teachers to consider their assignments from the point of view of boys. Too many writing teachers, he says, take the “confessional poet” as the classroom ideal. Personal narratives full of emotion and self-disclosure are prized; stories describing video games, skateboard competitions or a monster devouring a city are not.

Peg Tyre’s The Trouble With Boys illustrates the point. She tells the story of a third-grader in Southern Californianamed Justin who loved Star Wars, pirates, wars and weapons. An alarmed teacher summoned his parents to school to discuss a picture the 8-year-old had drawn of a sword fight — which included several decapitated heads. The teacher expressed “concern” about Justin’s “values.” The father, astonished by the teacher’s repugnance for a typical boy drawing, wondered if his son could ever win the approval of someone who had so little sympathy for the child’s imagination.

Teachers have to come to terms with the young male spirit. As Fletcher urges, if we want boys to flourish, we are going to have to encourage their distinctive reading, writing, drawing and even joke-telling propensities. Along with personal “reflection journals,” Fletcher suggests teachers permit fantasy, horror, spoofs, humor, war, conflict and, yes, even lurid sword fights.

If boys are constantly subject to disapproval for their interests and enthusiasms, they are likely to become disengaged and lag further behind. Our schools need to work with, not against, the kinetic imaginations of boys to move them toward becoming educated young men.

Dr. Sommers participated in a recent debate where she argued in favor of allowing all-male schools against a radical feminist. That page has audio and a transcript as well.

My thoughts

I do think that women need to realize that boys have to be encouraged to do the different things that boys do, if we want boys to be engaged. The good things that boys do in society are not free – they need to be encouraged and not dismissed. Playing a wargame or an adventurous boardgame with a boy is good. Firing real guns with a boy is good. Playing adventurous role-playing games with a boy is good. Going to a war museum or on a camping trip with a boy is good. Watching patriotic war movies or adventurous movies with a boy is good. Reading military history and military biographies is good. Reading classical adventure novels with a boy is good. Listening to adventurous music with a boy is good. Even watching the news with a boy is good.

Nothing is free. We have to create the boys we want, and encourage them to be aggressive, active and righteous.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , ,

Study of elementary school children finds entrenched discrimination against boys

The study is here (PDF), and Susan Walsh writes about the study on her blog. (H/T Stuart Schneiderman)

Excerpt:

A new study of nearly 6,000 elementary school children has found that boys are discriminated against beginning in kindergarten. Christopher Cornwell, an economics professor at the University of Georgia, says that ”gender disparities in teacher grades start early and uniformly favor girls.”

Despite having higher scores on standardized tests, boys get lower grades than girls. Why? Because teachers are basing grades at least partly on classroom behavior, and the standards are very much geared to female norms.

[…]Here’s what the disparity looks like for kindergarten boys:

Std. Deviation Test Scores Grades
Reading -.017 -.27
Math +.02 -.15
Science +.035 -.14

(Note: Values are approx., gauged visually from study graphic.)

Another interesting finding was that boys who adhere to female norms on non-cognitive skills were not penalized. Effectively, the more female behavior was rewarded with a grade “bonus” for males.

The implications of this are obvious. Masculinity, even normal maleness, is being punished in schools from a very young age. Only the most female-acting boys are rewarded with a fair assessment.

I found this story on Stuart Schnederman’s blog, and this is what he had to say about it:

The results demonstrated that schoolteachers are prejudiced against boys. When teachers do not just grade on performance, but include a number of intangible qualities that girls are more likely to possess, they are acting as bigots.

I recommend that everyone pick up a copy of “The War Against Boys” by AEI scholar Christina Hoff Sommers to learn more about this anti-male discrimination problem.

I see a lot of people raving at men to “man up” these days. Many of those people are pastors who remain ignorant about the real, systemic causes of male underachievement. Even very obvious factors – like the dominance of female teachers and administrators in schools – are ignored by the blame-men crowd. Boys generally learn better when they learn from male teachers in all-male classrooms. But unfortunately for boys, there are people who don’t want to do what works for men, especially when it doesn’t fit with feminist ideology.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On wargames, history and heroes: “this story shall the good man teach his son”

Memoir '44: Pegasus Bridge setup

Memoir ’44: Pegasus Bridge setup

Reposting this old post because Dina and I spent Friday night playing games again! And this is one of my favorite posts. Last night was Portal 2 and Orcs Must Die! 2.

Last night, I played through the Pegasus Bridge scenario from the Memoir ’44 wargame with Dina a few times. We actually played the online version of the game, using Steam. She was very gracious to play a wargame with me, which I don’t think is necessarily the first thing on most women’s lists of things to do on a Thursday night! I appreciated her agreeing to learn how to play and then playing with me several times. I think that Christians need to plan and execute more “together” activities like that – activities that involve interaction, co-operation, communication and engagement. We try to avoid doing things where we are both spectators. Playing wargames is not the only thing we do – we also do Bible study and cooking lessons (for me), for example.

Anyway, the point of this post is to express the deeper meaning behind playing wargames. I think that it is important to recognize and celebrate those who have demonstrated good character, whether it be now, or in the past. I think that it is important for us to search out the best role models ourselves, so that they will influence the way we act in our own lives. The second world war was a clear example of good versus evil. Anyone on the Allied side who demonstrated bravery and courage should be celebrated for safeguarding the security, liberty and prosperity that we enjoy today. In the case of Pegasus bridge, the hero is Major John Howard of the British paratroops.

Here is a quick re-cap of his exploits that day from the New York Times:

Maj. John Howard, the commander of glider-borne British infantrymen who seized the strategically vital Pegasus Bridge in the first battle of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, died Wednesday in a hospital in Surrey, England. He was 86 and had lived in Burford, near Oxford.

Under cover of night on June 6, 1944, six gliders carrying 181 officers and men of the Second Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry landed on the eastern flank of a 60-mile invasion front on the northern coast of France. The regiment had a heritage going back to the battles of Bunker Hill and New Orleans, to Waterloo and to World War I. Now its soldiers were in the vanguard of the invasion of Hitler’s Europe.

Major Howard’s D Company was ordered to seize two bridges, one over the Caen Canal and the other spanning the parallel Orne River. If the Germans held on to those bridges, panzer units could move across them in a counterattack isolating 10,000 British paratroopers jumping behind the British invasion beach known as Sword, where infantry forces would arrive at daybreak. And Major Howard’s men sought to strike swiftly to prevent the Germans from blowing up the bridges if they were overwhelmed; the British needed those bridges to resupply their airborne units.

British Halifax bombers towed the gliders over the English Channel, then cut them loose.

Major Howard’s lead glider landed at 12:16 A.M., only 50 yards from the Caen Canal bridge, but the glider’s nose collapsed on impact, knocking everybody aboard unconscious for a few seconds. The soldiers quickly emerged, and over the next five minutes the men directly under Major Howard killed the surprised German defenders.

The nearby Orne River bridge was captured by other troops in Major Howard’s unit, and soon the words ”Ham and Jam,” signifying mission accomplished, were radioed to the airborne.

Two British soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in the operation.

Over the next 12 hours, British paratroopers and commandos reinforced Major Howard’s men, and British forces were able to move toward the city of Caen, their flank having been protected by the capture of the bridges.

On July 16, Major Howard received the Distinguished Service Order, Britain’s second-highest award for valor. On the 10th anniversary of D-Day, he received the Croix de Guerre Avec Palme from the French Government, which had renamed the Caen Canal span Pegasus Bridge, for the flying horse symbolizing the British airborne. The road crossing the bridge was later renamed Esplanade Major John Howard.

Why is this important? Well, it’s important to think on the things that are excellent. There are so many things in the culture that are not excellent that we are confronted with every day. We have to make it our business to do things together where goodness is celebrated. Especially when manly virtues like courage are celebrated. We don’t do that much anymore. And I think there’s a connection between wargames and Christian apologetics that we need to deliberately encourage.

Here’s an excellent passage from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” that makes the point:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day. (4.3.43)

This is from the famous speech in which King Henry charges his men to fight well before the famous Battle of Agincourt.

You can read more about the history of the British Airborne division and Pegasus bridge. The famous historian of the second world war Stephen E. Ambrose also wrote a history of the Pegasus bridge battle, called “Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944“. You won’t find many military historians better than Stephen E. Ambrose!

You might be surprised how many men are interested in military history and wargames, precisely because men instinctively look up to men like John Howard who embody qualities like bravery and courage. We have a dearth of moral character in this society. And we don’t do much to teach young men about manly virtues, even in the church. I think that it is important for us to think of creative ways for us to present good character to our young men. Young women should also learn about good character, because they must separate out the good men from the bad when they are courting.

Thanks to Dina for helping me to edit this post!

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Matt Walsh: boys are experiencing at least as many challenges as girls

Matt Walsh is annoyed that the problems of our young men are being minimized by a feminist culture.

Excerpt: (links removed)

Boys — particularly boys in public school – are most assuredly NOT encouraged to be opinionated, assertive, loud, boisterous, or confident. Do you know what happens to boys like that?

We punish them.

We label them.

We medicate them.

Their opinions and their personalities aren’t just discouraged – they’re chemically obliterated.

According to the CDC, more than 20 percent of 14-year-old boys have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lifetime. Twenty percent.

Boys are 125 percent more likely to be stuck with the ADHD label than girls, and 127 percent more likely to be medicated for it.

I suppose we can chalk this up to a mental disorder that mysteriously discriminates based on sex, or we could contemplate the possibility that we have turned boyhood into a disease. Overall, young males are almost twice as likely to be deemed “learning disabled.” Could boys really be this inherently flawed, or is the system itself flawed?

Whether or not a boy manages to exhibit the “correct” personality traits and narrowly avoid a psychiatric diagnosis, he has a much greater chance of being expelled or suspended from school. In fact, boys make up about 70 percent of the suspensions from grades K – 12. They’re also five times more likely to be expelled from pre-school.

And it’s not just that young males tend to “misbehave” more; it’s that we’ve defined “misbehavior” in a way that unfairly targets them. The news is rife with stories of kids suspended or expelled or arrested for making a pretend gun with their fingers, or a Poptart, or a keychain, or a pencil.

These are healthy and normal games of imagination and fantasy — games that boys, not girls, usually play — and we’ve literally made a criminal matter out of it.

Boys are frequently kicked out of school and sent hurtling on a path towards delinquency and failure, even for minor instances of physical aggression. Does it make sense to treat a kid like a dangerous psychopath just because he got into a minor shoving match or — horror of horrors — a fist fight? This is how boys often express their aggression. Girls express it in more damaging and traumatizing ways. They spread gossip and rumors, they shun and ostracize other girls, and these acts can reverberate through a child’s life much further and deeper than getting pushed into a locker or punched in the nose.

But typical male aggression leads to expulsion, while typical female aggression usually leads to, at most, a stern lecture from the guidance counselor. To make matters worse, we’ve banned and outlawed the healthier outlets for a boy’s energy and rambunctiousness. Schools have increasingly prohibited tag, and kickball, and dodgeball , and football.

Of course, the plight of the American male is far more serious and tragic than a ruined recess.

Feeling abandoned, angry, hateful, and confused, guys are about 4 times more likely to kill themselves than girls. It’s true that females attempt suicide at a higher rate, but males are at an exponentially greater risk of completing the horrible deed.

And the story doesn’t end there. While (if) these boys grow into men, it is much more probable that they will become alcoholics and drug addicts.

Everyone knows that men are infinitely more likely to go to prison, but did you know they even receive longer sentences for the same crimes? Indeed, women convicted on the same charges are twice as likely to avoid incarceration altogether.

Is this what you call “male privilege”?

Privileged to be drugged as a child, expelled from school as a teenager, and incarcerated as an adult? Privileged to bad grades, a psychiatric diagnosis, and an early death?

I have blogged about some of the things he mentioned in the post, like the gun play and the longer prison sentences.  But I think the post as a whole is very useful for people who think that young men are doing fine, and we need to keep focusing on young women. We need to focus more on young men, because in general, they really are falling behind, and they are not going to be able to fulfill the expectations that society places on them unless we identify the root causes for their decline.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , ,

Apprenticeship programs help boys develop maturity and job skills

If you have boys, or if you know any, then this article in the left-leaning Atlantic is a must-read for you.

Excerpt:

Young men are more likely to drop out of high school and are less likely to aspire to college than their female peers. Young men who are poor, live in a city, and are black or Latino are at even higher risk of unemployment and unplanned teen fatherhood than their peers in other demographics. As men’s earnings have stagnated, marriage has declined. It’s a vicious cycle: Being unmarried weakens men’s commitment to the work force, but a stagnation in earnings is contributing to the decline in marriage.

Robert Lerman—an economist at American University and fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research center in Washington, D.C.—has a solution. He believes bringing apprentice-based learning to America’s schools would both raise earnings and give young men the skills they need to be good husbands and fathers. Put boys in a real-world situation outside the classroom, with skilled adults as mentors, Lerman says, and students have a chance to engage in on-the-job training in a wide range of fields from baking to boat-building, farming to architecture, public health to civil engineering. This is learning in context and it’s what young men (and women) crave: It feels immediate and real. It is not isolated or abstract; it is refreshingly relevant, and it is taking place in real time, in real space, and among adults who take young people seriously. Youth apprenticeship has an immediacy that engages students who have trouble paying attention in class; instead, they are being given the time and the means to develop genuine mastery in a given field. At the very same time, they are cultivating skills—such as how to communicate effectively, problem-solve, work in teams, and maintain a positive attitude—that help them be reliable partners to their spouses and present, stable fathers to their children.

“If we teach everything entirely in a classroom context, we’re not going to be as effective—even when it comes to academics,” Lerman tells me. “The reality is that people learn best—whether it’s cognitive or technical skills or even how to get along with others—in context.”

Although skill-based training is in decline, the article convincingly show how boys learn better when their education includes real-world skills and real-world behaviors.

Here’s just one snippet:

Robert Halpern, a professor of education at the Erikson Institute in Chicago, whose research focuses on after-school programs for poor children and their families, argues that the best schooling for adolescent developmental needs goes beyond the classroom. During a 30-month investigation of one afterschool apprenticeship program, After School Matters in Chicago, Halpern found that participating youth, who attend the program a mere three afternoons a week for one school year, became more flexible thinkers and undertook tasks with more care. The youngsters learned to persevere and understand the value of working through problems. They became more self-responsible and more patient. Notably, their public behavior changed; they became “more mature, more appropriately assertive,” Halpern explains in his book The Means to Grow Up: Reinventing Apprenticeship as a Developmental Support in Adolescence. These are all skills that serve young people well when they enter the workforce, and when they start families of their own.

These apprenticeships, according to Halpern, gave youth “a sense of different ways of being an adult, what it means to be passionate about a discipline, and what it takes to become good at thinking.” Not only were students learning actively rather than passively for the first time in their lives, the experience enabled many of them to begin to overcome years of thinking of themselves as subpar learners. In so doing, their experiences opened up a future that would otherwise have remained closed, and influenced them at a critical time in their lives. These “very specific learning and work experiences leave a deep imprint on still malleable selves.”

You need to read the whole thing if this is relevant to you. It’s no use complaining about “man up” and other nonsense. The real causes of male decline are systemic. Find the policies that work and implement them. Throw out the failed ideology of feminism from the classroom and do what works for our young men.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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