03 March 2007

Let Boys Be Boys

I read an interesting article, 'Stop feminising our schools - our boys are suffering', by Jill Parkin, in the Daily Mail. In this article, the author points out the problems in our "enlightened" Western world relating to the sameness and difference between boys and girls. It seems so obvious to those of us who were raised knowing that boys are boys and girls are girls, and even if our eternal souls are sexless, there certainly is something different about the makeup of male and female humans, physically and mentally.

The simple truth is that by the time our boys have done 12 or even 14 years in the feminised environment of today's schools, they all ask: "What's the point?"

If boys are not getting into university, or not applying in the first place, it's because they've been turned off learning. They've been given a message that it's not for them.

And that's a tragedy for all of us. For I don't want my daughters growing up in a society full of alienated young men and I don't want to live in a society which suffocates all the good aspects of masculinity. Yet that's exactly what is happening in our schools.

Now, she doesn't give any "hard evidence" or documented statistics, but let's say that the author does speak from authority: she makes some pretty good arguments. Read on...

What boys are made of is this: tremendous data banks that can recall years of FA Cup ties in minute detail; lashings of testosterone that needs constant burning off on a sports field; and a hideous competitive streak almost as vital to them as lifeblood itself.

Harnessed in the right way, these raw ingredients can help boys make the most of their education. But far too many of today's schools try to stifle these instincts in favour of a feminised curriculum that benefits girls in almost every single regard.

The problems start in the classroom. Instead of the make-or-break sprint to the exam deadline, boys have to endure stultifying coursework.

This system of continuous assessment means that anyone who can call up Google on a computer can cut and paste answers from the internet at home. Girls, with their more patient approach to learning, thrive under such a system.

But where's the excitement and challenge for boys? Exams used to be a chance for them to show off and think on their feet. Not any more. No wonder all too many of them fall by the wayside, and are opting out of the chance to go to university.

To put it bluntly, boys now find education boring.

Well, she makes good observations, and good arguments. We should want our boys to be more like men. I can see from just watching my two boys and girls at home, the truth to the statements above. Sure, girls like a good challenge too, and some even excel at sciences and maths; I know boys who do prefer to stay around home and practice cooking and quiet living - but in the wide picture of boys and girls in general, can you see the definitions and expectations fitting a set of rules, of a sort?

For example, a disruptive boy in my son's primary class was impossible to deal with until the day his exasperated male teacher challenged him to an arm-wrestling match (yes, it's probably a sackable offence).

The boy lost, took it with good grace and became considerably better behaved. There was a male code at work that he recognised.

The same teacher also knew when playground fights were serious and when they should just be allowed to run their course. The women teachers, wanting a tidy playground, always stopped them.

Such macho attention-grabbing needs to be harnessed, not ignored. Boys need sports, they need exams, competition and recognition.

There are solutions. Men are men, and women are women. I agree with the author when she sums up by saying, "It ought to go without saying that boys and girls are different. But today's schools are denying this basic biology."

What can I, as a Mom do? I've got to remember that old episode of "Leave It To Beaver," where poor Mrs. Cleaver tried so hard to stop the boys' fighting, making them miserable, until wise old Mr. Cleaver stepped back in and showed her how her experiment failed. Boys must be left to fight and squabble and learn things in their own way - usually by getting hurt, burning something or taking something apart, much to the feminine logic's chagrin. But in the long run, they will be powerful men who enjoy a challenge, who stand up tall and lead our society.

How can we be ladies unless there are gentlemen? Gentlemen are not pansies who sit in the parlor and discuss poetry. Even if they are pacifists who abhor war, gentlemen still stand strong for what they believe in, and will fight to protect others - IF they have been taught that everyone is NOT actually created equal in all ways. Sometimes there is a winner, and sometimes there is a loser. That's the way life is, even for a lady.

Other articles by Jill Parkin on the Daily Mail
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