Why must little boys be like little girls?
Does comparing boys to girls do anyone any good?
When this post was first written The Telegraph [i]reported that too many boys are failing to get a good start to their education. The headline was “Thousands of young boys ‘struggling to write their name”
Further quoted facts are:
1) It was revealed that 15 per cent of boys struggled to write their own name from memory, compared with eight per cent of girls.
2) Some 38 per cent of boys were not at a level where they could “attempt writing for a variety of purposes” – including a basic letter to Santa – compared with 19 per cent of girls.
3) It also emerged that five per cent of boys were unable to sing simple songs from memory, against just two per cent of girls
4) In a further disclosure, figures showed that four per cent of boys were unable to “dress and undress independently and manage their own hygiene”, compared with just one per cent of girl
Now given that most of the population will hold up their hands when we ask if they are no good at maths, especially percentages, why have the figures been quoted in such an abstract manner?
6 out of 40 boys struggle to write their own name from memory.
3 out of 40 girls also struggle to write their own name from memory.
Does that sound or look as bad as the article suggests? How about in a class of 30 pupils, comprising of 15 boys and 15 girls it is likely that 2 boys and 1 girl will struggle to write their own name from memory. That is just 1 more boy than girl. Anyway what do we mean by ‘struggle to write their own name from memory’ ? Did they forget who they were or was it they could not spell or form letters or hold a pen. It does not say, it is enough though to remind us boys are behind girls from the get go.
So what we are telling boys before they reach their 5th birthday, that they are already behind girls? What I think we are saying to boys is you are not as good as a girl. Does telling somebody they are rather poor at something make them want to be better at it? Of course it can but at an early age perhaps we do not possess that “I’ll show them” spirit that energises such actions provides the determination to succeed against the odds or expectations.
What if all we are doing, if you think about it, is pre programming boys with excuses? We are saying to boys, well you started off behind girls so good luck catching up never mind overtaking them. You hear phrases like “Well he is a boy” or “You know what boys are like”. Could it be that boys do their best to live down to these minimal expectations? We certainly offer them a “get out of jail free” card. Are we just taking into account how helpless little boys are! Just ask their mothers who dote on them, they will tell you they have to organise them , tell them to sit still, try hard to keep them clean and not to rip or tear their clothes.
We are of course “stereotyping” , emphasising something we believe to be true because we have heard or seen it so many times. We could also be playing the “nature versus nurture game” , creating a “reality” of the behaviours through our expectations and beliefs. We can of course turn to the work of those who work in neuroscience to see if there are any significant differences when it comes to the brain of boys and girls. Lisa Elliot, author of “Pink Brain Blue Brain” [ii] says “By appreciating how sex differences emerge—rather than assuming them to be fixed biological facts—we can help all children reach their fullest potential, close the troubling gaps between boys and girls, and ultimately end the gender wars that currently divide us.” Even here we must be careful; we are told there are “gender wars”. Perhaps there are but what are they fighting over and why?
I wonder if anyone determined if boys can climb higher than girls at the same age we are considering when it comes to writing their name. Can boys throw further, run faster, jump higher or get dirtier as they spend their early years actively engaged in exploring their world. Is exploration part of the nature of boys, a sort of “pre-programmed” trait that aids survival?
Perhaps there is a need for differences beyond what we are “wired” to be or not be. Early societies needed the physical strength of men and the nurturing drives of women did they not? Are we saying that what we want now is a “single sex” race of humans when it comes to behaviours and ways of thinking? Does the drive for equality of the sexes translate into creating the same ways of thinking and behaving for men and women and does this then translate into our approach in education? Do we desire to see both boys and girls progressing at the same rate and in the same ways? Difficult questions to answer perhaps but ones that drive articles like this perhaps and education reform.
Come on, realise boys and girls are different! Just treat them as individuals and stop comparing them. They have different interests, different instinctive motivational drives and will never be the same. Why would we want them the same, surely the human race is well enough balanced by having the benefit of both sexes. As my friend says 1+1 makes 11 when it comes to productive partnerships.
What are your views on this topic?
Hey teacher – leave them boys alone!
If you are interested in boy’s achievement then see my related post about “Why boys only do just enough”.
More of Lisa Elliot’s writings, a link to Scientific American article by Lisa Elliot: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/girl-brain-boy-brain/