The Boy Crisis

What is it?
There has been an issue pointed out as to whether or not boys are falling behind in school and the possible reasons as to why it may be happening. When comparing the statistics of boys to girls in schooling the evidence says that boys are indeed having troubles. The following statistics for the United States illustrate what has led to the concern for boys in our schools:

  • Boys earn 70 percent of D’s and F’s and fewer than half of the A’s.
  • Boys account for two-thirds of learning disability diagnoses.
  • Boys represent 90 percent of discipline referrals.
  • Boys dominate such brain-related learning disorders as ADD/ADHD, with millions now medicated in schools.
  • 80 percent of high school dropouts are male.
  • Males make up only around 40 percent of college students.

What could be the cause?
Many feel that because of the feminist movement that we have changed the way we teach and what we expect from our students. Over time our expectations for boys, in how they are supposed to act and learn, have changed into something that boys may not be capable of. Today teachers place a large importance on being able to sit quietly and speaking when it is your turn. Boys are more impulsive and even if they can sit still they prefer not to for long. We are holding boys to the standards that girls are more capable of and not considering the real genetic differences between the two sexes. It also doesn’t help that in some schools there is less emphasis on physical education, sports programs, and recess; which are the times that give boys the ability to learn in their more kinetic mindset.

Many factors may be contributing to boys falling behind in school. Here are some possible explanations as to why this is happening:
  • School environments are dominated by women in the classroom. These female teachers may favor girls’ style of learning, including highly verbalized instruction and sustained activities with low levels of physical activity.
  • Boys may be over diagnosed as having hyperactivity disorders because of their inherent and biologically-based need for more activity and variety.
  • Boys’ slower rate of maturity can delay their readiness for some academic tasks, such as reading. These reading delays result in significant academic deficits.
  • Boys may not process language as efficiently or as rapidly as girls.
  • Boys often have shorter attention spans than girls, and may need more rest periods to process information. If teachers don’t plan for brief rests or chances for movement, boys can “zone out” on their own.
  • Boys may be less inherently attuned to subtle communication cues, and are less able to verbalize their own emotional feelings.
  • Boys, especially in middle school, are less willing to admit they are overwhelmed and look for help.
  • With high rates of divorce and single mothers, many boys may not have a man in their life to look up to.

How can we help?
Our objective as teachers is to help all students, both boys and girls, live up to their full potential. Although with the idea of a boy crisis in mind here are a few things that teachers can do to help the boys in their classroom:

In elementary school
  • Use beadwork and other manipulatives to promote fine motor development. Boys are behind girls in this area when they start school.
  • Make lessons experiential and hands-on whenever possible.
  • Keep verbal instructions to no more than one minute.
  • Personalize the student's desk, coat rack, and cubby to increase his sense of attachment.
  • Use male mentors and role models, such as fathers, grandfathers, or other male volunteers.
  • Let boys nurture one another through healthy aggression and direct empathy.
In education overall
  • Give boys meaning and relevance in their work. For example, to foster the development of reading skills, give boys reading materials that match their interests (e.g., the Lord of the Rings trilogy, not Jane Eyre).
  • Provide opportunities for project and problem solving activities instead of just talk and tests.
  • Provide strong male role models for boys to help them identify the line between appropriate male self-assertion and violence.
  • Highlight how assignments relate to real life situations.
  • Use humor in your classroom. (But be wary of using sarcasm when addressing students.)
  • Allow more physical movement in the classroom.
  • Advocate for active and frequent recesses.
  • Boys yearn for more variety and freedom in school. To the extent possible, provide choices in your classroom and in your school.

What about those who don’t believe in the crisis?
Of course with a topic labeled with the phrase “crisis,” there is likely to be two clear ways to see the situation. Statistics can be interpreted in different ways. Some groups believe that we do not have an overall boy crisis because we shouldn’t be comparing boys to girls. They believe we need to compare girls to girls and boys to boys. Looking at the statistics this way leads to the belief that girls are in fact doing better in school but that boys are doing better as well, simply in different increments. Some feel that minority students, both boys are girls, are who we need to be helping.

No matter how the statistics are interpreted, we need to remember that teachers are here to help all students regardless of race or sex. Being informed of a possible crisis will only help us become aware of the fact that we can inform ourselves of different ways to help everyone.

Information about What the Boy Crisis is:
(Note: The Articles are quite lengthy but interesting to take a look at if you’re interested in the arguments on either side.)

The Newsweek Article

Articles in Agreement with the “Boy Crisis”

Article in Disagreement with the “Boy Crisis”

Resources for How to Help End the Crisis:

Page by Scarlett Germain