Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Boy Crisis: Is it Real?

Last week, I wrote a controversial issue paper on the question. " Is there a Crisis in the Education of Boys?". I have to admit, I didn't know a lot of the issues going into the paper, but I learned a lot during my research. I am posting my paper, not because I think it is exceptionally good, but I would like to hear your opinions on the matter. So feel free to disagree with me if you want :o)

Imagine that you are a parent of an elementary, middle school, or high school male and you heard that there is a crisis in the education of boys. Wouldn’t you be concerned for the education of your son? Many parents, teachers, administrators, and researchers are concerned as well and have been looking into the situation with great interest. The question is, are boys really in crisis in their education? This paper will discuss the views on the “boy crisis”, the possible problems facing boys in their education, and the proposed responses to these problems.
First, is there a crisis in the education of boys today? There are many scholars, teachers, and researchers who differ in their opinions on this matter. Two major views are prevalent: 1) boys are truly in crisis and need to be educated differently and 2) there is a gap between boys and girls, but it is marginal and therefore should not be of major concern.
Debra Viadero makes the point in her article in Education Week (2006) that boys truly are in educational crisis. Viadero says that this is not a new problem, but that on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test in reading, boys ages 9, 13, and 17 have lagged behind girls since 1971 (Viadero, 2006). Furthermore she asserts that this is a “universal problem”. In 2003 in a reading test given to 15 year olds around the world, females scored higher in all but one of the 41 countries tested (Viadero, 2006). Viadero continues that based on the National Center for Education Statistics, between the years of 1971-2001, men went from the majority of undergraduate population to the minority compared to females (2006).
Leonard Sax also believes that there is a major gender gap in the educational system and therefore, boys and girls should be educated differently. He gave the example in his article called “The Boy Problem” of his experience visiting an all boys elementary classroom in Waterloo, IA. This public school classroom was unique. There was a male teacher, walking about the room reading a book to the students; as he read, the boys in the classroom were moving about the room, twirling, talking, sitting on the floor or just interrupting in response at any time. When asked about how the children were doing not being required to sit still and be quiet, the teacher, Jeff Ferguson, said, “The students are paying attention and thriving under the relaxed atmosphere.” (Sax, 2007). Sax concluded that girls and boys are just different and need to be educated differently. He admits that girls are more likely to read for fun than boys are (NEA 1980-2004), but Sax believes that there are some major factors that have encouraged this trend (2007). He says that video games, medications for ADHD, endocrine disruptors, and the devaluation of masculinity have all contributed to boys not reading for fun (Sax, 2007).
While some like Sax believe that there is a major crisis in the education of boys that requires the restructuring of the classroom, others believe that the gap is marginal and does not warrant reformation. Deborah Perkins–Gough in the article “Do We Really have a Boy Crisis” says that based on recent NAEP scores, girls score higher in some areas, while boys score higher in others (Perkins-Gough, 2006). She believes that there are larger educational gaps of another kind that researchers and teachers should be concerned about - race and class gaps.
Rosalind C. Barnett and Caryl Rivers agree. They state that “ Overall, among non-poor academically elite students, boys are doing well” (Barnet & Rivers, 2006). They go on to say, “More males attend prestigious universities, such as Princeton and Harvard, and they are excelling in Science and Engineering in schools such as Cal Tech and MIT”. Both of these researchers agree that there is not a major gap between genders, but rather that there should be more focus placed on issues such as race and class.
They cite a study by the Urban Institute concerning the graduation rate of high-school students in Florida. Asians had an 81% graduation rate, whites had a 60% graduation rate, while Hispanics were at 48%, and blacks only a 46% graduation rate. Sarah Mead, a senior policy analyst at Education Sector, says, “Focusing on gender gaps, takes attention and resources away from the real and wide gaps of race and poverty” (Mead, 2006).
The major issues of the boy crisis have been discussed and now the important question of why might there be a gender gap must be answered. Debra Viadero (2006) gives three reasons why boys may struggle in school more than girls do. The first reason is that boy’s brains are hard-wired differently. The second reason is that school practices are not boy friendly. The third reason is that the after-effects of the women’s movement created this problem.
Leonard Sax adds one more reason: boys and girls develop at different rates. He believes that most boys are not prepared to read at age five (September 2006). He states that, “Language centers in many five-year-old boys look like the language centers of the average three-and-a-half-year-old girl.” Thirty years ago, kindergarten was a way of socializing children. They worked on finger painting and singing, but today, most kindergarten curriculums are much like the previous first grade curriculums. His conclusion is that most boys are not quite prepared for the rigid structure of the kindergarten program today. This often sets them behind in their reading abilities from the start (September 2006).
How should we respond to these claims that boys are in crisis? Those that believe that boys are truly in crisis, think that the education of boys must change. Kenneth Wallace wrote his dissertation on this trend. He argues that, “Rather than change boys, we need learn to respect and understand who they are.” Barnett and Rivers say that, “The remedy lies in creating a positive culture of learning in the classroom and beyond that will counteract the wider message that it’s a girl thing to do well in school” (2007). Those who hold this view of the boy crisis believe that boys should be either separated from the girls or that they should be treated differently in a coed classroom. They should be allowed to be more relaxed in their learning style. Just as Sax says, “sitting should be optional, and talking allowed” (2006).
On the other hand, those who believe there is only a marginal gap between the education of girls and boys, have a different take on the appropriate response. Deborah Perkins-Gough says that we should not panic. Boys will be just fine. “Rather we as educators and researchers should focus our attention where it is really needed: on closing the gaps of race and class.” She does however, admit that we should still support and fund the research of the boy crisis. But is that a contradiction?
My response to this question: “Is there a crisis in the education of boys?” is very similar to that of Sara Mead, Rosalind Barnett, and Caryl Rivers. There may be a slight gap between the educational progress of boys compared to girls, however, the margin is not wide enough to warrant changing the entire structure of our present schools and classrooms. In light of the widespread educational gaps presently between races and classes, it would be a misuse of resources to chase after the slim gap between genders.


Barnett, Rosalind C., & Rivers, Caryl. (2007). “Gender myths & the education of boys”. Independent School, 66(2), 92-4, 06, 98, 100-3.

Mead, Sara. (2006). “The truth about boys and girls”

Perkins-Gough, Deborah. (2006). “Do we really have a ‘boy crisis’?” Educational Leadership, 93-94.

Sax, Leonard. (2007). “The boy problem.” The School Library Journal, 53(9), 40-3.

Vail, Kathleen. (2006). “Is the boy crisis real?” American School Board Journal, 22-23.

Viadero, Debra. (2006). “Concern over the gener gaps shifting to boys” Education Week, 25(27), 1, 16-17.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This too has passed!

Ok, so I kind of flipped out and vented in yesterday's post. Sorry about that. I was just in the middle of it and couldn't see past my present situation.

Fortunately, today has been a MUCH better day! I even met with my principal and she gave me better marks on my observation than I thought she would. She did have some constructive criticism, but it was done in an encouraging way!

So anyways, I am off to my class now... and I just wanted to let everyone know that I am not going off the deep-end :o)

Everything is A -ok!

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.
God is good - all the time!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Frustrating day!

What a day! I woke up and my phone was not working.. couldn't make any calls, although I could receive calls (weird).

Then I got to school and the kids were just horrible! I have no idea what got into them. It's like they had forgotten everything that I had taught them. I had to really crack down. It was just frustrating!

And then, I got observed by my principal teaching a Math lesson, which is fine. BUT - not only were the kids terribly behaved - but the lesson was a very hard one for 3rd graders. It was determining range, median, and mode. They are already behind in math, but they did not seem to understand it at all! It was so frustrating! I explained it like four different ways, but they kept whining and throwing fits that they did not understand it... all in front of my principal. UGHHH! In the end after MUCH explanation, they seemed to kind of get it.

Then I had the 4th graders in after school from 3:15 - 4:15.
After that, I have to run home and make dinner.
Then I have to run to a school board mtg (requirement for my grad. class)

That will put me home around 9:30pm!

Oh well, I guess I asked for this busy schedule. Some days seem harder than others though.

Tim did remind me that I have a lot to be thankful for - and I know it's true. It's just hard to remember sometimes!

One thing to be thankful for I guess, is that I finished my research paper this weekend (instead of having to stay up until all hours finishing it tonight)

Even amidst this crazy time, I will choose to rest in the Lord, for He is almighty!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Favorite Spot: Sweet Dreams Organic Bakery and Cafe.

About 5 minutes down the road from our house, there is this adorable little, family owned, coffee shop and bakery that I love so much. This is the table I usually like to work at.  There is free internet access, friendly service, and comfy atmosphere.
Here is my steaming cup of hot tea.  It was a blend of fruits and spices.  The small bowl on the side is a teaspoon of organic honey.  All very yummy!  All of their dishes and furniture are from Crate & Barrel
I love this little bar you can sit at too and look out the window as you work :o)
Here is where the baristas and bakers hide. They are amazing!  I will  have to post some pics of the gorgeous pastries that they make!
If you ever come to Chicago to visit, I would love to take you to my little "hole in the wall" favorite spot!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Going Deeper

Well, I officially started graduate school at Trinity International University. Last night was my first class, "Foundations of Education". If you have you have been following my blog for sometime, you will remember that I have almost started grad. school several times. But for various reasons (money, time etc) I have not been able to follow through with that dream of mine. Well, it has worked out for me to get about 50% off my tuition because Tim is a full time student! Plus I have a scholarship through CLEF
(A Lutheran Educational foundation).
Because I work at a Lutheran school, I am able to get one class paid for a sememster. So all in all it's a pretty good deal. Praise the Lord for that!

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about my first class. I had stayed up late the night before finishing assignments, so I was very tired. The class is from 6pm - 10pm. So I was terribly afraid that I would be bored out of my mind and fall asleep! But I was pleasantly surpised when at 8pm we hit our first break and I didn't even notice that 2 hours had gone by already! The professor, Dr. Carol Kennet is an amazing teacher! She is a scholar and an orator and she wants us to leave the class being the same. I left last night ready to come into my classroom today. Boy did I need that breath of fresh inspirtation!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Chicago at Christmas

When we came home from PA, my brother and sister in law came with  us and stayed for a few days in chicago.  We went to a nice lunch at the Grand Lux Cafe on Michigan Ave. and then went to the 96th floor of the Hancock building for dessert.  It was amazing!