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Thread: Why Johnny Can't Read: Schools Favor Girls

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    Why Johnny Can't Read: Schools Favor Girls

    Why Johnny Can't Read: Schools Favor Girls

    By Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience Managing Editor

    Studies have long shown that boys in the United States and around the world do not read or write as well as girls. There are several reasons, according to the common wisdom:

    * Girls mature more quickly.
    * Boys are more likely to suffer dyslexia and other reading disorders.
    * Race and poverty play a role.


    But a new study finds that the problem cuts across socioeconomic lines and pins part of the blame squarely on schools, whose techniques cater to the strengths of girls and leave boys utterly disinterested.

    Can't read a newspaper

    The research, by psychology professor Judith Kleinfeld at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, finds that nearly one-quarter of high school seniors across the United States who are sons of white, college-educated parents have woeful reading skills, ranking "below basic" on a national standardized test.

    "These boys cannot read a newspaper and get the main point," Kleinfeld told LiveScience. "These boys cannot read directions for how to use equipment and follow them."

    And the problem is getting worse.

    The federal government's 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress reported that 26.3 percent of high school seniors scored below basic in reading skills. In a finer analysis of that data, Kleinfeld found that 23 percent of white sons of college-educated parents scored below basic, up from 13 percent in 1992. (Among girls with white, college-educated parents, only about 6 percent fall into the below-basic category.)

    Kleinfeld presented her results last month at the White House Conference on Helping America's Youth in Indianapolis. She has not yet submitted the findings to a journal for peer review.

    Lack of motivation

    The problem is partly developmental, Kleinfeld said.

    "Girls mature more quickly than boys," she said. "They enter school with bigger vocabularies and better fine motor skills, so it's easier for them to learn to write."

    And as boys enter junior high and high school, their motivation wanes.

    "Many boys are disengaging from school," Kleinfeld says. "The U.S. Department of Education’s surveys of student commitment show that boys are far less likely than girls to do homework or to come to school with the supplies they need."

    In an interview, one boy summed up the problem for Kleinfeld. He said: "Why would anyone want to read novels? They aren't even true!"

    What schools should learn

    In separate research that Kleinfeld is also preparing for publication, she has possibly gotten to the root of the problem.

    "Here's a fascinating fact," she said. "There is no literacy gap in home-schooled boys and girls."

    "Why? In school, teachers emphasize reading literature and talking about character and feelings," she said. "This way of teaching reading does not turn boys on. Boys prefer reading nonfiction, such as history and adventure books. When they are taught at home, parents are more likely to let them follow their interests."

    Source: livescience.com
    “Remember that all worlds draw to an end and that noble death is a treasure which no-one is too poor to buy.” - C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle

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    Senior Member Psychonaut's Avatar
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    All of these are great reasons for us to return to having non-coed schools.
    "Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time."
    -H.P. Lovecraft

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    Senior Member Imperator X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chlodovech View Post
    In an interview, one boy summed up the problem for Kleinfeld. He said: "Why would anyone want to read novels? They aren't even true!"

    Boys prefer reading nonfiction, such as history and adventure books. When they are taught at home, parents are more likely to let them follow their interests."
    I have always excelled at reading comprehension and verbal skills, my score for that is always high on standardised tests, but I lack skills in higher mathematics and applied sciences. In this way, I share more in common with girls on standardised tests, but I'd have to say I agree with that boy's sentiments about novels. I much prefer non-fiction, history and scholarly commentaries.

    I always thought growing up that there was a bias against boys who wanted, like me, to go their own way and follow their own interests esp. those who had their own learning methods. (For example, I've always sucked at math, but in geometry and algebra II, I found a way through estimation and plugging in numbers to get about 65 - 70% on the tests.) In middle school I did terribly in Spanish, but later on, I linked language to my interest in history and ever since I have excelled at foreign languages. My learning style is unconventional, I study what is called "systemic correspondence" in linguistics, i.e. (d --> th, German to English e.g. Ding --> Thing etc.) and I discover patterns in speech.. I like it because it's like moderately complicated puzzles that I "unlock" through repitition.

    I listen to German music, and I try to think in German and in other languages with which I am more than a little familiar (i.e. Spanish, Italian, French, Hindi). After a while, my brain just sort of "clicks" with the missing pieces.

    On a related note, in middle school I was getting booted out of class (mostly by female teachers) because I went my own way, and often-times day-dreamed. In the words of Thoreau, "If it seems that someone is lagging behind, perhaps it is because they are marching to the beat of their own drum", and in the sentiments of Einstein: perhaps the most basic right, is the right to be left alone. Nowadays people don't consider at all the specific needs of a great number of male students.
    SVMDEVSSVMCAESARSVMCAELVMETINFERNVM

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    Senior Member Morning Wolf's Avatar
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    When it comes to the 'fine motor skills' that make writing legible I'm lacking, but I've never had problems with reading or writing, I'm actually way better at it than math, although with basic math (Algebra/Geometry) I'm good too. I do think that male 'vigor' might be a reason why there's this gender gap, because while fairly active my ability to simply sit and apply myself to a task seems to be much higher than the average of either gender.

    I agree that public school literature is highly biased, it does seem to be more about feelings than ideas and action. I was fortunate enough to have good parents and the personal motivation to hunt down stuff that I liked to read, which is great because it led me to eventually find the forgotten lore of the Sagas.

    Part of the problem is political correctness. Feelings aren't too controversial for the most part. But action usually involves violence, or at least competition of some type, and ideas can challenge the small, safe, and comfortable thinking of the masses. One of my greatest nightmares will be that Hamlet will be removed from the public curriculum for being too difficult and controversial.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Psychonaut View Post
    All of these are great reasons for us to return to having non-coed schools.
    When I think back to my school-time I´ve to say: It would have been SO boring without boys being around! And sometimes boys are more easy-going than girls - I guess I´d have been involved in even more annoying "priss"-wars if there were no boys. No alternatives...how horrible. My first real friendships with boys were forged in school. Some of them remain until today. And "yes", the first time I´ve felt in love with a boy was in school, too.

    And, more seriously, I think co-education is a good thing because kids learn to work together, to respect each other and to get along with the opposite gender in their early years. It´s some kind of very important social competence from my point of view. That boys hang back in their development in no new information but I think it´s not as worse as postulated. And even if it´d be so, I think the forming of previous mentioned social competence is more important.

    "Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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    Senior Member Patrioten's Avatar
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    When I was in elementary school (grades one through six specifically) my class was mixed with boys and girls. In the school there was parallell classes (when I went there there were two classes of every grade). In our parallell class almost all were boys and it stayed this way throughout my time there. My class had a few trouble makers throughout the years, Swedish students with various disorders at first that later left the school, and later immigrant kids, but our parallell class was much worse overall. In our class there were bright kids, mediocre kids and then the problem kids. In the all boys class however the overall level was very low (with one exception), even though it wasn't a special education class.

    Our two classes can be said to have had two different cultures, in my class you were allowed to learn and study and although us boys fought and made trouble just like any other boys, you weren't looked down upon if you excelled at something. The culture in our parallell class would have been very different, and not surprisingly, those students didn't do well later on in high school either (with one exception, and he went all sissy-like years later).

    Those are my personal experiences, others may have different experiences of all-boys classes. I was a mediocre student all through elementary school (grades 1-9), excelling only later on when I was able to specialize, and very few if any of the other boys in my class were great students, but the foundation was solid and it gave those who wanted to learn the chance to do so.

    As long as you don't have teachers treating boys and girls in an effeminate way in accordance with some modernist pedagogical monstrosity, as long as boys can be boys and girls be girls, then I see nothing wrong with mixed classes.

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    Senior Member Psychonaut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Valkyrie View Post
    When I think back to my school-time I´ve to say: It would have been SO boring without boys being around! And sometimes boys are more easy-going than girls - I guess I´d have been involved in even more annoying "priss"-wars if there were no boys. No alternatives...how horrible. My first real friendships with boys were forged in school. Some of them remain until today. And "yes", the first time I´ve felt in love with a boy was in school, too.

    And, more seriously, I think co-education is a good thing because kids learn to work together, to respect each other and to get along with the opposite gender in their early years. It´s some kind of very important social competence from my point of view. That boys hang back in their development in no new information but I think it´s not as worse as postulated. And even if it´d be so, I think the forming of previous mentioned social competence is more important.
    I can definitely see where you are coming from, and I too had many positive and fulfilling interactions with the fairer sex. However, I'm not sure that in school, social interaction and development should take precedence over education. It seems that the more we study the biology of gender, the more fundamental differences we discover. I would like to see education tailored to each gender, playing on the strengths and overcoming the weaknesses of each. Perhaps this could be done in a coed environment, or perhaps not. Either way, the body governing education would have not only accept that there are real differences between the male and female mind, but also decide to alter their curriculum based on this understanding. I don't think that this will happen in the near (or even distant) future, but I'd like nothing more than to see education become more effective, and I think that a certain level of efficiency could be gained from classes segregated by gender. Perhaps a good compromise would be to have both sexes attend the same school, but to keep classes separate?
    "Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time."
    -H.P. Lovecraft

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    Senior Member Patrioten's Avatar
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    The school system is in dire need of dicipline and order, and teachers who can act as authority figures instead of the push-overs that currently are allowed to teach. The overall quality of teachers has also sunk, newly released research here in Sweden shows that the average IQ among teachers has dropped since the early 1990s, their leadership skills and teaching skills are also lower. This in turn is the result of government policy encouraging virtually everyone to get a university education even if they have low grades. Quantity over quality in other words.

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