My column on The Boy Gap is up on Pajamas Media. I look at two new books that ask why so many boys are doing poorly in school.
As reading and writing are pushed down to earlier ages, boys are struggling harder to meet higher expectations, writes Richard Whitmire, a former USA Today reporter, in Why Boys Fail.
“Each year since 1988 the gap between boys’ and girls’ reading skills has widened a bit more,” Whitmire writes. Boys aren’t wired for early verbal skills — and teachers aren’t trained in “boy-friendly” techniques to help them catch up.
Boys are asked to do too much too soon — and labeled hyperactive or bipolar or autistic if they act like little boys, writes psychologist Anthony Rao in The Way of Boys. “Girls use more words; they cooperate with others; they use social skills effectively. A boy’s brain by contrast, is working on other tasks that are equally important but not always valued as highly in schools, such as learning through touching and exploration, developing motor skills and engaging in spatial tasks. Boys also engage in normal aggression, and they have a healthy interest in challenging rules to test the limits of their power.”
Boy-friendly schools need not be hostile to girls. Teaching phonics and intervening to help kids with reading problems turns out to help boys quite a bit.