New threat: Talking about Nerf guns

It’s bad enough when little kids are kicked out of school for bubble shooters, cap guns, gun-shaped pastry and Lego guns, etc. In Washington state, a 6-year-old was suspended for talking about the Nerf guns his family had bought on a recent trip. A classmate told the teacher that Noah had a gun with him. Even when it was clear he did not, he was suspended for a “threat.”

(Mike) Aguirre said he and his wife were told their son was suspended for talking about guns at school, and because the girl who reported him felt her “health and safety were threatened” when they were called to the school last week. Officials said the issue is addressed in the district’s discipline handbook in the section on student rights and responsibilities.

But Aguirre said there’s no provision that students are prohibited from talking about guns at school, nor did the district provide evidence that the boy threatened to harm a student.

After meeting with the parents, district officials downgraded Noah’s suspension to a “disruption.”

Via Legal Insurrection, which also links to the many recent cases of zero tolerance for common sense.

Persecuting boys for being boys is “a kind of quasi-religious fanaticism,” writes Glenn Harlan Reynolds in USA Today. “I think it’s about the administrative class — which runs the schools with as little input from parents as possible — doing its best to exterminate the very idea of guns. It’s some sort of wacky moral-purity crusade.”

Bang! Boys suspended for pointing pencils

Two Virginia second graders were suspended for two days for making shooting noises while pointing pencils at each other. The two boys are 7 years old.

“When I asked him about it, he said, ‘Well I was being a Marine and the other guy was being a bad guy,’” said Paul Marshall, one of the boys’ fathers. “It’s as simple as that.”

The teacher wrote on the suspension note that the boy put down the pencil when asked, said Marshall, a former Marine.

Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said the district has a zero-tolerance policy for weapons that includes pointing a finger or pencil in a threatening way and drawing a picture of a gun. “Some children would consider it threatening, who are scared about shootings in schools or shootings in the community,” Bradshaw said.

Study: Girls can compete in math

Competitive Timed Tests Might Be Contributing to the Gender Gap in Math, writes Emily Richmond inThe Atlantic.

Boys do better than girls in timed math contests. But a new study of Utah elementary students finds that girls do just as well as boys in a second round of math competition and begin to do better by the third round. Furthermore, “the first-round advantage for boys disappeared if the time element was removed from that competition,” writes Richmond.

“One of the reasons girls don’t do well in competitive settings is that they don’t think they’re as good as boys—but they really are,” said Brigham Young University economist Joseph Price, one of the study’s co-authors. “That’s an information problem, rather than evidence that girls are destined for a certain outcome.”

‘Getting something right in one shot” and “working within a rigid time limit” isn’t a big part of learning math, argues Richmond, who admits she was lousy at timed math drills in school. “Isn’t it more about mastering concepts and building skills over a longer time frame, and having the patience to tackle challenging problem sets that might require multiple attempts?”

Richmond is worried about the gender gap in math. I worry about the gender gap in reading, writing, history, civics and biology, as well as the gap in high school graduation, college enrollment and college graduation. Schoolboys aren’t outperforming schoolgirls in very much these days.

Maryland eyes ‘Pastry Gun Freedom Act’

To prevent the criminalization of boyhood, a Maryland legislator has proposed the “Toaster Pastry Gun Freedom Act” banning schools from punishing children for having something that might look like a gun but isn’t,  reports The Daily Caller. (Really, it’s called the Reasonable School Discipline Act.)

The bill also includes a section mandating counseling for school officials who fail to distinguish between guns and things that resemble guns. School officials who fail to make such a distinction more than once would face discipline themselves.

Sen. J. B. Jennings, a Republican, worries that suspensions will go on children’s “permanent records,” he told the Star Democrat.

Recently, a second-grade boy at a Baltimore school was suspended for two days because his teacher thought he’d nibbled a strawberry  toaster pastry into the shape of a gun. School officials sent a letter to parents — for real — offering counseling to students traumatized by the incident, reports Reason’s Hit&Run, which notes it’s not clear whether students were expected to be troubled by the snack or the suspension.

In the last few months, six-year-old boys at two Maryland elementary schools were suspended for pointing fingers and saying “pow” while playing.

Of course, not-gun hysteria is a nationwide phenomenon.

In Colorado, a second grader was suspended for pretending to throw a grenade at “evil forces” in order to “save the world.”  The school has a zero tolerance policy for real or pretend fighting. His mom thinks a child shouldn’t be suspended for trying to save the world — and maybe it’s not realistic to ban little boys from playing at soldiers.

Career tech keeps boys in school

Structured vocational education keeps boys from dropping out of high school, said James Stone III, director of the National Research Center of Career and Technical Education at the University of Louisville, at a conference.

 Earning three or more CTE credits within a focused sequence of courses was second only to 9th grade students’ grade point average as the strongest variable affecting high school survival for boys. While CTE “did no harm” to girls’ high school engagement, it did not produce a similar positive effect on females.

Stone describes the effect of career tech as “stunning,” reports Ed Week.

“We have a boy problem,” Stone said. “Boys are less likely to finish high school, go to college, finish college, go to graduate school, or finish grad school.” Seventy-five percent of D’s and F’s are given to male students, he said. “We are driving them out. We are not giving them things that engage them.”

“College for all” is narrowing the curriculum, squeezing out courses that motivate many boys, Stone said.

7-year-old suspended for pastry pistol

At a Maryland elementary school, a 7-year-old boy was suspended for two days for nibbling a pastry into the shape of a gun at snack time. Joshua claims he was trying to make a mountain. The teacher disagreed.

No one was threatened or harmed by the pastry, the boy’s father said. I guess that means he didn’t point his Pop-Tart and say “bang.”

A Google image search for “poptart gun” turned up this image, reports Reason‘s Hit & Run. Apparently, Joshua isn’t the only boy with a taste for weaponry. Or mountains.

 

Title IX for boys

Stereotyped as troublemakers, boys do worse in school than girls and are less likely to go on to college, writes Glenn Harland Reynolds in Title IX for our boys in USA Today.

Girls are quieter, more orderly, and have better handwriting. The boys get disciplined more, suspended more and are turned off of education earlier.

Female teachers also give boys lower grades, according to research in Britain. . . . More and more, it’s looking like schools are a hostile environment for boys.

Hiring more male elementary teachers would help, writes William Gormley, a professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. “Boys perform better when they have a male teacher, and girls perform better when they have a female teacher,” according to Stanford Professor Thomas Dee.

Yet our K-12 teachers are overwhelmingly female — only 2% of pre-K and kindergarten teachers are male and only 18% of elementary and middle-school teachers are.

. . . If schoolteachers were overwhelmingly male and girls were suffering as a result, there would be a national outcry and Title IX-style gender equity legislation would be touted. Why should we do less when boys are the ones suffering?

Many boys — and girls — are growing up without a father in the home.

 

P.E. goes academic

Gym Class Isn’t Just Fun and Games Anymore, reports the New York Times. In addition to teaching health and fitness, P.E. teachers are trying to add reading, ‘riting and rithmetic to their classes.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — On a recent afternoon, the third graders in Sharon Patelsky’s class reviewed words like “acronym,” “clockwise” and “descending,” as well as math concepts like greater than, less than and place values.

During gym class.

Ms. Patelsky, the physical education teacher at Everglades Elementary School here, instructed the students to count by fours as they touched their elbows to their knees during a warm-up. They added up dots on pairs of dice before sprinting to round mats imprinted with mathematical symbols. And while in push-up position, they balanced on one arm and used the other (“Alternate!” Ms. Patelsky urged. “That’s one of your vocabulary words”) to stack oversize Lego blocks in columns labeled “ones,” “tens” and “hundreds.”

P.E. teachers worry their jobs will be cut if they’re not seen as critical to a school’s core mission — and test scores, a Palm Beach County administrator tells the Times.

Across the country, P.E. teachers now post vocabulary lists on gym walls, ask students to test Newton’s Laws of Motion as they toss balls, and give quizzes on parts of the skeleton or food groups.

At Deep Creek Elementary School in Chesapeake, Va., children count in different languages during warm-up exercises and hop on letter mats to spell out words during gym class.

The District of Columbia has added 50 questions about health and physical education to its end-of-year standardized tests.

More academics can mean less exercise.

In Kristina Rodgers’s gym class at Indian Pines Elementary School in Lake Worth, Fla., students spent as much time pondering pictures of broccoli and blocks of cheese to stick into pockets on a food chart as they did hopping or running.

Taking the “physical” out of physical education won’t help all those boys getting antsy in class. Kids need time to move.

The boys at the back

“Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college, writes Christina Hoff Sommers in The Boys at the Back in the New York Times.

Elementary teachers give boys lower grades than their test scores would have predicted, according to a study in The Journal of Human Resources. Boys can’t keep up with girls in “attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently,” the researchers say.

. . . one critic told me recently, the classroom is no more rigged against boys than workplaces are rigged against lazy and unfocused workers. But unproductive workers are adults — not 5-year-olds. If boys are restless and unfocused, why not look for ways to help them do better? As a nation, can we afford not to?

In a revised version of her book, The War on Boys, Sommers hits “boy-averse trends like the decline of recess, zero-tolerance disciplinary policies, the tendency to criminalize minor juvenile misconduct and the turn away from single-sex schooling.”

As our schools have become more feelings-centered, risk-averse, collaboration-oriented and sedentary, they have moved further and further from boys’ characteristic sensibilities.

Male underachievement in school is a global phenomenon. The British, the Canadians and the Australians are experimenting with ways to  help boys do well in school, Sommers writes. That ranges from “boy-friendly reading assignments” to single-sex classes.

At Aviation High School in New York City, students spend half their day learning traditional subjects and the other half on aviation mechanics.

. . .  I observed a classroom of 14- and 15-year-olds focused on constructing miniaturized, electrically wired airplane wings from mostly raw materials. In another class, students worked in teams — with a student foreman and crew chief — to take apart and then rebuild a small jet engine in just 20 days.

The school’s 2,200 pupils — mostly students of color, from low-income households — have a 95 percent attendance rate and a 90 percent graduation rate, with 80 percent going on to college.

. . . “The school is all about structure,” an assistant principal, Ralph Santiago, told me. The faculty emphasizes organization, precision, workmanship and attention to detail.

Aviation High is co-ed, but only 16 percent of students are girls. The school has received the district’s “A” rating six years in a row.

“Vocational high schools with serious academic requirements are an important part of the solution to male disengagement from school,” Sommers concludes.

Ilana Garon couldn’t control a nearly all-male special ed class, until her female co-teacher was replaced by a male teacher, she writes on Ed Week‘s View from the Bronx.

‘Boys learn by running around and fighting’

Boys stink at school but it doesn’t matter, writes Penelope Trunk, who’s homeschooling her sons.

Now research shows us that the gender discrepancy starts early because little girls learn by being focused and engaging with the teacher and little boys learn by running around and fighting.

. . .  it doesn’t matter. Because boys suck at school, and then they go to college and play video games and pick-up basketball and beer pong for four years and they leave their GPA off their resume and they race up the corporate ladder.

Because the corporate world favors compartmentalized thinking (as in “my kids are not in front of me so they do not exist”) and men have it and women don’t so kids mess up women’s careers. Women out earn men until there are kids. Then, for the rest of their adult life, men out earn women.

Forcing boys to “learn like girls” is pointless, Trunk writes. “I took my boys out of school – they turn cartwheels during school hours. And you should do the same for your sons, too.”

Of course, not everybody has that choice.