I hardly know where to begin deconstructing some of the lunacy in the attached article about why girls are doing better in school and the work place at the moment than boys, but here is one of the more inane quotes that has gotten under my skin: …today’s education system fails to acknowledge the profound differences between boys and girls. It asks boys to sit still for hours every day and provides them with few role models in front of the classroom. Just as the dearth of female science professors hampers would-be female science majors in college, the dearth of male fourth-grade teachers creates problems for 10-year-old boys.
I hadn’t known, until now, but I’m awfully glad I’ve finally been enlightened, that asking women to sit still for hours every day – in their cubicles as secretaries, receptionists, typists, production assistants, manicurists…whatever – is somehow acceptable and okay because they were, what? Naturally predisposed to sitting still in school like good little girls? While men are somehow naturally in need of more “physical activity” in their lives and can’t be expected, when they are boys, to sit in their chairs long enough to learn how to concentrate, to focus, to be good students and, what else? Figure out how to make a living in this insane new economy when they grow up?
Nor had I known that there seems to be a lack of role models for little boys and that the world seems to be overproducing role models for little girls. I don’t recall having any female role models growing up. All of my educational and professional role models have been men!
Aside from the plethora of evidence that girls are indeed more mature, focused and attentive at a younger age than boys, aside from the plethora of evidence that indeed girls (now) outnumber boys in college and higher education, aside from the plethora of evidence that women are taking over as breadwinners – not because they are being paid more money, but because there are more women working than men – aside from these facts, I entirely disagree with the why this is so that David Leonhardt offers up as his assessment of the problem in A Link Between Fidgety Boys and a Sputtering Economy.
Just a few subjective nuggets of observation from my own personal life and work experience, and a few objective observations from years of personal and work life: little boys are born, bred, raised and taught to believe that multi-tasking is for other people (namely girls)…that if they focus on just one thing they will excel at it, get ahead, prosper, and win the corner office sooner or later.
Girls, on the other hand, are still born, bred, raised and taught to believe that it is they who must be good at multi-tasking…because they cannot depend upon or rely upon any certainty whatsoever – there is no guarantee at all that if they work hard and do well that they will win a job, get promoted or paid well for their work. Instead, they are taught to always have a back-up plan, or, in fact, one or two or three back-up plans because they have to be prepared to make a living however it plays out for them in reality.
This characteristic, which has been born and bred into girls for centuries – do your math/learn to cook, learn to read and speak/learn to answer the phone, learn to write/ learn to type, learn to organize/learn how to sweep the floor and make the bed, learn how to put yourself together for a meeting/learn how to sew and do the laundry – it is these repetitive trained and taught lessons in multi-tasking over centuries that is now giving girls and women the upper hand in school and in the work place.
Girls simply work harder at more things because they have to. It is expected of them – at home and at work. Another point from the article:
Two of the leading theories involve single-parent families and schools. The number of single-parent families has surged over the last generation, and the effect seems to be larger on boys in those families than girls. Girls who grow up with only one parent — typically a mother — fare almost as well on average as girls with two parents. Boys don’t.
Right. Because single mothers teach their girls to be self-reliant. They need their daughters to help them at home and they teach their daughters how to survive. This is an evolutionary issue if ever there were one.
Weirdly, if ever there were a case where centuries of discrimination against girls might ultimately have a positive effect on their gender in the long run, it is in the fact that by having to be their own internal role models, by having to fight so hard and so long to get to the top, by having to constantly make arguments in defense of oneself…indeed, by having to win virtually everything that comes naturally to men – the right to vote, the right to work, the right to control one’s own body – girls are coming out of the corner boxing and ready to go the entire round.
While, on the other hand, the message that boys have always gotten, which is that they don’t have to fight for those things because they are naturally entitled to them, has now given rise to a sort of disbelief about the cold reality of life – a sort of disbelief that the world is no longer their personal and collective oyster.
Another completely crazy-making statement is this one: Some, like Ms. Buchmann and Mr. DiPrete, point out that boys still do quite well in the best-performing schools. When good grades bring high status, boys respond. To the researchers in this camp, the answer involves improving schools, which will have a disproportionate effect on boys, rather than changing schools to be more attuned to boys’ needs.
That is exactly part of the problem. Our educational, social and cultural system has taught boys that status is conferred on them automatically as a result of getting, what? Good grades? Having a title? Making a lot of money? Being in a position of authority?
I could never even begin to count the number of superb female students, the number of superb female thinkers who work hard, score well on tests, are brilliant at work…I can’t count the number of these women I have met and worked with in my life who have never had any status of any kind whatsoever conferred upon them. In fact, more often than not they don’t ever expect it to. They don’t feel that working hard and going to the right schools…and doing everything right entitles them to anything. This is the difference between boys and girls.
The solution is to teach parents and schools to respect their girls and their boys equally (a few months ago I posted about how parents focused their attention on the intelligence of their boys, while focusing their attention on the weight of their girls…), which does not mean that boys and girls learn, grow and mature in the same way.
But what it certainly does not mean is believing some cockamamie gobbledygook about how boys can’t sit still and girls can.
Sorry, boys, I can’t sit still either, but I had to learn to do a lot of things at a very early age in order to survive and not all of it was fun. And so have a lot of other women I know.
When are we going to stop coddling boys? In school and in the workplace?
I think David Leonhardt is way off the mark on this one.
#DavidLeonhardt #GenderDifferencesInEducation #BoysRoleModels #GirlsRoleModels