What Is Wrong with Our Boys?

January 31, 2013 Published by

By Jim Littlejohn, aha! Process Consultant

“What is wrong with our boys?” is the question being asked in many faculty lounges, on college campuses, by employers, bloggers, and at dinner tables across the country. Educating boys – is there a problem, is it a crisis, or is it just hype to sell books? The short answer is: It depends on who you ask or what you read. Is there a boy problem in your work or home environment?

There are many authors who share their expertise on why boys are performing at less than acceptable standards academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. Each author provides their own synopsis of the problem and possible solutions to remedy the problems. Notable titles include:

  • Hear Our Cry: Boys in Crisis by Dr. Paul Slocumb
  • Real Boys by Dr. William Pollack
  • The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre
  • Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax
  • Boys and Girls Learn Differently! by Michael Gurian
  • Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson
  • Why Boys Fail by Richard Whitmire

I suggest you obtain the aforementioned books as part of your core professional library. A comprehensive search will yield many other books and articles that share similar anecdotal information, as well as tools for working productively with boys.
Let’s examine some statistics that identify boy behavior as described by Dr. Slocumb and others:

  • Nearly twice as many boys repeat a grade as girls.
  • When it comes to grades and homework, girls outperform boys in elementary, secondary, high school, college, and even graduate school.
  • Boys are four to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  • Women outnumber men in higher education, with 57% of bachelor’s degrees and 62% of master’s degrees.
  • Boys make up two thirds of the students in special education.
  • Thirty-two percent of boys drop out of school, compared with 25% of girls.

Are the above statistics reflective of how boys are functioning in your home or work environment?

The essence of the boy problem may be found in how school has changed. The push toward more rigorous academic standards in preschool and early elementary is counterproductive to the biological and cognitive development of boys. Girls develop fine motor skills and mature earlier than boys, giving them an advantage in writing and reading at the beginning of the elementary grades. Boys develop gross motor skills earlier than girls, which is not an advantage in school. It actually creates a disadvantage because boys need to be able to move and release their physical energy, which, unless accommodated by the teacher, can create behavior problems. The more time devoted to “sit and get” academics, the less time boys have to move. When you combine the lack of movement opportunities for boys in the classroom with a reduction in recess and playground time, you literally have a “Jack-in-the-box” waiting to be sprung. It is just a matter of time before “Jack” needs to be set free, and his freedom may interfere with your lesson plan. Does he restrict his “normal” behavior or developmental needs to comply with the teacher’s desire for him to comply and stay in his seat? His freedom comes with a cost.

This and other issues are explored in our Boys in Crisis workshop, which provides a comprehensive and detailed examination of the causal factors associated with boys’ underperformance, as well as identifies root causes for the challenges boys face in today’s world. In addition, we will work with you to explore solutions proven to positively impact the difficulties many boys face on a daily basis. Let us know how we can help you answer the question, “What is wrong with our boys?”

Jim Littlejohn of Columbia, South Carolina, has been a professional educator since 1976. He has taught at the middle school, high school, and graduate school level, and served as department chair, athletic director, and coach. He served two years as a Teacher-In-Residence for the SC Center for Teacher Recruitment where he served as Professional Development Specialist. He is currently the President of P.E.A.C.E. Skills, Inc. and has been providing training and consulting in the areas of conflict & anger management, classroom management, peer mediation, inter-personal relations, brain-based learning, and school crisis management. Jim was Lexington/Richland District 5 Teacher of the Year and “Outstanding Young Educator” by the local and South Carolina Jaycees. The South Carolina Governor has named him a “Hero for Children“.

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