Is Today’s Classroom a Place for Girls? How to Re-engage Boys in Learning

Do you often feel – especially if you have both sons and daughters – that boys are less interested in school and learning than girls are? Before you dismiss it with a casual “boys will be boys”, watch the video below and you’ll find that boys don’t perform as well academically simply because the classroom environment is biased toward girls.

Ali Carr-Chellman, head of the Learning and Performance Systems department in the College of Education, Pennsylvania State University, spells out three reasons boys are tuning out of school in droves and lays out her bold plan to re-engage them: bringing their culture into the classroom, with new rules that let boys be boys and video games that teach as well as entertain.

This is one of my favorite TED talks about education. Carr-Chellman starts off by saying we have a problem with boys: the fact that their culture isn’t working in school. Then she quickly highlighted that her discussion was to be carried out without considering the rigid boundary of boys and girls, the fact that most boys behave in certain ways and most girls behave in certain other ways. I think it’s a pretty smart move to fence off the critics who would probably argue about exceptional cases.

Three reasons why boys are not engaged in school

  1. Zero tolerance: boys in schools often cannot write anything violent or write about video games, but instead are encouraged to write about poems, little moments in their lives, and many other things the teachers asking them to write about.
  2. Fewer male teachers: boys have fewer male role models in schools. The impact is pretty significant considering the fact that they spend a great deal of time in school every day.
  3. Kindergarten is the old second grade: because of the problem of compression of curriculum,  teachers are constantly pressurizing boys to “sit down”, “be quiet”, “do what you’re told”, “follow the rules”, “manage your time”, “be a girl”!

One of the important points she brought forth is that contrary to popular belief, video games are not a cause of bad results – video games are a symptom. The fact is that boys are turned off long before they “got here” (under-performing in academic achievements when compared with girls in college education), probably between the age of 3 to 13.

Watch this wonderful presentation to learn more about how we shall go about addressing these issues and re-engaging boys in learning.


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