Tuesday, November 3, 2009

here's a nice article about TTWB from a NYC mag

The Other Gender DIVIDE
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Newsweek’s Reporter Peg Tyre Explores Why Boys Are Disadvantaged In The Classroom

Throughout the country, boys are falling behind girls when it comes to academic achievement. Peg Tyre first noticed this while covering the education beat for “Newsweek,” reporting, among other things, that in elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. But this isn’t a problem with boys.

According to Tyre, the problem is with our schools. In “The Trouble With Boys,” now out in paperback, Tyre explores how our education system is failing to address boys’ unique learning styles and explains why it’s imperative for all parents—of sons and daughters alike—to take notice.

Why did you decide to write this book?

I was covering education for about seven years at “Newsweek,” and it wasn’t until I was [spending time] in schools for a couple of years that I started to notice boys were disproportionately represented at the bottom of the class. I went to the data and found it backed up what I saw. I know from my experience as a reporter that that’s an extraordinary reversal. So, I decided to write about what is causing boys to underachieve—and what can we do about it.

You state that boys get expelled at five times the rate of girls in preschool. How do things go wrong at


such an early age?

Preschools have changed a great deal in the last 10 to 15 years. There’s been an increasing emphasis on academics and that’s been great for some kids, and it has some advantages. But one of the disadvantages is that it’s created a much more narrow curriculum where there’s fewer opportunities for free play, physical movement, etc.—and that’s particularly bad for boys. When you look at the work I cited by [developmental psychologist] Warren Eaton, you see that boys and girls move around about the same, but the outliers—the ones that move around the most— are invariably boys. I think that when you curtail opportunities for physical movement, I think you really crush a small minority of boys.

What are the other points of disengagement throughout a boy’s academic career?

In kindergarten and first grade when the curriculum depends on accurately holding a pencil, crayon or paintbrush, you are assuming a whole set of fine motor skills that a lot of kids don’t have and a lot of them are going to be boys. They just tend to develop them a little later. Around third grade students go from a point of learning to read to reading to learn and you often see that boys fall out there. A big dropping out point is ninth grade, and that’s because you have pronounced disengagement in middle school when the two things that hang boys up are handwriting and organization. You can’t succeed academically unless you’re organized. Yet when you talk to people who work with kids, they tell you disorganized people are disproportionately boys.

Why are boys lagging behind girls so much in literacy?

One of the reasons boys fall out around reading is that they’re often given books that they perceive to be girly. Boys prefer reading and writing that tend to be funnier and more irreverent. Their writing also tends to be more directed at other kids in the class and not necessarily at the teacher, whereas girls tend to write more for their teacher. Teachers often take [the former] as an affront, and I think we need to look at that.

etc. etc.

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