TEEN BOARDING SCHOOLS
Boys Are At Risk
A decade ago, girls were seriously lagging behind boys in science and math. Teaching strategies were altered to accommodate the unique ways that girls learn, including girls-only science classes and math and science camps. Today, girls have caught up and are out-performing boys, while boys are falling further and further behind in reading and writing. The gender gap in literacy is dramatic, and it's growing larger.
William Pollack, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, has voiced his concern. "Boys are suffering," he says. "As a result, they have lower self-esteem. The bottom line is that they are suffering both academically and emotionally." He has commented on the fact that boys are failing from all economic and ethnic groups, calling schools across the country "boy-uncentered."
Data from the Department of Education and the State Department confirm this trend:
- Boys receive 70% of D and F grades
- Boys account for 80% of high school dropouts
- Boys cause 80% of classroom behavioral problems
- Boys represent up to 70% of children diagnosed with learning disabilities
- Boys represent 80% of children diagnosed with behavioral problems
- Boys average a year to a year and a half lag behind girls in reading and writing skills
- Boys represent up to 80% of children on Ritalin and other medicine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Boys represent less than 44% of America's college students
Learning specialist Anita Doyle who works with high school kids who have academic problems sees a significant difference in performance between boys and girls. " In this year's freshman class," she said last year, "I met about five girls and about 30 boys, but I have continued to see the boys and I don't see any of the girls. All of the girls have kind of figured out how to do things and they are on their own. . A 14-year-old girl is academically more mature than a 14-year-old boy. This makes a huge difference, especially in the high school years. Because, what you are asking of high schoolers is to keep track of five or six subjects, plan ahead for their long term projects, decide what is important to study, to review for tests, to prioritize. And many boys are not ready to do that task."
Part of the problem boys are having may be attributed to the differences in the way boys learn, which is different from the way girls learn. Boys process language and emotion differently, and they have more difficulty focusing and sitting still for extended lengths of time. They also have physiological differences when it comes to hearing. Scientists have found that girls can hear sounds much softer than the faintest sound boys can hear.
Alvaro Devicente, headmaster of a private all-boy school, has noticed the effect that hearing has on learning. "For a boy to really hear the tone, the volume has to be louder. So that if the teacher is speaking at a volume that is comfortable for girls, the boy is going to be distracted because it is like elevator music almost. You start looking around, and you are surely going to find a distraction if you are a 12-years-old in a classroom."
The program at his school includes four breaks a day, and boys are allowed to release their pent-up energy through tackle football, throwing snowballs, and other games. It allows the boys to concentrate in class.
If you are the parent of a boy who is having difficulty in school and is consequently suffering from low self-esteem, it is a good idea to consider an all-boys program. "I think one thing that may happen in other schools is that the way that they try to control boys is by thwarting their passion," Devicente says. "Keeping a lid on them and getting them to do the right thing. And that is very dangerous because you can't ask a boy to fake it. You have to redirect his passion, and they are going to be passionate and they should be passionate." Accepting that differences do exist in the way boys and girls learn is the first step in providing an opportunity for each boy to reach his full potential.