Friday, January 14, 2011

Boys In School

I know, I know, TED is so SWPL, but I do like it.

Bethany, who used to comment here as bsking and is personally known to some of you, sent this on today. This is particularly sporting of her, as she was a math/science girl who was on the receiving end of some gender stereotyping in school.

So, another feminist mother of boys, I'm guessing. Though to be fair, these ideas are starting to get out into wider educational culture, and are there for anyone who just looks at the numbers. But it is worth noting, there are still large sectors of the academy where these are very unpopular ideas, and a lot of energy put into declaring that A) it just isn't so, B) okay it is, but it's the boys' own fault, or C) if we pay any attention to this, we'll stop helping girls. The speaker may seem only a bit emphatic to you, but my reading of the subtler cues tells me she has toned it down greatly for her audience. I'll bet if you got a coupla drinks into her you'd get an earful. Good on her.

My observations:

1. What I've been saying for years

2. It has been this way for decades - read Tom Sawyer and Little House On The Prairie if you don't think so - though it may indeed be worse now, for reasons she touches on.

3. Her demurrers that yes, girls are still discriminated against fall into the pattern I described often in the past (one example): examples of how the wider culture discriminates against women, not how classrooms do that. (Larger school culture - student elections, popularity, awards - are closer to the norms of the wider culture. But not classrooms.)

4. And deriving from that, my noting that this is thus unfair to women later on, as they move from a culture where the rules are stacked in their favor to one where they aren't. The rug is pulled. Of course, we've already screwed over a lot of boys by that time, so it's not like this is something that evens out.

5. Those video education games can be done. My brother does something like that for Sky-Skan, which designs and installs those planetarium shows. But schools think of things like that as extras, that you might bring in a few times a year for fun. The idea of having screens and controllers as the foundation of your system is not quite conceivable to them.

6. Somebody's going to run a school like this - likely online - and change the world. If a guy has to give orders to his character in French to level up, he'll learn French. Videogame French, not Montaigne, but French. He won't like fake games where you have to label the parts of a cell to open a door, but he'll soak up what keeps cells nourished and alive if his character needs that knowledge to eat, or grow specialised poisons.


terri said...

I cracked up when she talked about boys writing violent stories, especially when she used the tornado example.

FOr many years every picture and story that The Intuitive created involved tornadoes, or volcanoes, or hurricanes that wiped everything out. No matter how nice the pictures he drew looked there was always a swirly, black tornado tucked somewhere in the scene.

One time he brought home a story about aliens and killing and guns....second-grade level gore. I wondered if I was going to be getting calls from the teacher about my son's obsession with death and violence. ;-)

I don't know about the video game route though. The problem with video games and children is that they conquer them, and want to move on to something else. EVen the most exciting video game becomes boring to them after they have figured out how to approach it.

It might be unrealistic to expect that we can always top the last educational video game out there.

I think her strongest point is about the "compressed curriculum". We expect much more of children today than we did 30 years ago.

My only question would be how this plays out in other cultures. Take China, for instance, is this same disparity seen in their educational system?

My Western stereotype is that Asian countries are tough educationally and expect way more of their students than we do boys have the same issues there?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Much is made of East Asian intellectual achievement in American schools, and increasingly, back in their home countries. There has been a recent explosive controversy, with Amy Chuan claiming in the NYT that her eastern disciplined parenting style is better than the permissive western versions. Dirty little secret: Eastern Asian average IQ (of the ones who come here, anyway) is 106, compared to the rest of America's 100. So those kids were likely to do better under any system. She's taking moral credit for a genetic advantage.

You may be right about the video games, though WoW continues to hold guys' attention for months and years. Anything that is open source may last longer, because they will be participants in the design if they wish, and new stuff will keep coming in.

Erin said...

*sigh* we spent half a department meeting listening to our frantic (male) chair share with us the startling new statistics that boys are performing worse than girls on the state's 10th grade English standardized test. How did this happen? What can we do? We need to be aware of the issue! Forget that this is an old issue we've struggled with for years if not decades or that "the schooling machine" is inherently biased toward the nice, polite little girls or that it's much more complex than accusing your teaching staff of subconsciously "having it out" for the boys in your classes. Did I mention my director LOVES TED talks? He emails them to us almost as frequently as he sends "amazing new discoveries" in educational theories that sound strikingly familiar to whatever was all the rage before the current trends were all the rage.

AVI, why must you bring up educational topics? I'm too easily pulled into sarcastic ranting...

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It's a fair cop. I suppose pointing out that radical changes in didactic methods, not rooting out subtle prejudice, is what's called for isn't likely to be clearly heard?