What do you think of this? Discrimination against boys?

sue36January 26, 2006

This article was in the Boston Globe today, and my initial gut reaction was that this was one of the dumbest things I have ever read.

A 17 year old boy a Milton High School (a very nice town) is suing because he says that boys are discriminated against in school. The honor roll is 64% female and the AP classes are 58% female. He says the girls outperform because "the school system favors them". He is apparently ignoring the vast data that shows the opposite is true - that boys get more personalized attention and get called on more.

It seems like it comes down to this: more boys than girls disrupt classes, don't do homework, and don't try especially hard in school. Since when is this new? I graduated from high school in 86 and all the top ranked were female. Same for DH's class in 77. In fact, in my parent's classes in the 50s the top ranked were female.

What does he want? He wants his grades "boosted" retroactively. He has an unspectacular 2.88 GPA.

What do you all think?

Here is a link that might be useful: Article

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I never would have believed I would say this before I had a boy of my own, but I agree with the premise that schools are set up to help girls succeed more than boys. I disagree, however, that the solution is to inflate boys' grades retroactively. How ridiculous.

Most boys find it exceedingly difficult to sit still. They aren't super listeners, and they learn more through action than book work or lectures. Yes, I'm generalizing - - there are plenty of exceptions. But IME, this is true for the majority. It has nothing to do with how these boys are raised, it's just the way they are. Believe me. I read to my son incessantly when he was young, but he still hates to read.

Schools, especially at the elementary level, are geared toward kids who can sit for long periods of time and listen to the teacher and do book work and be stimulated enough by this to maintain their attention. In other words, girls. And a small minority of boys.

For boys to make it through a day like this requires much cajoling, encouraging, and attention than for girls. It keeps them engaged. Is it fair to give boys more attention than girls? Probably not. But what to do, then? Can teachers change the way they teach to help engage boys more? Or will the girls then be left out?

There is an interesting article about this very topic in Newsweek this week, link below.

One of the solutions appears to be splitting the boys and girls up for same-sex education. I can see the merits in that, but it isn't realistic across the board for many reasons.

I don't think the solution is to sue the school system. But parents and educators need to figure out why our boys are struggling and how we can change the way we teach them.

Here is a link that might be useful: newsweek article

    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 11:22PM
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You always have to be careful about inferring causality from statistics. Here's one for you - there are more churches per capita in high crime areas. Do you conclude that churches cause crime? No, people in high crime areas tend to frequent churches more often, so there are more churches.

The higher percentage of girls doing well could be due to any number of reasons. Rather than the girls being encouraged to do better scholastically, perhaps the boys are encouraged to do more sports. Actually thinking back to my own high school experience, I think it's more societal in that it's uncool among boys to be smart. Smart = geek. Look at the multi-million dollar salaries of male athletes, and it's not unreasonable to assume that a statistically significant number of boys consider sports to be a viable career choice whereas that option is not really open for girls. Maybe the girls will sue for equality in athletic programs. Ooops, I they already have been suing for that in the past few years!

Anyway, obviously that boy and his parents missed the class on common sense. I hope he gets slapped court costs and has to pay the defendant's fees when he loses.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 1:11AM
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I have always believed that our school system doesn't favor boys. Most teachers are women and teach through the perspective of how women think and learn. Although boys do better in math and science, girls have moved to close that gap (good for girls) and now it is clear that boys need more. More in the way of movement, kinetic learning, etc. My son goes to an all-boys high school and my daughter goes to an all-girls high school and the difference in the environments is suprising. The girls school is more of a pressure cooker, but the boys school is more relaxed and the boys practically have to have an extra curicular activity, mainly a sport. My son is growing so much. Now of course my duaghter is as well, but no where near my son, who has grown six inches in the past year. That saps a lot of energy from a guy. I guess this is where a gender specific school can address these boy versus girl needs perfectly, but like Paige said, the differences are glaring in elementary school, needs go unaddressed, and way too many boys are diagnosed with ADD as a result. And like the above posters said, this lawsuit is ridiculous!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 6:51AM
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This sounds like another one of those situations that lead me to believe we are in the midst of the decline and fall of the "American empire".

We're gradually losing what made this country great - driven, motivated people who wanted to make a better life for THEMSELVES. Now generations later we have more and more people who expect someone else (like the government or anyone they can sue) to create a perfect environment in which they can succeed.

In my opinion more people need to take responsibility for themselves and be accountable for their own success or failure.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 11:15AM
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There is so much irony in the article I almost can't stand it. The reason why so many teachers are women is because a teacher's pay is so low. Perhaps we should start there - make teaching a job that pays a decent salary and more men would see teaching as a career.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 11:45AM
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I think it will be interesting to see what parents of boys think of this in comparison with others. I would have had a very different opinion before raising my son.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 12:55PM
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Very interesting discussion! And I agree with so much of what has alredy been said.
- The lawsuit is ridiculous.
- Schools, especially at the elementary level, reward behaviors that are more natural to girls.
- Same-sex education would solve a lot of these problems, but isn't likely to happen here...
- Teaching was, for a long time, one of the few acceptable jobs for women, leading to low-pay, leading to a disproportionate ratio of women to men teachers.
- Like everyone else, teachers work from their own experience - overwhelmingly, as girls.
- More active learning styles are disruptive and noisy and can be chaotic -- so not accommodated.
- But also that each individual is responsible for his own performance.
- And even though they don't get as good grades as girls, plenty of boys get into top colleges and plenty of boys still end up as successful men.
- If girls are disproportionately successful in school than boys, men are even *more* disproportionately successful in careers than women.

No easy solutions in sight...

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 1:12PM
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I'm a parent of two school-aged boys (2 already graduated high school). I have one daughter who will be in kindergarten next year, so 4 boys have gone through school, one daughter is soon to be there.

JUST MY PERSONAL OPINION ~ This is another example of people not taking responsibility for themselves. You got a 2.88 GPA - study harder!

My boys hate music. They hate art. They are SO bad at art, it's almost funny. It's not a talent of theirs. Many projects they are assigned must include a drawing of the subject matter. Teacher is lucky if he/she can figure out what it is. My 10 yr old had a project on a whale two weeks ago. The picture looked more like a bowling pin. It effects their grade. He's not going to the school board about it. Many of the girls hand in beautiful drawings. Should my son's be graded on a scale because he's a boy?

My 10 yr old is a terrible speller. If they have a spelling test, he's got to study forever to get a decent grade. So he does study hard. Imagine that?

All my kids are athletic and love gym class. It's mandatory. Does the school in the article allow the girls to skip gym class because maybe they're not athletic? If my daughter isn't interested in athletics (gym class), will she get special treatment?

Why can't people take responsibility for themselves? Why does this kid file a lawsuit - or actually, daddy filed it. Daddy's a male. He seemed to make it through life. Was daddy prejudiced in high school? Did the teachers change the rules to make life easier for him?

So maybe it's sexual profiling when the boys are stopped in the hallway without a pass. If they're guilty of nothing, there's nothing to worry about. They're children. Get over it, kid. Forget the ACLU. Forget the lawsuits. Get to class and learn how to deal with life.

I don't mean to offend anybody with this post, but my biggest pet peeve is people not taking responsibility for themselves and this looks like a perfect example of it to me.

(okay...can somebody get me a motrin and a piece of chocolate, please? - I'm ducking! LOL)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 1:36PM
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IME when a teacher asks a question in class, girls tend to raise their hands and boys tend to blurt out the answer. I've never seen a teacher tell the boy with the right answer to shut up so she can hear what the girl who raised her hand wanted to say.

So the boy gets credit for the answer. The girl gets no credit for following the perceived rules.

So tell me, who does that favor?

And I wholeheartedly agree that more teachers are women because of the pay - and what a sad state of affairs that is! And I also agree that the kid and his parents should take responsibility for their own abilities rather than blaming his 2.8 average on the teacher/school. But that's typical American behavior so it doesn't surprise me: have a problem? doesn't matter whose fault it is, just find someone to sue.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 5:06PM
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Gotta agree with Gibby and Lowspark. We have all heard the "when I was young" stories from grandparents, but I am only 38 and I don't remember too many boys ever really acting up in class. In fact, I used get in more trouble than most of the boys for talking. As I recall, we only had to be told once to shape up. We not only feared that call to our parents, but here's a concept....we were actually afraid of the vice principal! If I told my mom I didn't like a certain teacher, her first response was, "what are YOU doing that makes you feel like your being mistreated....."

As a former public school teacher, I can tell you that you couldn't pay me enough to go back to teaching. There isn't much parental support when you try to discipline.

Fact is boys and girls are different. I have both, but the best piece of advice I got when I started having children was that one of the most important things to teach your children is self-control. And boys are perfectly capable of learning this if someone is willing to teach them and quit using that stupid saying, "boys will be boys!"

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 5:18PM
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I meant to say I agree with Lori316, but I still agree with you too, Lowspark.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 5:20PM
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Not to defend this kid because he's acting like a whiney dork, but if there is some kind of "discrimination" going on, then it needs to be addressed. If they never check the girl's hall passes ever, but only the boys' hall passes - well, that doesn't seem right. They should check all the passes. If the guys *really* have to decorate their notebook with pink stuff and feathers, that's not right either (and it may not even be right for girls!). But honestly, it doesn't sound like real discrimination; it sounds like poor policies on the part of the principal and the school or policies that are not being enforced across the board.

But the kicker is that in compensation he wants to have the boys' grades raised - well, isn't that discriminating against girls who actually worked hard for their grades? That would seem to be a greater injustice than what his lawsuit alleges.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 5:21PM
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For me, the real issue is providing support for ANY underachieving student. I think we need to ask ourselves why so many students identified for special education are black and/or male. Does this percentage match that of teachers in our schools? NO. What other environmental conditions do these students deal with on a daily basis? (The parents of these identified students would give their eye teeth to be concerned about a granite, or other, kitchen choice.) If you take the time to compare Meyers-Briggs scores for female teachers and male students you will gain more understanding of the other issues facing success in our classrooms. These scores also help us to understand the over identification of males as ADD and ADHD. Law suits will certainly not solve this issue, but they will increse the attention these sorts of issues create in classrooms.

Please ask female teachers, including me, to "take responsibility" for their classroom climate as you expect their students to do "for themselves". Many of these teachers, school-successful people, inflict their experience for success on their students.
I am sure that those of your who are willing to devote much time to this forum spend even more time to have school-successful kids. I applaud you. All students are not as blessed as your kids are. Equity issues have become very important in our nation. Our kids are not immune to these issues in an environment which should be blind to those faced by our adult society. If those race and gender issues enter our classroom environments, we are not doing the best job for all students.

Please humor me. How many of you are a male under 25, a recognized minority, and/or were identified as needing an IEP for special education? If none of these is an identifying factor for you, please try to understand that many kids face issues you only read about in your daily paper or watch on the evening news.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 5:47PM
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I'm not saying boys shouldn't be disciplined for acting out in class. I agree with Houseful - - children need to be taught self-control. My DS doesn't act out in school. He raises his hand and follows the rules. But he does have a lot of trouble sitting still and staying focused. He is not on ADD meds because he isn't hyperactive, just unfocused and fidgety, but he also has serious learning disabilities and "regular" teaching methods simply do not work for him, nor for lots of other boys with whom he is pulled out for special ed.

I do think that we need to appreciate that boys are often different and learn differently and embrace that rather than trying to shove them into a mold made for girls. While many manage to conform to the mold, many do not.

In the "old days" before the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed, my son would have been the kid that was pushed from grade to grade, earning c's and d's, not really learning to read, and he probably would have dropped out at 16. We all had those boys in our schools, right? Because of this anti-discrimination law, our school system has to find a way to teach him that actually works for him. But it's a constant battle, because he also has to be mainstreamed to the extent possible (according to the law), so it's like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole for 3/4 of the day, and then he gets pulled out for an hour and actually learns something. And there are lots of boys who go through this with him every day, while only a couple of girls.

There must be a better way.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2006 at 9:00AM
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Just shows that anyone can bring a lawsuit for anything.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2006 at 11:24AM
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I just noticed that Newsweek's cover story on the current issue is about boys' grades slipping. Interesting coincidence with this thread.

But I'm also reminded of that recent thread/article about how Asian students in Cupertino (NorCal) are setting the bar too high for other students and causing friction. Are we to suppose that Asian males are a differnet species that are somehow able to learn better than other races? Or could it possibly be that parents and culture have some influence on learning? Remember the disgruntled parents in that article saying that the predominantly Asian schools were "too competitive" had "too much focus on academics", etc?

Lets also not forget that just a few years ago the SAT grading curve was changed to basically add about 100 points to the scores. In Arizona we have groups complaining bitterly about kids having to pass a test to graduate high school. A test which my 14 year-old babysitter took in her sophomore year and said was a piece of cake. Yeah, maybe I'm not enlightened, but I say "study harder and quit whining".

    Bookmark   January 28, 2006 at 11:34AM
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I'll just say one thing on boys vs. girls. I work more with my son on school work than my daughter, b/c everything comes a little (lot) easier to her. Is that discrimination against my daughter? I don't think so. I just see that my son needs more guidance. Each child, regardless of gender, has unique needs and learning patterns.

This lawsuit is just a sign of the times, and I whole-heartedly disagree with it, and the growing occurances of people blaming their own shortcomings on others.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2006 at 12:15PM
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Okay, here's one more thing I was thinking - consistent with people taking responsibility for themselves. I think if DH was a kid today, he'd be labeled with some kind of disorder - ADD, ADHD, etc. He's very bright but not great in the academic arena. He has limited attention span and little interest in getting into great detail on things. He went to college and got a degree but it took a couple years for him to buckle down and get serious - he was flunking out the first couple years - he was getting A's at the end.

I met him in college and was shocked when I finally realized he was on academic probation (I was a 4.0 student). Neither he nor his parents blamed anyone else for his "failure". He took some time off from school, worked for a quarter, and figured out what he wanted to do with his life and got back on board. He's not an MD, lawyer, or similar professional like many others in his family. He would have loved to be an attorney like his father but he just didn't have the academic aptitude. However he's a very successful international sales and marketing executive, earns a great income and has a nice life. I'm honestly not sure if things would have gone this well for him if he was a kid today.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2006 at 1:24PM
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I am actually not sure that girls being good students (better students than boys) actually helps them in the long run. Being a good girl is not exactly a trait that is treasured in the workplace. It's definitely not associated with creativity. I think boys are given more slack because their weaknesses (inability to concentrate) end up being perceived as strengths (creativity, nonconformity, unconventional).

I was always a good girl and a good student and got plenty of pats on the head. But it was never a benefit to me in the workplace.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2006 at 9:28PM
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Had an interesting discussion with my older son about this. He's a freshman at an excellent public high school taking mostly GT and a few AP classes, and the overwhelming majority of his classmates in GT and AP are boys. (About 3.5 to 1) It was so lopsided in middle school that the parents of the few girls had meetings with the teachers to investigate whether they were under-identifying girls for GT programs.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 4:14PM
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I think this is 100% the case. I just finished my master's degree in education and I taught for 8 years (I'm a sahm now). Many of my colleagues did studies on how boys and girls learn differently and how today's educational system is mostly geared (unintentionally) towards the way that girls learn. They also found that when boys and girls are separated and taught in styles more suited towards their own, they perform eons better than they do in a co-ed situation. Problem is that this practice (of separating boys and girls for instruction) is illegal in public schools. That may change though in coming years - there is a "grass roots" movement per se among educators to try it out and many schools around the country are in pilot programs of gender separation for instruction. But the issue has so much baggage attached that it may never become mainstream.

I would love for either of my kids to be in a program like this. (I have a boy and a girl.)

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 10:19PM
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i have ADD and have passed it on to my son. i had learned to deal with it while growing up but DS has a much harder time with it. he's a freshman at vincennes university and is in the COPE program for kids with learning disabilities. he's off the meds but i still take mine.
years ago, i was in an organization called 'women in construction' every year they would give out 5 scholarships to college bound seniors who were going to study engineering, construction or a related field. i noticed that about half the scholarships were given to guys. i made a suggestion that all the scholarship money should be given to women. every one was agast! that would be unfair and after all we all have sons, yada, yada.
i told them i have 5 boys and i still say give the scholarships to the women. none of these women had gotten a degree in construction where all the scholarships went to the guys. some companies wouldn't even interview women let alone hire them. i said in this business , women need all the breaks they could get and the men didn't have to justify why all the scholarship money went to the guys. the group just didn't have a clue! i didn't stay in that organization for long...

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 8:04AM
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There are only more female teachers than male at the elementary level.

Boys are consistently rewarded for misbehavior, so long as it isn't direct defiance.

Girls have traditionally been encouraged to accept the misbehavior. The traditional socialization of girls has been to encourage them to please and do as they're told.

The traditional socialization of boys has encouraged them to show strength and explore their talents.

Gender differences come into play quite a bit as well, but to what extent it is genetic and to what extent socialization is a mystery.

IMO, the problem is not a female or male learning advantage in the classroom, but a unisex learning disadvantage in today's society. We are giving our kids the idea that if an environment does not conform to what suits them best, they can "opt out" with society's blessing instead of working harder and doing their best at it. They can say that it isn't a fair situation and demand to be awarded something they haven't earned. They can complain and be told that their failures aren't their fault, even when they are.

BTW, I taught high school for 19 years and have 1 grown son and 1 grown daughter (as well as 3 daughters in the wings).

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 6:34PM
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