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It’s an open secret that education has been a political chess piece to politicians since the dawn of the 20th century. What to do about each successive crisis in education has been the subject of much controversy for the better part of the last century and this one. But, the politics of education have taken a dark turn in the 21st century. For the first time, we have truly weaponized research to create standards and an environment that are toxic to both sexes, particularly males. Feminizing education and the entirely artificial push towards girls in STEM are both bound to have serious ramifications for our future, and endangers the future boys most seriously.
Boys express a different learning style from girls due to sex-based differences in brain anatomy. There is a vast and deep body of research surrounding the notion that male and female brains are not inferior, but different from each other. In males (generally speaking), the inferior parietal lobe is larger. This region of the brain is related to spatial awareness, and is responsible for higher functioning in mathematics (Gabriel and Schmitz 2007). Because the inferior parietal lobe is smaller in females and develops later, logical mathematical learning in girls is typically slower (Lenroot et al. 2007). Boys will develop mathematical-spacial skills on average as much as four years sooner than will girls (Gurian, 2003). By forcing girls into STEM as early as possible, we are trying to get them to perform in a way that ignores biology and reason. We are using girls as political pawns for feminist propaganda and I cannot fathom a world in which that is ethical.
In contrast, the left hemisphere of the female brain develops faster than in males, which is what provides them with superior functioning in language acquisition. Despite these obvious differences, we apply the same exact standards to both sexes in the form of diagnostic and summative assessments as well as standardized testing. Lexile levels are based on the number of words on a page and the number of sentences per page. The ideal of where benchmarks for language arts learning should fall is then decided based on what score is average by age and falls into an acceptable range. Boys lag behind girls as much as six years due to this fundamental difference in brain anatomy (Gurian, 2003). How is that fair when fifty percent of the student population has a distinct early advantage over the opposite sex? It isn’t fair and it puts boys at a disadvantage.
In essence, given the above facts, we are placing unscientifically based pressure on girls to show interest in STEM as early as possible and place unfair learning goals on boys in the area of language. Current politics insists that even though the evidence indicates that males’ and females’ brains develop at a different rate, order, and time frame, we ought demand parity at all stages of education. In this way, the push for equality and feminizing of education hurts both sexes. What would benefit education the most is training teachers in how these differences impact learning and giving teachers the time and space to truly accommodate different learning styles.
I would go further and insist that schools have become toxic and dangerous places in which to be male.
Over-diagnosis for behavioral problems is rampant among boys and disproportionate compared to girls. According to the USDOE and Schott Foundation Report, 67% of special education students are male, and 80% of those classified as special needs (which includes emotional disturbance related issues) are black or Hispanic. But why? The answer is sinister yet simple: modern education favors the ability to focus and compliance. Deviation from that norm is considered, by definition, abnormal and cause for serious concern. Females transition between lessons and have superior self control and focus much earlier than boys. Girls also make fewer impulsive decisions because their basal serotonin levels are higher than that of boys, which enables them to remain calm long enough to pause before acting in many cases (Sax, 2006). These behavioral difference are also due to the fact that boys under-utilize the cerebral cortex and are reliant on more primitive areas of the brain to preform the same tasks (Sax, 2006). What result looks like something more serious, something that ought to be medicated (like ADHD or personality disorders).
There are even more fundamental sensory differences between girls and boys that impact learning, but are largely ignored. It has been a well established fact since the 1960s that girls have superior hearing to boys, particularly in the higher frequencies (Corso 1963). Boys have 35% less aural acuity due to cochlear length compared to girls (Gurian, 2003). This heightens a female’s ability to listen to instruction in a literal sense. A decent portion of what may be interpreted as lack of attention in a male student may very well be his literal inability to hear everything the teacher is saying. Missing pieces of instruction is likely to cause a boy to focus elsewhere and presto! We have planted the seeds for suspected ADD. Conversely, since girls have more sensitive hearing, they are likely to interpret elevated volume as aggressiveness rather than excitement and enthusiasm in their male counterparts (Kaufmann 2001). The likely female teacher may interpret and report this as a behavioral problem when no such problem exists except her ignorance. Since proximity is known to curtail misbehavior in general (this is classroom management 101), and boys benefit from the speaker being closer (and therefore more easily heard), it makes complete sense to provide instruction by being as close to the students as possible rather than located at the front of the classroom behind a desk for the teacher’s convenience.
Boys and girls also have different responses to stress. In females, the parasympathetic nervous system is most activated in response to stress, which causes them to stop whatever they’re doing and fail to act. In males, the sympathetic nervous system is most active in response to stress, resulting in the release of adrenaline and heightened senses (Sax, 2006). This is the biological basis for why boys thrive on competition and girls prefer social dependence and cooperation. The truth is that both could benefit from one another. Unfortunately, academic environments favor group work and cooperation over competition, a stark contrast to the pedagogy of the past. What results from sheltering girls from competitive environments is a sense of learned helplessness and a belief that the outside world will be the same as the classroom; egalitarian, collective, and lorded over by a motherly teacher figure who will always protect her. Since this in no way reflects reality, we do a disservice to girls by insisting that the classroom be such an unrealistic paradigm of complete cooperative harmony. An ideal approach would combine both aspects in moderation, neither emotionally crippling girls nor applying punitive measures towards boys for the crime of being male.
None of these points are intended to suggest that either sex or gender should conform to the ideals of the other. It in no way implies that one sex is superior to the other. It’s not that boys cannot excel in language arts or love reading, or that they shouldn’t be taught those skills. It’s not that girls can’t learn to love math and science. It’s just that we need to introduce skills in a way that works with biology instead of against it. Differentiated instruction, after all, is supposed to be the bedrock of modern education principles. The idea that each child is an individual is supposed to be sacred to the teaching profession, but when it comes to boys there seems to be little momentum toward considering gender differences. All warnings echoing down from researchers and experts in the field of educational research are conveniently ignored by the political world when it comes to boys, despite the fact that girls now outperform boys at all academic levels. Enforcing complete equality in education requires that we ignore these brain-based differences in favor of an insecure feminist political agenda, which places the education of children in jeopardy.
This article was written by: Nicole Appaluccio.