Do We Need a National Commission on Boys?

Photo by wecometolearn via Flickr
Photo by wecometolearn via Flickr

Boys have some problems.

They’re more likely to commit suicide, more likely to struggle in school and more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Now a new study from psychologist Judith Kleinfeld is bringing additional attention to the problems of boys.

Kleinfeld has studied boys for a long time and the time has come, she believes, to act. “Boys’ issues are being neglected, whereas girls’ issues have been addressed for over 20 years, with great success,” said Kleinfeld, a professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. “Now it’s time to turn our attention to boys.”

I think the professor has a point. We know what’s wrong; the statistics documenting boys’ struggles have been well-known for years. And we know what works. Many studies have documented the differences between male and female brains. Numerous research studies — and years of anecdotal evidence — have shown that boys learn best when they can get their hands dirty, when they see an immediate application for their learning. We know that boys need role models.

We know all this, yet we have changed little about how we educate and nurture our sons. Kleinfeld believes we need a national commission to tackle the boy problem. She also believes that teachers should “be alerted to the particular problems boys have in writing, and also reading,” and that “we can use the mental health professionals and especially school counselors who are on the front lines to identify boys who are at danger of suicide.”

What do you think? Do you Kleinfeld is on the right track?

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6 Responses

  1. I don’t know, it is all just so frustrating. I listen to friend after friend complain/explain the testing their boys are going through, the fear the kiddos have ADD/ADHD, how are we going to afford private tutors blah blah blah…..And the whole time I’m looking at this boy of theirs (generic boy) thinking, there is NOTHING wrong with this kid except you are trying to beat the boy outta him! Ugh. So I am too annoyed with one system to think a commission would do anything but spend a gazillion dollars to tell the school system they need more recess, the boys need more hands on activities and outlets for creativity. My 2 cents.

  2. I agree, but instead of forming a “national commission” on the differences (at this point, aren’t we ALL aware of what they are??) – I would much rather see something actually being done about it. If everybody knows that boys and girls learn differently, then why, oh why, do we continue to try and teach them the same way? (And yes, I know the real answer to that question, which is a whole other story).

  3. do we need a commission? no. i do agree that teachers need to start teaching the way they know works. i do TONS of hands on projects with my kids. we built a rainforest in the room a couple years ago, put together a textured mural to show the life cycle of a butterfly, and we even practiced multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks. the kids just need to get some of that energy out…or put it to great use! the probelm is that no child left behind nonsense. it’s not allowing kids to be kids! learning should be fun, and it’s turning into so much work it’s ridiculous! kids have hours of homework each night and parents want them to sit in silence to do it. and if they don’t finish it, they can’t go outside. ummm…why don’t we let them do it outside? why not turn playing catch into practicing math, or spelling words? make learning fun again! find out what your boy likes to do and help him learn through that! so it’s not just the teachers, it’s parents as well. however, as a teacher, it is also my job to help the parents help their boys learn. perhaps it’s not a national commission that we need…it’s a true partnership between school and home that so many schools say they have, but have failed to provide evidence of.

  4. Part of the problem, Firefly Mom, is that not everyone is ready to admit that boys and girls learn differently. Some still fall under the “good teaching is good teaching” train of thought and thinks that what works for one should work for all.

    Missy brought up a good point — what about the parents? Mental health professionals, school counselors and teachers are all important, but I’d argue that active, involved parents are the first link.

  5. Jenn, I’ve been thinking (watch out!) you should really look into the documentary Tough Guise and the work of Jackson Katz. Good stuff; right up the alley of this post.

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