Failing Boys or Failing Teachers?

The Globe & Mail, recently completed a week-long focus on how boys rank behind girls on most measures of scholastic achievement. Throughout the week they published six lengthy focus articles and number of supplementary stories, graphics, videos and interactive media. As the week went on and the outcry over the injustice being perpetuated on boys grew, my concern also grew, but for a different reason.

Each day I became more and more disturbed about the amount of attention this issue had gotten. I wondered if readers of the Globe & Mail had already forgotten about the issue of the week from just two weeks prior. The Women in Power series noted that the upper echelons of the corporate world was still a virtual boys club. One need only to look to the House of Commons where only 22% of the leaders of our country are women. The fact that on average, the estimated earned income for Canadian women is $28,315 compared with $40,000 for men should console anyone overly worried about the plight of men in our society.

In my opinion the issue is not about whether or not the current educational environment is responsive to the needs of boys, but more importantly the issue that should been garnering public concern is whether the cookie-cutter school system is responsive to the needs and interests of STUDENTS.

This solution to the gender achievement gap (which is significantly less than the race gap) is not, sex segregated classrooms or male-only schools. Just like Black-focus schools, or Aboriginal schools will not fully address the achievement gap and dismal graduation rates of Black or Aboriginal students. The greater problem is a one size fits all school system that treats all students the same and fails to make a real effort to differentiate instruction and create an educational experience that reflects the educational, social and cultural needs of all of its students.

Inclusive schools that are socially and culturally responsive would ensure that the curriculum and pedagogical approaches used were carefully selected to support the success of its student population. While the Ministry of Education provide a framework of curriculum expectations, it is up to classroom teachers to select materials and activities that will meet the needs and interests of their students. This may mean incorporating video games, or rap songs or hands-on learning, etc into our teaching practice. If that is what our students need - then we are obligated to step out of our comfort zone and find a way to meet their needs. We desperately need to get away from replicating the classrooms of the past that emphasized passive learning and conformity. This traits were the keys to success in the 19th century factory model, but will greatly curtail success in the 21st century.

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