Friday, September 06, 2013
[Update 9-25-2013 9:15AM: Following up on this report, I was informed that the information relayed to me was, shall we say, faulty. It was found that the student who had relayed the information was under the impression that the boys in her previous class had failed because the boys she knew had been struggling in the class. The teacher says that though there were in fact a number of failures (perhaps above what would be considered average), that it was not the case that all the boys failed. Furthermore,the reason for the lack of any boys in the second level Spanish class was that none had decided to sign up. This makes sense given that it is an elective. I want to extend an apology to the readership for the misinformation below. It was my fault. I knew that statistically the story as relayed to me was extremely remote. Knowing that, I should not have posted this piece without a thorough investigation. As the saying goes: Trust but verify. Original post below for posterity. I still stand behind the commentary that education has become hostile to boys and the way that they learn. I am still bothered by the fact that you have an entire class of an "upper level" subject with no boys in it. ] Wednesday a friend of mine relayed information from her daughter whereby her daughter's Spanish II class had no boys in it allegedly because all of the boys failed Spanish I and had to repeat it. I found the information quite disturbing. I have never been even a B student when it came to second languages. In fact had it not been for my second language classes (French and Spanish) I would have probably been an A student. We all have our weaknesses. In all my years in education as both a student and a staff member I have never, ever heard of an entire group of a single gender to have all failed a class. I know there are educators that frequent this blog and I'd be happy to have any of them contact me about such a phenomenon that has occurred. I simply have not seen it. Ever. I'm not going to say that it is impossible to happen. Supposedly this was an elective. Even so, who would purposely throw an F into their grades just because it's not a requirement? The likelihood that every boy in the class (I am not aware of the total number of boys in that class) failed the subject because they were intellectually incapable of getting at least a C level grasp of the material flies in the face of probability. In every class there is a range of intellectual capacity among the students. Some are going to find the work easy and some will struggle to the point of failure. It is generally understood that if you give an exam and everybody gets 100% that the exam was way too easy or a significant amount of the population cheated. Similarly if one gives an exam and 100% of the students were to fail then you know that either the exam was way too hard (possibly covering material not taught) or nobody in the class studied. Generally test scores fall into a distribution curve that a decent teacher can often predict based upon the activity of the students in class including homework. You would think that a teacher faced with the prospect of each and every boy in the class failing would be alarmed. Indeed I wonder (again not knowing the specific demographics of the class) if the administration is aware that such a glaring gender disparity in performance is going on. Among people who are advocates for men and boys there are people who have collected a lot of data that shows that in education there has been a swing in teaching styles and attitudes that are decidedly anti-boy and anti-male. In one example that I read about recently there is a school system that teaches young grade school boys that they are in fact potential rapists! Never mind the inappropriateness of telling male children that they are likely budding felons, but it ignores the fact that the vast majority of males (96+%) do not and will not rape anyone. Along with that bullshit, are teaching styles that punish boys for being boys, you know, can't sit still, aggressive, hyper, etc. Mind you the age of the group in this Spanish class is 12-13 years of age, there are many teachers who have very negative opinions of males and boys and seek to make life as difficult for them as possible. I won't go into the college student who was working in a college admissions office who was of the opinion that [white male applicants (presumably heterosexual) deserved to be binned in favor of anyone else but preferably women. Not that I am accusing the teacher in this case of anything inappropriate. I do not have enough information to make an outright charge of gender discrimination and perhaps straight out incompetence. I am simply pointing out that statistically, the results indicate that something is not right in Denmark. On the flip side; while contemplating this issue I drove past a bunch of school age boys and girls in a neighborhood with 'failing public schools" and noticed that they were not doing homework, studying or anything else that should be going on this time of year. Currently we are in the midst of a mayoral campaign and there is a lot of talk of "failing public schools" and how there is a need to "get tough on teachers". Education is a partnership. We cannot hold teachers accountable when parents are allowing their kids to hang out rather than do homework and study. We cannot hold teachers responsible for behavior and habits that they have no control over. No teacher can make a student do homework. No teacher can force a student to read on their own. No teacher can force a parent to make sure homework is done even if that parent has no clue what the answer should be. I remember when my studies past my mother's knowledge of math. It was made clear to me that she would STILL be checking that it was done and I showed work. No teacher can be held responsible for the food that a child eats (or does not eat) before coming to class. No teacher is responsible for the social environment that the child has at home. These are all variables that greatly affect whether a student will succeed or fail in school yet I never hear anyone talk about these responsibilities that belong squarely on the parents.