When I was a young lad, I could barely sit still.
As it is for many boys, sitting down was always a struggle for me.
Whenever I got a spare moment, I was running down to our basement to punch a plastic ball up an empty stairwell in our basement to get myself to focus.
How did I get schoolwork done back in those days?
As a homeschooler, I had options. For instance, when I was in elementary school, I would run around the house as I recited spelling words and times-tables to my mother. I would frequently take breaks outside to keep my energy flowing. This might sound distracting, but it helped me focus when I would sit back down to work. And I did get schoolwork done. I got As almost all the time.
Many other young boys have similar troubles with sitting still in classrooms. Nevertheless, today’s public school system, with its rigid demands of sitting still for long periods of time, does not make any arrangements to customize the curriculum and fit the needs of both sexes.
That is not to say that girls today do not have their challenges too; however, when it comes to the classroom, research shows that boys are currently the ones struggling at school.
Boys receive 90% of discipline referrals, represent 80% of dropouts, and earn 70% of Fs and Ds in public school, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Finally, boys are much less likely to go to college, as only 43% of college students were male in the 2017 – 18 academic year, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
Are these results because boys are not as smart as girls? The facts do not seem to point to this.
Indeed, IQ tests seem to indicate that boys and girls have similar intellectual abilities, and SAT scores even have males scoring 20 points higher on average, according to Compass Education Group.
While many dismiss boys’ struggles with school as their lack of commitment, biological differences between sexes indicate other reasons.
For instance, boys are less mature at an early age.
Boys’ brains don’t mature until they are between 15 and 20 years old, while girls’ brains are mostly mature as early as just 10 years old, according to a study conducted by Newcastle University.
In addition, girls have a larger corpus callosum and hippocampus, and a more active prefrontal cortex than boys when they are young, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, even though mature males have larger brains than mature females even after correcting for size and weight, according to Science Direct.
Furthermore, the needs of boys are likely to be overlooked or misunderstood by female teachers, which make up the majority of early educators.
For the 2017 – 18 school year, 89% of elementary school teachers and 76% of all public teachers in the United States were female, nearing the highest in recorded history, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And the percentage of female teachers is still growing.
With the lack of teacher training in the differences between the learning styles of girls and boys, the female-dominated industry has slowly shifted the standard for educational excellence to a female worldview.
This unequal perspective will continue to discourage boys from learning unless the system makes changes.
For instance, teachers should give boys reading material they enjoy, including more action-based books and fewer novels about domestic life. While girls might enjoy books like “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” boys might rather be reading “The Hardy Boys.”
In addition, they should give boys the chance to use their energy by giving them more time to exercise.
Currently, recess times are declining. Since the 1970s, elementary school students have lost around 50% of unstructured outdoor activity at public school, according to Science Daily.
Finally, boys’ imaginations, including more violent visuals like war scenes, should not be shunned but guided. Schools should eliminate zero-tolerance rules at schools and adjust discipline measures to be more understanding of boys and not look at them as lesser than girls because of their different ideas and interests.
This neglect needs to stop. Schools need to give boys a fair chance to succeed.
Josh Newhook is a sophomore studying English and German. He is an assistant editor for the Collegian.