RE: Do Teachers Really Discriminate Against Boys?
RE: Time Magazine article by the same title
Using data from the 1998-99 ECLS-K cohort, we show that the grades awarded by teachers are not aligned with test scores. Girls in every racial category outperform boys on reading tests, while boys score at least as well on math and science tests as girls. However, boys in all racial categories across all subject areas are not represented in grade distributions where their test scores would predict. Boys who perform equally as well as girls on reading, math and science tests are graded less favorably by their teachers, but this less favorable treatment essentially vanishes when non-cognitive skills are taken into account. For some specifications there is evidence of a grade – bonus for boys with test scores and behavior like their girl counterparts.1
Such sociological studies merely confirm personal suspicions about the insidious, deliberate and unintentional, biases in the public schools against the male. Because of extremely politicized nature of the soft sciences (i.e. sociological) and the ease, by which scientific studies can massage the findings in the caverns of methodology and interpretation; it might be wise to suspend credulity. However, if one’s sociopolitical adversaries cite the study2; but rather than dispute the findings, they attempt to explain them away; there is some support to believe in the integrity of the study’s procedures.
It seems like out-and-out discrimination, except there is an interesting wrinkle: teachers didn’t downgrade boys who had identical test scores to girls if they seemed to share the girls’ positive attitude toward learning. In fact, the opposite seemed to occur: the well-socialized boys received a small grade “bonus” for their good behavior relative to other boys, suggesting that teachers may be overcompensating when they encounter boys whose behavior exceeds expectations.2
The amusing irony in this Time Magazine op-ed piece is the total obliviousness of the female writer to the cause of this institutionalized prejudice; of which she unwittingly shares. A positive attitude and appropriate behaviour, as subjectively defined by a predominance of female teachers in the public schools, is part of the impediments that demoralizes and extinguishes that natural curiousity in boys to learn. As summarized in a Goldin, Katz and Kuziemko study (2006); males graduating from a four-year university course in the U.S. fell from parity in 1980 to 74% of females. That ratio would be consistent with what I observed at a graduation ceremony at the University of Toronto, Canada for my oldest son around 2005.
When I was attending public school in the 1960s and 1970s, the final exam usually accounted for about 50% of the course mark, with various tests, essays and presentations making up the rest. Subjective assessments, although possibly embedded in those elements, in which subjectivity could be disguised, were a marginal aspect of one’s grading.
Nowadays, I observe that the final exam accounts for about a quarter to a third. Homework is actually marked and assessed. Attendance has more bearing on grades as do soft assessments. In order to save up for post-secondary education, in the absence of expectation of help from parents, I worked a 40 hour full-time job, while attending Grade 13. I missed 40% of my classes out of sheer exhaustion but still managed to hit that magic 80% grading. And I heard of other teachers who allowed certain bright students to miss whole semesters as long as they aced the tests. However, this course of action would not survive in the current schooling regime.
I will not watch those Olympic events, which require subjective assessments by a panel of international judges. This is not on account of the event itself. After Torvill and Dean’s sortie in 1984 to Bolero, I could become quite enthusiastic about pairs figure skating. However, the subjectivity and judicial cheating simply spoils the delight; even if subjective marking is inescapable.
A female teacher does not need to a raving feminist, who deliberately seeks “to raise our sons more like our daughters, with empathy, flexibility, patience and compassion” and counter “the cult of masculinity [which] is the basis of every violent, fascist regime”3. A person, male or female, is prone to retain an unconscious protagorean standard (“I am the measure of all things”) that perceives different learning approaches, attitudes or behaviours, which do not conform to their own, as inferior and substandard.
If it is true, and the evidence seems overwhelming, that males and females innately approach learning and perceiving the cosmos differently, it only stands to reason that this protagorean arrogance is going to insidiously undermine grading performance of boys, if the overwhelming proportion of teachers is female. In primary and middle schools, whose age group this sociologically study surveyed, only 18% of teachers are male in the U.S. (BLS 2012)4, 17% in Canada (Stats Canada 2005) and 12% in the U.K. (2011)5.
Of all the public school teachers up to and including high school; only three stand out for me; an English teacher (John Strebig) and two music teachers (Mr. Chmil and Dunkley). Although, I was purported to be a teacher’s pet in some of the primary school classes, I cannot immediately recollect any but one female teacher by name, who shall remain nameless. (Let it suffice to note that she decided to enter an elementary school beauty contest on ‘play day’, which she correspondingly won. But she was told to ‘move on’ at the end of the year.) What I do recall is those excruciating hours in mid-afternoon, listening to the orderly drone of female elementary teachers. There was a scene in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, where the boys were given two choices of how to spend eternity in Hell. Those classroom experiences came to mind for me.
I can delineate why each of these male teachers held personal appeal. John Strebig was of the old classical school of teaching, using Socratic methods, to force us to substantiate our opinions. To a male, it is a very intellectual competitive environment. However, in the current effeminacy of public education, the competitive rough and tumble, even of discourse, is highly discouraged and circumscribed. Teachers do not want hurt the ‘self-esteem’ of “weaker-minded” students or even minorities in the Cult of Toleration that is imposed. And this is consistent with clearly different proclivities between males and females, which defy all efforts to be modified by social engineering. Males are less likely to take sharp criticism and rebuke to heart than females. And thus, if primary teachers are primarily female, such rough and tumble, which might appeal to the competitive esprit of males, is neglected.
This is consistent with a 2006 study by the Hoover Institute (Thomas Dee, Education Next), where it was concluded that the exuberance of boys was more easily tolerated by a male teacher. Games and competition are more likely to be included in their teaching methods. Female teachers are more inclined to insist on a rigidity of a quiet and orderly classroom.
The music teacher Dunkley, although dry in his teaching methods, inspired a lifetime perspective, by framing in a musical context, the intellectual history of Western civilization. Frameworks of any kind appeal to the male more than the female. Boys seek to and communicate directions in cardinal terms (east, west, north, south) and females in relative (left, right). This is simply not taught systematically by parent or teacher in any jurisdiction, I know. But this approach to navigation is consistent with how males and females relate differently to the cosmos. Use of cardinal terms indicates an approach that seeks to find one’s place within the framework of the cosmos. Use of relative locates the cosmos in relation to self. The framework model explains the peculiar and hardly socially-constructed inclination for men to go their bear cave after a spousal dispute. Whenever a disturbance in the universe occurs; whenever new phenomena intrudes, discordant with existing conceptions of the cosmos, a reshuffling of the systematic overview is required in many males in order to reach a new mental equilibrium. I did this. And I was not aware that males generally do this until I reached my late 40s.
This is not argument that the male approach is superior to the female. I am of the opinion that the different approaches to life between the sexes, are divinely devised to produce a healthy tension that mitigates the excesses of each gender. However, protagorean arrogance will be inclined to see male attitudes and behaviours in a female-dominated environment in the following fashion.
We’ve known for a long time that boys, on average, struggle with school more than girls do. Learning disabilities and behavioral problems are more prevalent among boys, and high school and college graduation rates are lower. Boys also receive two-thirds of failing grades and are more likely to find school boring or frustrating.6
A good teacher, whether male or female, overcompensates for their acknowledged proclivity toward deliberate or unconscious biases. This would certainly help to avoid the movement toward same-sex classrooms.
Although Third Wave feminism has reluctantly acceded to the realities of innate differences in gender proclivities, (although doing what cultural nationalists and imperialists all do; which is to exalt their own attributes and denigrate those of their adversaries), the ramifications of such recognition has certainly not worked themselves out in the education system. Indeed, Second Wave feminism and liberalism dominate and are prone to see these differences, despite the surfeit of hard and soft scientific evidence to the contrary to support Biblical contentions, as social constructs and stereotypes. 7 But then, the secular liberal is only hot on reason and science, when it serves their own self-serving interests.
Copyright © Johnny Hutchinson
- Christopher M. Cornwell et al, Non-cognitive Skills and the Gender Disparities in Test Scores and Teacher Assessments: Evidence from Primary School, February 21, 2012, http://www.terry.uga.edu/~cornwl/research/cmvp.genderdiffs.pdf, Abstract.
- Erika Christakis, “Do Teachers Really Discriminate Against Boys?” Time Magazine, February 06, 2013. http://ideas.time.com/2013/02/06/do-teachers-really-discriminate-against-boys/#ixzz2OXCRGkj2
- Gloria Steinem, “Speech at Palm Beach County”, Florida YMCA Fundraiser, March 22, 2002, http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/3/24/232249.shtml
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Household Data Annual Averages, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.pdf, “11. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity”, p 3.
- General Teaching Council for England, “One in four primary schools still has no male teachers”, BBC News, September 2, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14748273.
- Christakis, Do Teachers Really Discriminate Against Boys?
- Allie Bohm, “Teach Kids not Stereotypes”, ACLU, May 21, 2012, http://www.aclu.org/blog/womens-rights/teach-kids-not-stereotypes