Scientists are constantly studying the human brain. Theyâ€™ve long been fascinated with the differences between the sexes, even more so when they are able to actually prove a behavioral theory with biology. Some recent studies have been about the developmental and learning differences between boys and girls.
An article in Newsweek (Sept. 19, p. 59), discusses a school in Kentucky in which these studies have been taken seriously. The school has segregated first and second graders by sex in order to teach directly to these differences. The school has had success with this experiment and plans on implementing it across all its elementary classrooms.
The classes offer such things as frequent exercise breaks for boys (since they tend to fidget more) and a carpeted area in the girlsâ€™ rooms so that they can sit down and share their feelings. The boysâ€™ multiple-choice tests are strictly timed since theyâ€™re more competitive. The girls have timed tests too, but with more time (presumably since girls arenâ€™t as competitive). The boysâ€™ teachers tend to speak a lot louder since boys donâ€™t hear as well as girls and the lights in the boysâ€™ rooms are brighter because they donâ€™t see as well as girls (according to the studies the school used).
Perhaps the success at this school is due to smaller classroom size? Or maybe the teachers are trying harder to make this work and so it does? Maybe teaching in one prescribed style is much easier on the teachers than trying various methods of educating in a hit-or-miss method? One of the theories that this school bases its educational principles on is that since school is mostly taught by women; it is unfairly biased towards female-learning methods.
There might be some truth to that statement, except that what I remember from elementary school points to the differences between the students, not between the sexes. I learn by doing and by reading. Iâ€™ve seen others who also learn by doing. Iâ€™ve seen kids who learn by listening because theyâ€™re too lazy to actually read. (There are other methods of learning, but I canâ€™t remember them right now.) All these individual learning styles seemed to have to do with individual personality and home environment. And every teacher had to adapt their teaching-style as much as possible to make sure the lessons got through to everyone.
My high school has a long-standing tradition of female valedictorians. I always felt it was due to the fact that most males didnâ€™t care as much about learning as about football. It wasnâ€™t a sex difference, per se, but misplaced priorities. I firmly believe that the differences between each individual person are greater than the differences between any group, including sex differences. For instance, I fail to understand how sharing my feelings will help my education or why I should feel this urge to share just because Iâ€™m female. I know for a fact that group therapy with any of my classmates would have scarred me for life.
It is obvious that boys and girls mature at different rates, with girls usually leading. This should lead to different teaching styles for children based on maturity level, instead of strict sex-segregation. Yes, Iâ€™m amused at the notion that boys are blind, deaf and dumb creatures that need to be coddled through public education. Mirth aside, this sort of thinking is very dangerous. It allows for convenient excuses instead of real effort. It does no good to promote one half of our society while squashing the abilities of the other half. Mankind has tried that and it doesnâ€™t work. Thatâ€™s not what equality is about.
A large part of the schoolâ€™s teaching methods are based on the studied effects of testosterone surging through boysâ€™ bodies. It isnâ€™t hard to extend this thinking in other ways. If boys are that much a victim of their hormones, then perhaps they shouldnâ€™t be allowed to drive (they canâ€™t concentrate for long periods of time and are easily distracted, according to the school). Since theyâ€™re so competitive and physical, they should not be allowed to lead a nation since they might get into a fit of testosterone-driven pique and go to war. If theyâ€™re such slaves to their hormones, perhaps they should be placed under strict watch and spend most of their days performing calming activities in quiet rooms. After all, we wouldnâ€™t want them to get out of control and do something rash, like shoot someone, then blame it on their testosterone cycle (yes, Virginia, men do have cycles).
Does this remind anyone of the Victorian attitudes towards women? It seems the roles are now reversed and we have to really work hard to accommodate the poor little slow hormone-ruled boys who just canâ€™t keep up with the girls. Boys are the new dumb.
Claims of social victim-hood always ends up robbing the power from the victims. It also allows that group to wiggle out of any self-responsibility. (Yes, there are many places in the world where the people are victims of corrupt governments. That is not the type of victim-hood Iâ€™m talking about.) Indulgent excuses, based on science, voodoo or whatever; does no one any good. The intentions of this school might be good, but it would be easy it would be to snowball the underlying assumptions into yet another problem our society doesnâ€™t need.
Unless, of course, boys are really eager to be the second sex for a while.