The War Against Boys: Chapter 7: Why Johnny Can’t, Like, Read and Write (Part I, page 158-168)

November 10, 2010 | NeW Staff

According to Sommers, modern pedagogues favor a progressive approach to education, one that encourages creativity and group learning:

“Progressive pedagogues pride themselves on fostering creativity and enhancing children’s self-esteem. Exacting discipline and the old-fashioned “dry-knowledge” approach are said to accomplish the opposite: to inhibit creativity and leave many students with feelings of inadequacy. Progressives frown on teacher-led classrooms with fact-based learning, memorization, phonics, and drills. Trainees in schools are enjoined  to ‘Teach the student, not the subject!’ and are inspired by precepts such as ‘Good teaching] is not vase-filling; rather it is fire-lighting.'”
The United Kingdom realized that boys were falling behind in education. In 1988, a group of teachers began researching how to effectively teach boys, their findings were in direct contrast to the modern philosophy of education:
“In 1988, a council of British headmasters organized a clearinghouse of information on effective classroom practices and programs for boys. Nearly a decade later, they published a booklet summarizing what they had learned. Can Boys Do Better? describes specific classroom activities and teaching styles that have been tried at British schools as Moulsham High School in Chelmsford and Thirsk School in North Yorkshire. Nearly every suggestion violates some hallowed progressive tenet. Here is a partial list of the approaches that these practitioners found work for boys:
  • More teacher-led work
  • A structured environment
  • High expectations
  • Strict homework checks
  • Consistently applied sanctions if work is not done
  • Greater emphasis on silent work
  • Frequent testing
  • One-sex classes”

Sadly, the United States still has not successfully addressed the problem of boys falling behind:

“As far as I know, no one in the United States has considered the problem of language teaching in this light. The idea that some approaches are better for one sex than the other is not in itself politically incorrect, provided they favor girls. For the time being we cannot expect our public officials to suggest that teachers assign more boy-friendly materials.”
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