Boys in Trouble at School

Monday, September 29, 2008

Boys get expelled from preschool nearly five times more often than girls. Find out why boys tend to underperform in our educational system, and what can be done to close the learning gap between boys and girls. Peg Tyre is author of The Trouble with Boys.

Weigh in: We’d like to hear from parents who have both sons and daughters. Have you noticed big differences in your children’s educational experiences, and how much of those differences are due to gender?


Peg Tyre

Comments [33]

Mistie from Black Mountain, NC

As a Lead Teacher in a 4 year old preschool classroom, who has 19 boys and 5 girls, I am feeling like the case study for Peg Tyre's book. At the same time, in my personal life, my 16 year old brother just dropped out of high school after years of struggling to just make it through. My sister and I have both attended graduate school and I have been amazed at the numerous times my family has heard, "That's just how boys are." When are we going to realize that EVERY child has potential and that our jobs as educators are to encourage and recognize that there are multiple learning types and that we cannot squeeze children through some sort of educational mold. It is time for parents as well to become active and vocal community members instead of allowing schools and government standardized tests to determine their child's value. I encourage you to refer your friends and teachers to listen to this segment, just like my friend mentioned it to me.

Sep. 30 2008 11:18 PM
An Clerckx from greenwich CT

I have a 6 year old daughter and a 5 year old boy. My daughter is academiccaly remarkably faster than my son but my son is much much faster at any motoric related subject like tennis, soccer.... I am sure girls are just faster, I am belgian and we consider it common knowledge that girls are about 2 yrs more mature than boys also when they are teenager ( what will make lots of them end up with boyfriends a few yrs older, they are on the same level, boys your own age seem childisch)
we came to the states in april and i find US schools very tough, we are in a blue ribbon nominated school and every time they mention that I am wondering what they do with kids who are a bit slower. that children are EXPELLED from PREschool, i simply CANNOT understand. I love being here but the competetiveness in this society is almost tangible. I think about half the kids will brak under that pressure before the puberty ( next to academic scores they heva afters in Japanese ??? have to be the best on T ball./ my daughter has a minute lunch break because they do not have more time ????) I hope my kids can be kids for a lot longer, they need to be up trees and finding crabs on the beach in stead of learning they need to be on wall street to be succesfull in life.

Sep. 30 2008 09:40 AM
Betsy Geiger from West Orange, N.J.

Bravo to Peg Tyre and her excellent and informative book. I have been in Education for 35 years teaching preschoolers and loving every minute of it. Yes yes yes -Let's get basics not academic basics but social and emotional basics into our schools. When we will realize that children have to be actively involved in their education and that they learn in different ways? It behooves us to plan an environment that is positive for each child .each temperment and yes for each gender. Boys and girls complement each other. The key is acceptance -finding the cognitive match and directing all that energy towards a meaningful experience. Let's get off that 'drumbeat for academics' train and create schools that work for children, instead of making children fit the school.
It's time for parents to take a stand and insist that there are more developmentally appropriate experiences for their children in nursery school. I'm waiting to hear the roar of the knowledgeable parent!!

Sep. 29 2008 09:26 PM
Richard from Texas

I can relate fully to the stories about boys being more of a problem in schools. As a child with a genius IQ, I would finish all of my work quickly, become bored and cause trouble for the teachers. The California public school system had the wisdom of labeling me ADD, and placed me in special ed. The result, easier work, more bordom and more trouble. So, I hear exactly what I have lived through.

Sep. 29 2008 06:54 PM
Lenora Lapidus from ACLU Women’s Rights Project

Clearly there are problems with our public education system, but let's not oversimplify the issue as one of boys vs. girls.

As the mother of a daughter in first grade who is excellent at math as well as other subjects, I am keenly aware of the inaccuracy of gender stereotypes and how important it is to not assume that all boys and all girls are the same. In fact, study after study has shown that the differences among girls and the differences among boys are far greater than any differences between girls on average and boys on average. Some girls have problems sitting still at their desks, some boys are good at literature, some girls do extremely well under pressure, some boys struggle with abstract concepts, and the list goes on. While there may be some average trends, it is critical in addressing existing problems in our public schools that we not create new problems by reinforcing gender stereotypes. Such stereotypes are especially rampant in sex-segregated classrooms – a distressing and growing phenomenon – where gender stereotypes are used as the basis for so-called innovative teaching methods.

Each individual child's strengths and weaknesses should be taken into consideration, regardless of sex, and teachers should use a variety of teaching methods so as to meet every child's needs. Only in this way can we hope to improve education for all of our children.

Sep. 29 2008 02:15 PM
rn from manhattan

Yes, boys and girls are definitely wired differently, but I'm sick of hearing the excuse "boys will be boys!". There comes a point, say by 3rd, 4th grade, where being a boy does not and should not be an excuse for being physically aggressive, rude, or being the school yard bully. My daughter has attended her public school since kindergarten, and the boys who were trouble as kindergarteners are the same boys who are trouble in 4th grade. These are the boys whose parents sang, and continue to sing the 'boys will be boys' song. Boys old enough to know right from wrong must be able to take responsibility for their actions- but it is the parents responsibility to instill these values.

Sep. 29 2008 01:43 PM
sara from montrose, ny

wow, reading all these comments makes me feel so much better to know that i am not the only one. i'm a mom of a 6yo son who has trouble with sitting still. we have been blessed with a k teacher and now a 1st grade teacher that understand him and are willing to do unconventional things to help him fit in. i have spent 6 years trying to convince my mom and his friends moms that he just needs a chance to mature. he's getting there but the rigid structure of school will always be a challenge for him

Sep. 29 2008 01:40 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

Lisa Mertz,

I’m the most non violent person you’ll meet. Yet I played cops and robbers and army and cowboys and Indians and all those “violent” role playing games. I even made my own wooden guns. Yet at 39 years old I’ve never been arrested, never started a physical fight and never owned a real gun. Why? Because my parents taught me the values I needed to exist in this world with all others around me. Sure my peers had great influence over me and I did more then my share of stupid things but at the end of the day it was my parents that made sure I was going in the right direction. Not the schools and not society. Oh and by the way my dad left the house when I was seven and my mom worked full time. The broken home syndrome is not a valid excuse to give up on a kid.

If you want to seriously get to the root of influence of violence I’d say the first place to look is at the parents. I don’t think I’m special because my parents were such a big influence on me. Had my dad beat my mom or my mom beat my sister and myself, I’d think I’d look at violence in a very different way then I do now….

Sep. 29 2008 01:07 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Education, like everything else has to change with the world!

Stop crippling these kids with drugs and useless labels. Shame on the drug companies!

What? did ADD just invent itself after we baby boomers graduated? Stop this non-sense.

Sep. 29 2008 12:51 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

Thank you, thank you, and thank you for stating the obvious those video games are not linked to violence. Logic will tell you that if video games are a direct link to violence then juvenile violence rates would be off the charts. Millions of kids and adults play violent video games every day yet they don’t go out and commit crimes. I don’t play video games but censorship is censorship and it’s something that should not be tolerated, especially by an illogical notion.

Sep. 29 2008 12:40 PM
Todd from NYC

wow, this really hits home. I'm one of 5 sons. My school years were pretty normal. I graduated high school on time and attended/graduated college without any problems. My younger brothers, who are twins, had a different experience. They were considered real "discipline" cases throughout school. They barely got through high school, suspended weekly and never engaged in any school activities. But they took music and other things very seriously and are not stupid. A couple of years in recording studios, in the work force and general life experience did wonders for them. They really became more mature and focused. Both are now in college, one at the New School and the other at Columbia. And both are excelling. Granted they're a little old (28 yrs old) to be going after an undergraduate degree but they're proving a lot of people/teachers wrong by doing so.

Sep. 29 2008 12:40 PM
Snoop from Brooklyn

Leonard, "reverse" discrimination is just plain old discrimination.

Calling it anything else is just enabling judging people on their gender or race.

Sep. 29 2008 12:38 PM
Dr. Denise Long from Montclair, NJ

Another comment, schools have by and large removed all of the curriculum that appeals to children who are intelligent in their hands or with their bodies. Because of this, it marginalizes children who have these very important ways of being intelligent. We need to respect all kinds of intelligence and have programs available for all of them, every day. After all, we need all of those skills in the real world.

Sep. 29 2008 12:38 PM
Marco from Manhattan

Single sex elementary schools should be re-introduced.

Sep. 29 2008 12:37 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

I think kids are bore with the curriculum in general. They need to computerize the class rooms and add more physical activity the kids day.

In this hightech world the kids are bored to tears and antsy looking at the black/green board!

Stop labeling them ADD etc.

Sep. 29 2008 12:37 PM
Lisa Mertz from Queens

I don't understand how she can proclaim that boys are not learning violence b/c violent crimes numbers are down -- what about all the young men who are from the poorer neighborhoods where there would be more crime but who have gone to Iraq -- where they have unfortunately committed violent war crimes like torture?

What's wrong with trying to raise children to be compassionate, opposed to war and opposed to violence?

Sep. 29 2008 12:36 PM
maggie from morristown nj

When these younger boys get a bit older, they'll be fantasizing about sex. Should the schools encourage fantasy sex play at that stage?

THere is no reason to encourage violent fantasy play.

Sep. 29 2008 12:35 PM
mk from rockaway

I agree with Snoop: that what should be considered normal for boys is pathologized, especially in a context where it develops in contrast to girls, who are much smaller, weaker, and slower.

I imagine it also has to do with a related fact: that in terms of "the future", it is much easier for a man to rely on getting a physical trade job, etc.

But then I admit to having ADHD...

Sep. 29 2008 12:33 PM
Dr. Denise Long from Montclair, NJ

A study done awhile back showed conclusively that children do better in school, most notably children who are active and hyperactive, if there is just 5-10 minutes of exercise every hour - this could be as simple as standing next to the desk and doing a few jumping jacks or walking around the classroom! Why don't we do that? Why don't we do the simplest thing to help children be able to stay focused, stay active, and be able to learn? There's no point trying to cram more information into a head that cannot listen. It's pointless. Ask any teacher.

Sep. 29 2008 12:28 PM
Kathleen Thomson from Irvington, NY

As an graduate of Edina East High School, I'd like to correct your pronunciation of Edina, MN: ee D(EYE)na (not AhDEEna)

Thanks. The show is fasciting to me; I have a 9 year old son who suffers the same problems your guest is discussing.


Sep. 29 2008 12:26 PM
Lisa Reneson from Lyme CT

Hi, I hear Peg Tyre's descriptions of boys in elementary school and it fits my son to the T. As a parent, I feel so powerless to help my son sometimes. He's been tested and tested. They can't pinpoint his issues other than excess impulsiveness possibly related to Executive Function. He's not ADHD/ADD. I really think it's just a matter of maturity. He's been expected to fit in a certain mold and he doesn't quiet fit in. First Grade is going well so far because his teacher makes certain accomodations. For circle time, he sits in a chair instead of on the floor. In lineup he's given something to carry so he doesn't touch his friends. These little things help. So far, he loves school despite constant interventions. Luckily he's an extremely bright confident child. I"m going to purchase Peg's book to see if there are some suggestions. Thank you for this show! :)Lisa

Sep. 29 2008 12:25 PM

do the problems in question correlate directly with physical gender, or with attitudes and behavior patterns that are usually associated with gender? do "tomboys" tend to have the same problems as boys?

Sep. 29 2008 12:22 PM
Marco from Manhattan

Anyone who has had children knows that boys and girls are "wired" differently. Avoiding this obvious fact is a recipe for educational disaster.

Sep. 29 2008 12:22 PM
MichaelB from UWS Manhattan

Like most things in life, the intrusion of a political agenda in education is a double-edged sword, and the chickens have come home to roost. Unfortunately, these boys have borne the penalty.

Boys and girls are radically different, but we have a one-size fits all approach. The pendulum has swung too far in satisfying the political-correctness axe that too many are grinding on the backs of our children.

Sep. 29 2008 12:16 PM

The guest talks about girls and boys in school, yet seems to focus almost exclusively on the girls and boys part of the equation. I have experienced the points raised to be true in an highschool environment, only to see them totally disappear in college and university. It seems to me then that there is also a problem on the other side of the issue: with the schools themselves.

Sep. 29 2008 12:16 PM
Lara Pellegrinelli from Long Island City

The incidents with Larry Summers at Harvard speak to the inequalities in math and the sciences at a graduate and post-graduate level. Women are still vastly in the minority in most fields despite efforts at recruiting.

Sep. 29 2008 12:14 PM
Snoop from Brooklyn

Boys and girls are different. And they have different ways of behaving the classroom. The problem for boys is that their normal behavior is pathologised. Girls are rewarded for their normal behavior.

Time we tried to fix this problem.

Sep. 29 2008 12:10 PM
Tom from Brooklyn

We have slanted so much of our attention toward educating girls during the past few decades, that boys have been completely neglected. Worse, boys are meant to feel bad simply by being boys, as if they should pay for the sins of their fathers. . This has created a self-fulfilling prophecy for boys. I am not surprised by this at all. Many of us have seen it coming for years.

Sep. 29 2008 12:10 PM
Francis Torchio from Bronx, New York

The problem with boys is that they are boys. boys are frequently penalized because they are all over the place whereas girls are rewarded for being quiet and complacent. One solution would be to segregate the sexes at least in the lower grades. Another chronic problem is the anti-intellectual bias in this country. In school the hero of the school is usually the star athlete, not the star pupil, Revenge of the Nerds not withstanding. Both of these problems need to be dealt with if boys are to succeed.

Sep. 29 2008 11:58 AM
Janice from Forest Hills, NY

My son's inability to sit still in class is very much in part related to the fact that what is expected of him at barely age 6 does not come naturally. For years I've watched the little girls sit, listen attentively, color, and tuck into crafts while he'd rather look around the room and explore the various toys. I sometimes wonder if part of his (not every child's, just his) PDD diagnosis is simply boyish behavior.

Sep. 29 2008 08:29 AM
Sophia Vailakis-DeVirgilio from Queens

I have a 20 year-old dyslexic son, & am confounded that professional educators are the very people I've had to fight to get my son vitally needed services. He is still repairing the damage.

It makes no sense that the very people whose profession is education, at best support those with learning disabilities the least, but usually fight such help with the most ferocity. The contentious and combative relationship advocates for those with LDs are forced to have with "educators" is contrary to logic. If a kid is having difficulty learning & the schools can't accommodate the his needs, the child should not be made to fail through every, poorly constructed, incompatible approach that the system has & in the process destroy him. This probably costs as much or more than doing what’s right. Those who are supposed to be in the business of teaching should be the ones to correctly identify a problem & the school system should have the right remedy or a proven alternative should be easily available. My son once said that “when a kid fails in school, he fails in life;” those who need the most help are treated like failures instead of helped. The school system has all the resources that our tax dollars are paying for & if they are incapable of properly providing for a child who doesn’t fit in any of the square-peg-holes offered by said schools, those who have the least resources should not be victimized by the very system they look to for help.

Sep. 28 2008 03:52 PM
Virginia Maybank from Westchester

My son's story has been a more mixed bag. He had too much energy, took too long to learn to read, had trouble remembering his homework assignments, and always wanted to speak in class. The teachers were focused on encouraging the smallest voice to be heard and didn't notice that the loud boy needed direction, guidance and a kind word just as much. He was sent to learning specialists, diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities and made to feel like a failure at a very, very young age. He has struggled through school all these years, constantly being told that he is doing something wrong but he keeps going because he LOVES learning. He loves solving problems, loves discussing history, politics and philosophy. He is an intuitive learner who always does well on tests, much better than his sisters, and yet the schools always found fault with him. I console myself knowing that he will be fine once he is out of high school but I don't understand why our educational system constantly rejected this boy and made him feel like such a disaster.

Sep. 27 2008 01:29 PM
Virginia Maybank from Westchester

I have two daughters and a son who are all now teenagers. I remember vividly looking at preschools for my first child in 1991 when every school was focused on getting the girls engaged in the classroom because it was assumed at that time that the classroom was stacked against our daughters. They put dolls in the block area, read books about female heroines and as the children grew, attempted to separate the sexes in math and science classes so that the girls would not be intimidated by the aggressive and impulsive boys. Instead of history homework being about history, the girls enjoyed multi-media art projects that were only tangentially connected to the subject they were studying. Because many of the girls got very nervous when taking tests, homework assignments counted for more and more, the neatness of the notebook was graded and the students were judged and graded on the process rather than the result. My daughters thrived, enjoyed school and were constantly praised for their accomplishments.

Sep. 27 2008 01:29 PM

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