Education Opinion

The Minds of Boys

November 11, 2005 1 min read

The numbers are chilling: Boys account for 70 percent of all D’s and F’s and 80 percent of classroom discipline problems. And every male student, Gurian writes, is “at risk of being taught ... in a system that ... may not know how to fix either him or itself.”

Once branded as an “incorrigible” youth, Gurian and coauthor Stevens argue that sedentary school settings have long conflicted with the way boys learn. But now, “standardized testing and other rigors” have sparked a crisis rivaling past worries about girls’ performance in math and science.

The authors argue that new research backs up long-intuited beliefs—that boys need activity and sensory experiences to learn and that their minds enter “rest states” that prompt fidgeting. The suggestions are often familiar: making lessons more visual, emphasizing PE and the arts, and allowing more freedom of movement. But a strong case is also made for single-sex classes, a tactic Gurian’s eponymous institute has helped some schools implement.

Whatever the approach, the authors say something needs to change. “Every time a teacher wonders why the boys are ‘trouble in the classroom,’ ” they write, “he or she is asking a moral question”—whether we should be changing boys, or the places in which they are taught.

—Mark Toner