Can you say “discrimination,” boys and girls?
Well, the boys probably can’t. The word has too many syllables, and besides, they are too busy watching the hilarious YouTube video of Johnny being hit in the groin with a ball, for the 634th time.
But we should all pause while they sound it out, because a new study says gender discrimination is alive and well in our classrooms – and this time, it’s the boys who are getting the short end of the stick (the same one, by the way, they use to clobber their pals during the playground sword fight).
The study finds that boys and girls who perform equally on tests are getting different marks, with the better grades going to the girls. The working theory to explain the disparity? Schools, and teachers in particular, are more girl-friendly, with today’s emphasis in classrooms on increased structure, zero tolerance for the foolishness boys have made their trademark (see: shots to the testicles, sword play, above), and participation over competition.
Girls, the study suggests, are favoured because they are much more at home in an environment in which students are encouraged to play nice, listen, raise their hands, print neatly, and not pass gas every second breath.
In other shocking news, weather can be unpredictable.
Now, while it’s easy to poke fun at the stereotypes of boys vs girls, we should not overlook any form of discrimination, nor be tempted to discount this one as just an evening up on the scorecard, in light of all the biases women have endured for centuries.
The worse grades that boys get – undeservedly, remember — place them at a disadvantage for future opportunities, like getting into university (a place where the phrase “boys will be boys” takes on a whole new meaning). And that could have a profound impact on their lives.
History shows us that the problem of boys struggling to fit into rigid educational institutions is not a new one. Albert Einstein’s teachers thought he was anti-social (guess they didn’t know a geek when they saw one). Thomas Edison was told by his teachers he was “too stupid to learn anything” (though maybe they were partially right – it did take him about 1,000 tries to invent the lightbulb. He should have read the directions).
So, what to do?
Well, the experts offer a range of ideas, from all-boy classrooms (do they come with gas masks?) to hiring more male teachers, to making assignments more boy-oriented (The Adventures of Spiderman comic book is a classic too, you know).
All sound suggestions, and worth exploring. We can take simpler steps too. Like accepting that young boys fidget, hit things (each other, especially), are more hands-on, and impulsively blurt things out. Rather than punish them for being who they are, the school system must learn to recognize boys as different from girls, not better or worse.
Adaptation, not discrimination, is required. Because no matter how many syllables the big, long word has, it is offensive, to all genders.