The Gender Education Achievement Gap: how it used to be, what changed, what “they” say, what researchers say, and the way forward

The report begins with some background on how it used to be (with many more young men going to college and graduating compared to young women) and how it has changed over the last five decades.  Then it goes on:

The puzzling gender achievement gap and what “they” say. But why do boys get lower grades than girls, and why have they responded so much more slowly and partially to changes in the job market that have increased the rewards for academic achievement? Researchers agree that it is not because girls are smarter. In fact, while boys score slightly higher in math tests and girls score slightly higher in reading tests, overall the cognitive abilities of boys and girls are very similar. The difference in grades lies in effort and engagement. On average, girls are more likely than boys to report that they like school and that good grades are very important to them. Girls also spend more time studying than boys.

Many observers believe that boys’ lower engagement with school is a result of biological differences between males and females. They say that boys need to engage in rough and tumble play, get their hands dirty, build things, and read books about war, espionage and sports if they are supposed to learn. Boys fail, they claim, because schools do not give boys enough opportunities to do “boy” stuff.

What we say.We do not agree. Our research shows that boys’ underperformance in school has more to do with society’s norms about masculinity than with anatomy, hormones or brain structure. In fact, boys involved in extracurricular cultural activities such as music, art, drama, and foreign languages report higher levels of school engagement and get better grades than other boys. But these cultural activities are often denigrated as un-masculine by pre-adolescent and adolescent boys — especially those from working- or lower-class backgrounds. Sociologists C.J. Pascoe and Edward Morris relate numerous examples of boys who strive for good grades as being labeled “pussies” or “fags” by their peers.

 Commentators who emphasize boys’ special needs usually propose that wemake schools more “boy-friendly” by offering single-sex classrooms where “boys can be boys,” by recruiting more male teachers, and by providing more rough and tumble activities. Our research shows that, contrary to what is rapidly becoming “conventional wisdom,” this is precisely the wrong strategy. Most boys and girls learn more in classrooms where girls are present. In classrooms with more girls, both boys and girls score higher on math and reading tests. And several recent studies refute the claim that teacher gender matters for boys’ or girls’ achievement.

The briefing report closes with two key findings that point a way forward:

  • firstly that it appears that one reason for girls being more interested and engaged in pursuing education is that boys appear to have less understanding of how their future success in tertiary education and careers is directly related to the amount of effort they put in during their secondary education;
  • secondly the culture of a school around expecting, valuing and rewarding academic achievement is the most important predictor of boys’ achievement.

Suggested reforms centre on developing school cultures that set high expectations, treat students as individuals rather than gender stereotypes, and motivate all students to make the investment in their education that creates the best odds for them achieving higher education and stronger employment prospects.

The win-win news is that the same reforms that help more boys achieve college success help girls as well. For example, schools with strong science curricula not only promote male achievement but increase girls’ plans to major in science and engineering. Schools that promote strong academic climates reduce gender gaps in grades and promote healthy, multi-faceted gender identities for both boys and girls. In education, as in the rest of society, it’s time to discard the zero-sum game of the “gender wars” mentality and start helping males and females to work together for success.

h/t Girl With Pen


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64 Responses to The Gender Education Achievement Gap: how it used to be, what changed, what “they” say, what researchers say, and the way forward

  1. Donna L says:

    Everything the report says makes a lot of sense to me, but:

    healthy, multi-faceted gender identities

    What does this even mean? What is an unhealthy gender identity?

    • theLaplaceDemon says:

      I think they might have meant “gender roles” rather than identity.

    • amblingalong says:

      What does this even mean? What is an unhealthy gender identity?

      I read it as meaning ‘gender expression,’ not ‘gender identity;’ i.e. enabling girls to feel confident expressing strong opinions, or being into science/math, boys being unafraid to show interest in academics or music/art, etc. I definitely agree that it’s not the right term.

    • Meera says:

      I understood it to mean that cultural pressure to act in accordance with a narrow view of gender-acceptable behaviour is unhealthy.

    • A4 says:

      I came here literally to ask the same question. The more I study gender, the less I have any clue what most people are talking about when they discuss it.

      • Emolee says:

        A4, me, too. I deeply respect other people’s (both trans and cis people’s) lived experiences of their gender identities. I just don’t feel like I have any gender other than what has been assigned to me, and what I have just gotten used to due to society’s coding of me. So maybe I just don’t get how gender identity feels? Or maybe it doesn’t apply to everyone? Or maybe I am gender queer?

      • Alliemma says:

        I feel the same way! I don’t fit in a box.

      • roro80 says:

        Or maybe your personal gender just fits really well within what is expected, so there was no discord between the gender you felt and the gender that society assigned to you? I mean, I don’t know, obviously, just a suggestion of a possibility. I think lots of people — myself included — fall into that category (assigned gender = true gender), which is why it’s tough for so many of us to understand the lived experiences of those whose assigned or birth gender is so far off from their internal self-knowledge. I was born a girl, and I always felt like a girl, and now I am a woman, and I have zero internal discord with that. It’s not so simple for everyone.

      • klaym0re says:

        I actually struggle with this all the time myself. I mean I like girls, and I have a dick, but since neither of those 2 things define me as a “man”, in what since am I one? Why call myself a man when I could be the same person and call myself a woman, or something else? What’s the difference?

      • Computer Soldier Porygon says:

        I feel the same and it really really confuses me.

      • Computer Soldier Porygon says:

        Or maybe your personal gender just fits really well within what is expected, so there was no discord between the gender you felt and the gender that society assigned to you? I mean, I don’t know, obviously, just a suggestion of a possibility. I think lots of people — myself included — fall into that category (assigned gender = true gender), which is why it’s tough for so many of us to understand the lived experiences of those whose assigned or birth gender is so far off from their internal self-knowledge. I was born a girl, and I always felt like a girl, and now I am a woman, and I have zero internal discord with that. It’s not so simple for everyone.

        Personally speaking, I don’t think so. I feel plenty of internal discord and conflict w/r/t my assigned gender… I don’t feel ‘like a girl.’ I don’t know what that even means. What does it mean to feel like a girl? What does it mean to feel or be feminine?

      • Emolee says:

        Or maybe your personal gender just fits really well within what is expected, so there was no discord between the gender you felt and the gender that society assigned to you?

        I am sure that there is a certain amount of “privilege blindness” going on within my analysis, since I am cis. However, I don’t think that is the extent of it. I have defintely been uncomfortable with and “fought” the gender that society assigned me (and I am not just talking traditional gender roles here, although that is part of it). For a while in high school and college I wondered if I was trans (although I didn’t have that vocabulary for it). I have since realized that I am definitely not. I identify as a woman, which is the sex I was assigned at birth. But I think I may be gender queer or gender fluid. A gender fluid woman.

      • Emolee says:

        To clarify something I worded poorly above: *female* was the sex I was assigned at birth, and along with that assignment came the expectation that I would grow up to be a woman, which I did, thus I am cis.

        It is hard for me to understand, let alone explain, why I identify as both a woman and as gender fluid. I am going to think more about this. The gender fluid-ness has to do with my brain sex (I also have a history of hormonal “imbalances,” for whatever that’s worth), while the woman part has to do with the way I fit into the world, and the way I have been treated and mistreated based upon my having a female-coded body, and the fact that I am *very happy* with my female-coded body.

        Please note: I don’t expect anyone else to figure out their gender dependent on any of the factors that I used, and as I said above, I deeply respect and believe people’s experiences of their own gender identity. I just think it works differently for different folks.

      • roro80 says:

        Emolee and Computer Soldier — Please don’t think that I was trying to get you to fit into how I think of myself; I apologize if it came off like that. I just saw “I just don’t feel like I have any gender other than what has been assigned to me, and what I have just gotten used to due to society’s coding of me” and that matched with what I felt in that my gender has never made me uncomfortable. (Gender roles? Different story!) It sounds like both of you have a lot more going on in that area than I do. In any case, if “gender fluid woman” feel right to you, Emolee, I say go with it until/unless it doesn’t at some point :)

        As for what makes someone “feel like a girl”…well hell if I know. I was more of a hammer-n-nails and legos sort of girl than a doll girl, and while I always liked boys, certainly sexuality is different than gender identification. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone who has had to fight for the *right* to “feel like a girl” would be a lot better at explaining it than I am. It’s something cis folks of course don’t ever have to articulate (privilege), but at least those trans women I know say they “felt like a girl” from a very young age. All I can say is that so did I; I just never noticed it all that explicitly because it was the gender I was assigned to, and therefore expected.

      • Emolee says:

        roro80, I did not think you were trying to fit me into anything, and I think the point that you brought up is a really valid one (and a point I almost raised in my original post). I think cis people have the privilege to not think about gender identity, much like white people have the privilege to not think about race. A white person at my work orientation said something along the lines of “I’m white, so race has not been a factor in my life.” Uh, no. You just didn’t *notice* it having an affect on your life!

        So, while I think I do have cis priv, I don’t think this is really what is driving my uncertainty about my gender. Because I *have* thought about my gender a lot, and felt uncomfortable with it a lot (I said I am happy with my female-coded body, but that was not always the case).

        I think gender is just something I have a hard time grasping or nailing down in any way for myself. In fact, I have been known to feel jealous of trans people who *do* feel their gender so strongly (even though I acknowledge that they have it really hard in our transphobic society). I am also bisexual, for what that’s worth, and I am one of those bisexuals for whom gender and/or sex is simply not an issue to me in sexual attraction.

      • Donna L says:

        I just noticed this subthread, so in case anyone is still interested, all I can tell you is that “feeling like” a girl or woman isn’t something that I can precisely define either, using words, beyond saying that it has nothing whatsoever to do with liking dolls vs. toy soldiers or anything else that superficial. And that I always felt “wrong” being, and being perceived as, a boy — in a way that’s also difficult to define, except by the term dysphoria itself, a sense of everything always being “off,” of things always being out of alignment to a greater or lesser extent, of there always being a sort of filter between myself and the world, and myself and me, that made it very difficult for me to interact with people. And that always somehow knew what was necessary to make things better. And I was right. It was almost like magic, as if everything slid into place, from the very first time I ever went out in public as “me” (as an adult, anyway), on April 26, 2003, nearly 10 years ago, and, in parallel, from the time my body began to feel more right to me. I can’t explain it any better than that,

      • Computer Soldier Porygon says:

        Thanks for your response, Donna. You are a cool lady.

        My whole deal is that I really don’t feel comfortable being identified as a woman – where I get tripped up is, do I feel that way because I don’t ‘feel like a woman?’ Or do I feel that way because being identified as a woman has always meant bad stuff in my, y’know, pretty limited experience, and so being identified as a woman has always been so uncomfortable to me for that reason? Referring to myself as a ‘woman’ even in this comment feels a little weird but given my presentation and lack of dysphoria relating to my body itself I feel like it would be pretentious or something to NOT identify as a woman.

    • Emolee says:

      I read it as promoting a space where boys and girls can feel free to incorporate wider interests, behavior, etc. than is sterotypically assigned to masculinity or femininity.

      I agree with others that this was a poor way to phrase it, and I don’t think they mean gender *identity* at all.

    • Tyris says:

      One that’s used against you like a straitjacket instead of by you like a pic-‘n’-mix cup?

  2. JetGirl says:

    Huh. The research I’ve been doing on the subject showed that both boys and girls fare better in math when in single-gender classes, at least in middle school. This is based on a six-year experiment on a public school in Southern California. Teachers and administrators put it down to less distraction. *shrugs*

    • amblingalong says:

      I’ve seen a ton of conflicting research from reputable people, to be honest, but I also think the argument for gender-integrated classrooms extends beyond pure academic achievement. YMMV.

    • SamLL says:

      Here’s a literature review in Science magazine from 2011 titled “The Pseudoscience
      of Single-Sex Schooling” that seems convincing and references a great many primary sources.

      • Henry says:

        I miss my subscription to Science. It’s much better than reading the politicized bullshit int he regular press. It either works or it does not. Absent better outcomes, there is no rationale to sex segregate school classrooms.

    • Plop says:

      My grandmother (who was in a single sex school and high school) is totally against it. She was refused an entrance at university because the “girl high school was not as good as the boy high school”.

      It might be important for certain kids to have precise environment at moments of their lives, but segregating is a sure way to teach sex difference.

    • theLaplaceDemon says:

      I mean, it may well be true for that particular school – I suspect that there are many factors that contribute to the gender dynamics and student achievement in a given school. Though I doubt “distraction” is the cause.

      • JetGirl says:

        Agreed. I just found it interesting. This particular school only segregated for math and English. They have since ended the experiment, citing funding and scheduling issues.

  3. “But these cultural activities are often denigrated as un-masculine by pre-adolescent and adolescent boys.”

    I’d also add, although it’s somewhat redundant, denigrated as gay as well. In high school, I had long hair, was a huge bookworm with nerdy/geeky interests, and I was called a f*ggot quite often. So were my equally nerdy/geeky friends. Thankfully, I was contrarian enough that my response was to join my high school’s GSA as a straight ally, but if I hadn’t been…

    However, it’s not just coming from the kids. One of my strongest moments of feeling like a weirdo was when I won an English essay-writing prize and the head of the English Department gave a speech about how unusual it was for two boys to win the prize in the same year, as if we were some strange specimen that had been discovered.

    • Rob in CT says:

      Yup.

      I went to a very well-off, excellent public high school. 97% of graduates went to college, and something like 95% graduated. Translation: everybody was going to college. Nearly everyone in the school came from an educated, affluent household.

      And yet, nothing put a target on your back like obviously enjoying school. I was the nerdy kid who found the uncomfortable silence in class after the teacher asked a (usually really easy) question to be horrible, so I’d eventually answer. Sometimes, I’d even ask questions myself! Class participation, more than anything, was apparently an invitation for abuse. Pussy, fag, nerd, loser… check, check, check, check. Of course, being small and weak made me a soft target.

      I remember thinking wow, if this is how it is at *my* high school, what’s it like elsewhere?

      When I see some article decrying the state of public education in this country (and you see those often), I rarely see any mention of this toxic anti-learning culture.

  4. Bonn says:

    As I recall, one reason girls do better in single-sex classrooms is that they’re less afraid of raising their hands and speaking up than if boys are present. Particularly into the high school years. (You don’t have to look any further than Mean Girls for one of the answers why.)

    As far as boys, we never did figure out what would get my brother to actually turn in his homework. But let me tell you, no amount of bribery could do it, and there was a distinct difference in how my mom handled my “failures” (Bs, in other words) versus my brother’s.

    Basically, I was punished if I got a B. My brother was rewarded if he got an A. I got sick my sophomore year of college and school took a little longer than it “should have.” I was made to feel an idiot for it even though it was well beyond my control. My brother failed classes or got not-good-enough grades (lots of morning classes and a problem getting out of bed) and took the same amount of time. No one cared.

    To this day my mom insists that his GPA was higher than it was, and I’m not sure why. (I graduated with honors–again, no one cared.)

    I’m not saying everyone’s family is like this, but I know that pushing girls to be “perfect” both physically and academically is not uncommon. A lot of behaviors that people let slide for boys they won’t let slide for girls. And I’m not saying that this is the whole problem, but certainly it could be part of it. Expectations all around are much lower than they were historically speaking, punishments for goofing off barely exist (not saying they should), and then what incentive does a boy have to do well? Especially if he’ll be branded a “fag” by his peers?

    So we end up with a culture where girls–whose place in society is still not decided–must be perfect. They have to work for it to begin to be included in society and to achieve. And “boys will be boys.”

    • You may not be everyone, but I’ll never stop being surprised by how many women recount having that exact same or similar experiences.

      Lowered expectations could be a lot of it; whenmen are going to get asspats from everyone for doing medicre work anyway, there isn’t that much incentive to excel.

    • Katz says:

      My experience wasn’t quite the same, but it was similar. My parents stressed academic achievement for my brother and I. We both got reprimanded when we got poor grades so we tried our best to do well. However, his good grades, awards, etc. were always met with exclamations about how smart he was and how everything came naturally to him whereas my parents reasoned that my achievements were a result of just doing my school work. This may seem like a petty distinction, but it always really bothered me that my parents reacted to our achievements so differently. He got excessive praise about his intrinsic intelligence and I got shrugs accompanied by “Well, you turned in your homework so of course you got an A. What’s the big deal?”

      • igglanova says:

        I hate this. I may be going out on a limb with this, but I never hear anyone describe specific women or girls as intelligent, brilliant, or ‘super smart’ (an annoyingly common swoon I encounter with peers describing adequately intelligent boys or men). Women are never given credit for intelligence or ingenuity. It’s always shit like ‘hard-working’ and ‘driven.’

        I wonder about others’ experiences – whether people have noticed this phenomenon, or if I’m suffering from a biased memory.

      • I wonder about others’ experiences – whether people have noticed this phenomenon, or if I’m suffering from a biased memory.

        Nope. You’re not. Hell, I used to have extreme difficulty self-identifying as intelligent, though I was aware I am and my parents in particular took care to bolster that in me. It felt like bragging, in a way that saying I was hardworking or efficient didn’t. I had to train myself to say it, with a therapist and a wife egging me on. Now I’m all “Fuck you, I’m smart.” And I STILL feel the need to attach the “fuck you” to it, internally or out loud.

        Then again, I also used to be stricken with terror, to the point of panic attacks, at the idea of accidentally ordering the last of something at a store because WHAT IF SOMEONE GOES HUNGRY AND DIES BECAUSE THAT’S ALL THEY EVER EAT. (Yes, I am aware this is crazybrain talking.) So maybe I’m overstating the barrier a teensy bit.

      • Librarygoose says:

        This is the exact reason I call my niece smart. I tell her all the time how intelligent she is and when asked she’ll tell you she’s “a genius girl” who “does math and spells words”. I want to normalize considering herself intelligent.

        *she also likes to yell “Ingenuity!” when you ask her how she did something like tie her own shoes. She’s my little social experiment.

      • igglanova says:

        *she also likes to yell “Ingenuity!” when you ask her how she did something like tie her own shoes.

        Ok, that is hilarious and adorable.

    • Lolagirl says:

      As I recall, one reason girls do better in single-sex classrooms is that they’re less afraid of raising their hands and speaking up than if boys are present. Particularly into the high school years. (You don’t have to look any further than Mean Girls for one of the answers why.)

      I attended an all-women’s college (back in the 90’s, for whatever it’s worth) and this was definitely what I found to be the shared consensus among my classmates. We had a coeducational “sister school” literally across the street from us and a standing arrangement wherein students at both schools could take up to two classes a semester at the other institution.

      I was really, really stunned at how different my classroom experiences were at the coed school when I took classes there. The women rarely, if ever, spoke up in class and pretty much never challenged the guys whenever they expressed their opinions. That was a pretty stark contrast to my college, where class discussions and debates where always pretty no-holds barred affairs. I got the impression that the occasional guy who took classes at our our college were also pretty surprised when they weren’t given the opportunity to throw their manly weight around in class and monopolize discussions. In retrospect, I really appreciate how I was given the opportunity to think critically and express my opinions in such a non-restrictive environment.

      I don’t know, I kind of feel like I’m supposed to feel embarrassed about having attended a single sex school and really enjoying it. But I don’t, because the education I received was stellar, and I feel like I was really given a the tools to go out into the world and be a good feminist and otherwise good person after I graduated. I’m definitely happy that I didn’t pursue admission to the coed sister school instead, I really don’t believe I would have been happy there or recieved the education that I did at my college.

      • I got the impression that the occasional guy who took classes at our our college were also pretty surprised when they weren’t given the opportunity to throw their manly weight around in class and monopolize discussions.

        Reason #1 I love being an English major. There’s usually just one guy or two in even a bigger class.

      • Librarygoose says:

        Yeah, my major was really heavily skewed toward women. I disappeared into a rabbit hole of classes either about gender or dominated by women professors and women students. When I took classes with more men as students I was always thrown by the difference in experience for awhile.

        The only exception were my blacks studies courses which were even gender wise but I participated in a different way because of my privilege.

  5. klaym0re says:

    I thought there was a bunch of research showing that girls were naturally better at math than boys in primary grades, and also that girls do better with woman teachers?

    Also I thought the decline in the academic performance in boys was considered a) not large or long enough to be considered a “big deal” by most of the talking heads, and b) irrelevant to the success of boys later in life since most boys statistically don’t use “the pipeline” to get jobs?

    Is any of this true or have I just been reading the wrong news or something?

    • SamLL says:

      Re: “girls do better with woman teachers”: “several recent studies refute the claim that teacher gender matters for boys’ or girls’ achievement”, with two links to primary sources, in the excerpt above.

    • Past my expiration date says:

      I thought there was a bunch of research showing that girls were naturally better at math than boys in primary grades, and also that girls do better with woman teachers?

      What does “girls are naturally better at math than boys” mean, and how would research show this?

      • Meera says:

        Yeah, if we’ve figured out a way to do social research that eliminates social factors and leaves us with some ‘pristine’ biological phenomenon to study, I’d surely like to know about it.

      • A4 says:

        Even if we did figure that out, it certainly wouldn’t be relevant.

      • klaym0re says:

        I wish I could remember where I saw the study but I remember seeing something several months ago where a set of girls and boys were given math problems specifically beyond their grade levels and the girls outperformed the boys entirely. Sorry for not having the study on hand to reference and turning that comment into hot air :(

      • theLaplaceDemon says:

        That still doesn’t say anything about natural ability? Even if the math problems are well beyond the grade level of the kids, there are a bunch of factors that could account for that, many of which have nothing to do with math at all – for example, the girls could be better mentally prepared to tackle novel problems. Or the problems could involve a level of abstract thinking that, for whatever reason, is further along in the girls then the boys.

      • klaym0re says:

        the study claimed it was natural ability that made the difference, but I can’t find or remember where I saw the study so it’s moot at this point.

  6. Ann R says:

    In my personal opinion, the problem with with the school system is that is attempts to make all students learn the same things in the same manner. Regardless of gender, there are many students who do learn better when allowed to explore, take things apart and put them back together, work with their hands, and other hands on activities. Not everyone learns well through a book learning or lecture style environment. So many high schools in the US have eliminated classes like home ec, auto shop, and shop class. Everyone should not be forced to learn the same thing. Why can’t all genders work together, say, rebuilding a car during an auto shop class. Why is this type of learning seemingly inferior to studying classic literature? We shouldn’t be focusing on how to make boys and girls learn better in a classroom, because all genders who don’t learn well through this textbook/classroom style fall through the cracks. We need to focus on a new way to teach and learn that involves much more than the classroom. Personally, I’d love to see tons more schools modeled after the Sudbury Valley School in Mass.

    The study indicated that girls have a better understanding of how their future career success is related to how much effort they put in. Is the answer really to make boys understand this? Should your grades in high school have this much power to dictate your future? I personally don’t think so.

    • er says:

      Not to mention that several things specifically listed in the study – art, drama, music – as beneficial to all students, and to boys in particular, have been cut drastically at almost every public school. I agree with you about different ways of learning affecting students differently; moreover, everybody’s brain can benefit from the “stretching” it gets by exercising different parts, like art, music, shop/building, cooking (and of course baking is a lot like science, and ditto art, these classes can reinforce each other in great ways).

    • RichardVW says:

      Everyone should not be forced to learn the same thing. Why can’t all genders work together, say, rebuilding a car during an auto shop class. Why is this type of learning seemingly inferior to studying classic literature?

      In America at least, many people have decided that the best way to fight economic inequality is to shove as many people as possible into 4-year colleges and universities. This was decided in response to the many American employers who mistakenly believe that they are entitled to minimum wage peons who understand the finer points of nuclear engineering and Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique.

      • catfood says:

        “We pay based on industry averages.”

        “We hire only the top candidates!”

        Um, these two don’t go together.

    • EG says:

      Why can’t all genders work together, say, rebuilding a car during an auto shop class. Why is this type of learning seemingly inferior to studying classic literature?

      From what I can tell of entry-level salaries for careers in publishing, literary criticism, and auto mechanics, it’s not, not if we’re judging by material rewards.

      When it comes to social status, though, the answer is classism and class exploitation.

      • Ann R says:

        From what I can tell of entry-level salaries for careers in publishing, literary criticism, and auto mechanics, it’s not, not if we’re judging by material rewards.

        When it comes to social status, though, the answer is classism and class exploitation.

        This is a very good point that I hadn’t really thought about when I wrote my post. Even though the pay may be the same they social status is definitely not the same.

      • TomSims says:

        “When it comes to social status, though, the answer is classism and class exploitation.”

        Spot on.

  7. Athenia says:

    In fact, boys involved in extracurricular cultural activities such as music, art, drama, and foreign languages report higher levels of school engagement and get better grades than other boys.

    Do they do better than boys who are engaged with sports? If so, do we know why?

    I know that sports gave my brother self-esteem when school work wasn’t necessarily doing it. Self-esteem is very important to succeeding in school and life.

    • Golvio says:

      I think that if a child has a passion in a field that also gives them a strong sense of belonging and community, that can do wonders for their self esteem. Sports worked for your brother probably partly because he’s athletic, and partly because of the sense of community a good team can foster. The same thing happened to me in Drama club. The distribution of genders in that club was about 50/50, but there wasn’t the “distraction” or drama described by single sex classroom handwringers. When you’re working on a school play that all of the parents and local musical enthusiasts are going to watch, there’s this huge sense of “we’re all in this together.” Combine that with the fact that everyone regularly interacted with each other inside and outside of rehearsal and you could say that the theater club formed its own community.

      But that can happen with any sort of club or extracurricular activity if it’s A) set up in a way that fosters working together and B) everyone involved is passionate about what they do, and the people who aren’t sure if they want to be there get infected with that passion and find their niche within the group’s “community.” When you can contribute to something that’s bigger than yourself, and you know that your contribution is important no matter what position you are or role you’ve been cast into, you feel much better about yourself.

  8. Pingback: What Puts Male Students at a Disadvantage? | Clarissa's Blog

  9. TomSims says:

    “Sociologists C.J. Pascoe and Edward Morris relate numerous examples of boys who strive for good grades as being labeled “pussies” or “fags” by their peers.”

    That was true even way back in the 50’s and early 60’s when I was in school.

  10. PM says:

    http://www.terry.uga.edu/~cornwl/research/cmvp.genderdiffs.pdf

    According to this new research using a large early-education US dataset, boys who get test scores equal to girls’ still tend to get lower classroom grades due to non-cognitive skills: in other words, they don’t behave as well.

    • in other words, they don’t behave as well

      Patriarchy’s Plan For Boys:
      Step 1: Absolutely refuse to socialise them properly or give them any sense of personal responsibility, forcing boys to learn what they can on their own.
      Step 2: Require total obedience on the hidden curriculum.
      Step 3: ??????
      Step 4: STRONG AND HEALTHY SOCIETY!

      • PM says:

        Yep. And the nail that sticks up gets hammered down, unfortunately. Not only for the boy or girl, but for all of us, for our society.

      • Tyris says:

        If it were written as part of some dystopian-future novel, it would be panned as “unbelievable.”

  11. Past my expiration date says:

    in other words, they don’t behave as well.

    I think that “they don’t behave as well” is an oversimplification of what they were measuring — which was the “non-cognitive skill” “Approaches to Learning”, which includes ratings on, for example, eagerness to learn new things, persistence, and creativity.

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