This comment was from wellokaythen on the post “Are Women Contributing to the Demise of Men?” by Tom Matlack on the Good Feed Blog.
I don’t think boys are being targeted or neglected so much as given the wrong sort of attention. Boys still seem to get more attention in school than girls do, and this may actually hurt boys more than girls in the long run. My impression is that girls are more often left to fend for themselves in K-12, so by the time they reach traditional college age they’re often more independent than boys are, because they’ve had to be. As a college instructor, I’ve gotten calls and e-mails from a dozen mothers asking me to find some way to give their grown sons a passing grade, sons who never showed up to class, by the way, but no calls ever from any parents about their daughters. The average grades that male students and female students get in my classes are essentially the same, and they fail my classes at the same rate, so it’s not like I’m clearly favoring one over the other. I’m trying to find an expression that’s more sympathetic than “being coddled,” but it’s difficult.
Sometimes the attention that’s meant to help and protect and diagnose and treat may make the situation worse in the long run.
There is clear evidence of different developmental paths between boys and girls, and it’s hard to say that it’s just cultural gender bias. Boys are at least 5 times more likely to be stutterers than girls, for example. I find it hard to believe there’s no physiological brain difference going on there. I’ve been a stutterer since elementary school. I’ve met dozens of other male stutterers in all sorts of contexts, but I’ve never met a female stutterer outside of group therapy. They hide it better, or else the “5 times as likely” is overly conservative. Anyway, I bring this up because in the case of stuttering the wrong sort of intervention with a boy can simply reinforce the behavior and define him as something actually could have grown out of otherwise. A boy diagnosed with ADHD will not be treated as a boy who just happens to have it, but he will be defined by it for the rest of his education, maybe the rest of his life. He’ll drag that diagnosis like a big sign over his head all through school.
I read somewhere a curious evo bio explanation that said that boys are more rambunctious and physical and restless because males have evolved to be hunters, so that’s why it’s hard for them in school to sit still or be quiet or pay focused attention. But, wouldn’t you be a BAD hunter if you couldn’t sit still or be quiet or pay focused attention?
photo: way2go / flickr