Megan Rosker agrees with David Brooks that we need to understand how boys best learn and work together to collectively insure their success.
New York Times author and commentator David Brooks writes about the need for educators and parents to embrace more diversity in their understanding of how to educate children in his recent post “Honor Code.” In today’s world, we have a culture that heavily favors qualities most often found in girls. Schoolchildren are asked to sit longer, focus and concentrate more, and read earlier. They are told not to roughhouse or play violent games on the playground. In many schools, there are no longer competitive sports because we don’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt. Kids gather in the friendship circle, hold hands, sing and share their feelings. If my five year old daughter could design a school, this is what it would look like. (It would also be painted pink with rainbows and everyone would eat jelly toast and play tea party and there be absolutely no boys, especially her brothers!) If our idea of a proper school lines up this closely with my daughter’s vision of a utopian education we have a problem. Yet this is what I see — that we have gone too far in embracing a culture that doesn’t embrace our boys.
When we tell our boys too often to stop bring gross and playing rough we are telling them the instinctual way they want to play is wrong. When we tell them to stop being loud and stop playing space alien where everyone dies because they have been shot in the eye with a poisonous dart, we aren’t embracing the fact that for many boys this is the kind of imaginative play they love. What’s wrong with that? Why do we have so much trouble actually embracing the diverse type of learning and play that boys want and need?
We pay lip service to wanting diversity, but as Mr. Brooks points out we actually have a very homogenous educational atmosphere. We expect all students to act and learn in a similar manner and if not, we want to intervene until they do. This is not diversity.
If we actually created a school that was founded in the principles of diversity, people would rise and fall on their merit. Instead, we are setting up our children to believe that they rise and fall on whether they adhere to the policies of the group, the culture, the whole. We are leaning heavily in the direction of our children acting and learning as one gender. Is this the right way to educate kids?
We have reached a point of being fearful of children succeeding or failing. We don’t want our collective kids to shine in the classroom or on the sport field because if one person is succeeding it also means there are those who are failing. We are petrified of the reality that not everyone can win and what if it is our kid who is losing. We fear the judgment of our friends and neighbors because we know with that judgment we will undoubtedly judge ourselves and question ourselves as parents. We worry our kids will grow up to hate us if we don’t ensure their success. We seek our children’s approval by giving away success. We fill their bookshelves with awards for arm wrestling, the tri-state area hopscotch competition and participants awards for bowling, the kazoo choir and completely two weeks of summer camp.
But what if we are wrong? What if they grow up weaker, feeling entitled to success they haven’t earned? Kids, especially boys, need competition; they need to succeed on their merit so that they know what they have to uniquely offer the world is worthwhile. It is a huge detriment to our children to continue to create a homogenous educational culture that is heavily weighted with feminine traits. It isn’t fair to our sons. As women, we rebelled when men didn’t embrace our strengths, when society shunned our intellect and leadership. Now we have flipped the coin and are spending a great deal of our time repressing our sons in a very similar way that young girls were repressed prior to the feminist movement in the west.
What is so difficult about embracing that each gender, each individual, learns and plays differently? Our boys are not succeeding in school. It is time to consider their needs and how they learn. While it may initially make us uncomfortable to think that we are actively repressing our sons, it is in their best interest to start talking about this elephant in the classroom and as Mr. Brooks says “schools must engage people where they are.” We need teachers, school leaders and parents who are willing to embrace the idea that boys aren’t rambunctious cretins, but in their masculinity they have a greatness to offer the world.