Professor Miles Groth says it’s attitude, not gender, that makes for a good teacher of boys and young men.
It is well known that boys all over the developed world are underperforming girls at every level of education. Some people have suggested that more male teachers are needed to help improve boys’ performance while others have said that adopting a male-positive approach to teaching is more important than the gender of the teacher.
One proponent of the male-positive pedagogic approach is Miles Groth, a professor of psychology at Wagner College on Staten Island, New York. Professor Groth recently published a paper in the international journal New Male Studies called “The Learning Style of Males and How to Involve College Men in the Curriculum”
According to Professor Groth, only 35% of those attending college and university in the United States are male and today’s undergraduate classroom today is typically a place where young men sit quietly.
Groth says that what these young men need is a male-positive pedagogic approach that depends not on the sex of the instructors but on their attitudes toward males. Here, with the permission of Professor Groth, we present some extracts from his paper outlining his approach to gender inclusive teaching.
“A certain kind of male or female undergraduate professor is to be desired now, a person who is as unashamedly male-positive as he or she is female positive. I now do for the boys in my classes what I did with the girls in my classes in the 1970s and 1980s when they were entering the disquisitional fray of college life in greater numbers and were often shy, not yet sure if they were welcome. I often now favor the boys as I often favored the girls then.
“Just as I did not assume that the “co-eds” (as we called them) were less apt and articulate than the boys, I do not now assume that the boys are inept and can’t put together a sentence, although that is what, sadly, we have been told in recent years and what their behavior often intimates.
“In short, I am male-positive at a time when boys are undervalued as I was female-positive when girls were not yet valued enough on campus. At the same time I remind myself that most boys tend to say less and am content with a brief communication from them. I often have to press them to speak, maybe urge them to say a bit more, and see what I can salvage of what the average sophomore conjures up.”
“I occasionally convey to a class that intelligence is not gendered while hinting that ways of expressing oneself as a male or as a female are gendered, both by disposition and as a result of socialization. I may then do a head count and point to the fewer number of boys in the class. A cursory indication of what is obvious is adequate, unless it has bearing on the topic we are considering (for example, in a psychology class where we might be talking about the play styles of male and female children or the “nature/nurture” debate).”
Speaking of his experience of teaching English, Professor Groth says:
“Often enough, the Western canon is condemned as being bereft of contributions by women and therefore has been increasingly discarded even at liberal arts colleges. Everything from the pre-Platonics and early Greek dramatists to literature up to 1960 (when gender was invented) was androcentric. So goes the claim.
“I might respond when hearing this from a bright undergraduate by reminding my class that while the canon was authored mostly by males, these men did not write about most men’s experience but only about the behavior of that small group of males who were politically powerful as a result of lording it over women, children and most other men and boys, and, of course, writing the books about the munificence and magnificence of their own behavior.
“With few exceptions—found in the work of the poets—the experience of these men (again, I stress, most men) has not been explored. Male experience (including that of the chief honchos by the way) remains an unwritten text. There is everything to read about their behavior, but scarcely anything about their experience. Philosophy, music and poetry somehow just appear. But as for the experience of the blokes, it remains mostly a mystery. There are a few exceptions; for example, the work of Herman Melville (where) we find some of the earliest insights into (forgive me) the male soul where experience arises.
“I would then say to my class: “Most of you boys in this class will, like me, not gain any power over anyone, especially now when power is allocated more and more without regard to gender. Moreover, you should remember that the power enjoyed by heroes, kings and presidents, bureaucrats and senators did not necessarily imply power over their own lives
“If you died in the line of duty as a hero, you were not a man with real power. Real power—power over one’s own life—has been denied to most men, as soldiers, as (until quite recently) the principal wage earners in a household, and as men who gave up much to the benefit of their partners, spouses and children. And, in view of this (to modify a title, the title of a novel by James Agee): Let us now praise most men—not famous men, but most men.”
“I think this might make the boys in that class feel more positive about themselves and make them more real to the girls who sit beside them and for the most part like them, after all is said and done.”
You can read the full version of Professor Groth’s paper online at New Male Studies.
—Photo Credit: Flickr/Murray State