09 March 2011
Why Boys Fail
Whitmire, Richard. Why Boys Fail: Saving Them from an Educational System that's Leaving Them Behind. New York: AMACOM, 2010.
School has become more complicated than it used to be. High-stakes testing and the No Child Left Behind Act have led schools to introduce more tests and more class time spent preparing for tests. In order to get kids ready for all these tests, kindergarten has become K4, then K3, and in some places there are even K2 programs. And they seem to be necessary; how else will a child be ready to read in first grade?
And yet with all this testing and accountability, with the plethora of programs, we still see kids failing. And the majority of them are boys. Whitmire posits that this is due to an increasingly verbal classroom. Even math class, historically a haven for boys, has focused more on word problems and less on calculations. Add to this the plethora of young adult novels with female protagonists or softer themes and you have a recipe for failure. Many, many boys are failing, regardless of race, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Whitmire suggests that we look again at the way we run our classrooms and that we make the necessary changes so that boys can learn in the way they learn best. Boys need the critical literacy and writing skills that they are missing when they "tune out" a lesson that seems boring to them. And it's our job to ensure that they receive these skills.
I found this book to be a fascinating read. Many of the things I did in my classroom echoed what Whitmire suggested, but he had more suggestions that I would have wanted to try. Because he's right. By fifth grade, many boys are turned off to reading and to school and would rather be outside with a soccer ball or at home with a game controller. If you are an educator or a parent, this book is a must-read.