Single Moms Raising Sons: Are Schools Failing Our Sons?

“The culture of schools, especially for young children, is much more feminine than masculine. There are almost no male early childhood educators. Many teachers of young children find boys’ interests in violence, gross things, and bodily functions to be boring or stupid. We need to recognize that many of us have ‘internal prejudices’ against these interests. Just as we used to ask ourselves in the ’70s, ‘In what ways am I being sexist in my treatment of girls?’ we now have to ask, ‘In what ways are we disapproving of boys’ interests in our classrooms?'”

Joseph Tobin, Ph.D.
Professor of Early Childhood Education
Arizona State University.
Author, Good Guys Don’t Wear Hats

Is your son having trouble in school? Are his grades not where you think they should be? Is his behavior disappointing or even shocking? According to some researchers, in addition to checking on your son, you should also check out his school.

Some boys do well in school. They sail through as if the school environment was created with their specific needs in mind. They rise to the head of the class and continue on to rise to the take leading roles in business and society. For other boys, it is not that easy. They flounder and struggle and appear lost for no obvious reason.

What can be wrong with them? Perhaps the better question is what can be wrong with today’s schools? According to PBS, who aired a special on Understanding and Raising Boys, several things can be wrong with schools today.

On average, boys are less mature socially, less verbal and more active than girls when they begin school.  According to Michael Thompson, PhD, “we ask too much of boys developmentally in the early years and they taste too much failure and frustration in school,” says Michael Thompson, Ph.D.  Early frustration begets later frustration. They learn at an early age that school is a place they simply cannot succeed.

Although boys have not changed, schools have. Because boys are generally not as skilled verbally as girls, the fact that children are now taught to read in kindergarten is harder on boys than girls. “At age five, many boys are not ready to learn to read,” says teacher Jane Katch, author of Under Deadman’s Skin. “When I began teaching in the ’70s, children were not expected to read in kindergarten. Some first grade teachers actually preferred that children learn the alphabet in first grade, where they could learn to do it ‘the right way’!”

Boys are generally more active than girls and find it more difficult to sit still for long periods of time.  Most experts would say that physical activity is important for both boys and girls, particularly young children still developing motor skills. Physical activity may even increase a child’s ability to learn. However, most schools today have reduced or eliminated recess and outdoor play to meet the increasing academic demands. “Today, most kindergarten curricula expect boys to sit still much of the day and to do written work that many of them cannot master. Our demand for more and earlier skills, of exactly the type that boys are less able to master than girls, makes them feel like failures at an early age,” says Jane Katch. “The most tiring thing you can ask a boy to do is sit down. It’s appropriate to expect for kids to sit still for part of the day, but not all of the day,” adds Joseph Tobin.

What do you think? Do you believe schools are failing our sons? If so, what then is a parent to do? How do we help our sons achieve success even in an environment ill suited to meet their needs? 

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3 comments to   
Single Moms Raising Sons: Are Schools Failing Our Sons?

  • Anonymous is very informative. The article is very professionally written. I enjoy reading every day.

  • What grade is your son? Try to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlnata. Tremendous results have emerged from his school. He and the school have been featured on Oprah.

  • Phyllis Smith

    I’m very unhappy with what is happening to my son in his present school he is very bored and the teacher is not giving him anything to spark is interest which makes him a target for all the behavior problems that occur in the class. He is blamed for every act and is taken out of class and sent to another class where he gets no instruction and just sits. I want to get him into another school that will consentrate an his strengths. I need funding because there is no money to send him to a school we live in Dekalb county Stone Mountain. Is there a way to help him before he is lost forever? He loves science and will excel in an enviorment that can allow his strengths be supported.