Why boys will be boys

The New York Times, October, 24, 2005 & National Post - Canada, October, 24, 2005

Mr. Gurian note that boys:

-Receive as many as 70% of D's and F's given in schools;
-Create up to 90% of classroom discipline problems;
-Constitute 80% of high school dropouts.


Boys receive as many as 70% of the D’s and F’s handed out schools and make up 80% of high schools dropouts, author Michael Gurians’s research shows.

Brains account for their classroom problems, author says.

Why boys will be boys

Anyone who thinks "boy culture" is an oxymoron never read 71ze Wonder of Boys, Michael Gurian's breakthrough book on the science explaining why boys do the things they do.

Mr. Gurian, a therapist and educator from Spokane, Wash., has written other books in the ensuing nine years, including several on girls and the differences between boys and girls. His latest.. The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Fallíng Behind in School and Life, deals with the disconnect between boys and the classroom.

Not all boys have trouble in school, he says. But many don't thrive in schools that want kids to sit still, take notes and write papers.
Mr. Gurian and co-author Kathv Stevens note that boys:

· Receive as many as 70% of D's and F's given in schools.
· Create up to 90% of classroom discipline problems.
· Constitute 80% of high school dropouts.

Their brains make them do it, Mr. Gurian says, and his book is filled with scientific research to explain why, along with suggestions for breaking the cycle.

Mr. Gurian talked about the latest neurobiological research, how boys learn differently from girls and what boys need to learn best.

Girls join gangs, gut 90% of gang members are boys. Boys are hungry for the group.

Q. It's been almost 10 years since The Wonder of Boys was published. Do you ever get tired of talking about the subject?

A. I don't think I ever get sick of it, but I wouldn't write about it unless I saw something, a hole in the public dialogue that needs to be filled. (In this case) it happened with regard to education, where you can feel that something bad is happening.

Q. One time through several of your books is that it takes more than one person, even more than two parents, to raise boys. Why is that and is it different for girls?

A. I think the three family system (creating a “tribe” to work together in raising children) is good for all kids. If I were going to make a distinction, it’s that there is a danger with boys. We (males) are more aggressive. We are driven by testosterone. We are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors. We are in danger, and we put the world in danger if boys are unsupervised.
Girls join gangs, but 90% of gang member are boys. Boys are hungry for the group.

Really, kids need four or five people to say, “Here’s who you can become, and we’ll help you.”

Q. Why are boys and organized education often a less-than-perfect match?

A. We’ve created an industrial greatest number of people, and (there are) several potential mismatches. The male brain goes to a resting state a number of times a day. If you’re saying, the way to learn is to sit … when (boys) sit down, their brain shuts down.

And industrial schooling relies on words, on writing. Many of these guys are not very verbal. That’s another potential mismatch, that guys who can’t read and write very well are being told that education depends on reading and writing. We have to look at other solutions.

And the third area is discipline. The industrial system values studiousness, quiet. And a lot of our guys don’t learn that way, so they’re discipline problems.

Q. Given the neurobiological differences in male and female brains, why do some boys do so well in school?

A. Industrial schooling does work for a lot of people. In a class of 30, I’d say you’re going to lose five boys and one girl. And if the teachers are really good, they can make anything work. They can teach to the vast middle of the spectrum, where the males have enough verbal strengths and the females have enough spatial (strengths). It’s just that there are so many more nonverbal males.

I don’t think people realize how a lot of this is hard-wired in. If the teacher would let (a boy) move around more when he takes notes, his notes would get better.

Q. Some teachers seem better suited to boys than others. What allows teachers to do well with boys?

A. They can put up with a little more noise. They don’t take things personally. They hold their authority. They might do it through jesting or jibing, and they will eventually lower the boom.

They have a sensitivity to the male need for movement. They’ll say you can draw as part of your brainstorming. A lot of teachers intuitively start with drawing before moving into words.

Q. What’s the most important thing parents can do for their sons? Or if you can’t limit it to one, the top four or five?

A. First is birth-to-three attachment. A lot of the assets the child will develop for education are (acquired) birth-to-three. It means we create an attachment system that includes (both parents) and certainly involves the day-care system.
Second, start a parent-led team (of relatives and family friends) and rely on it so that you’re never alone, especially when a child is in trouble.

Third, we need parents to advocate for teachers to be trained in how the learning brain works. If they see that a school is failing boys, parents need to politely insist that schools learn how to teach these kids.

Fourth, nutrition and screen time, what the kid eats and what the kid watches. (He recommends protein for breakfast, for starters.) If you stare at the screen for a long period of time the learning centers of the brain aren’t developing.
Fifth, pay attention to the emotional sensitivity of all boys but especially the 20% or 30% that are especially sensitive, the guys who are verbal, who are lower on testosterone, who are not strong on athletics.

Brain research indicates about one in seven boys is a bridge brain his brain is formatted on the female side. He’ll do better in school unless he gets so bullied by the dominant male hierarchy, which will never go away. It’s nature. If you have a son who is 12 or 13, and he’s hiding in his room, he’s stopped communicating, there’s probably something going on.

Q. You have two daughters. Has this research changed how you think about girls, as well?

A. It absolutely has. When wrote The Wonder of Boys, I was going to write The Wonder of Girls next. But The Wonder of Boys was a big book, and I ended up doing (more work on boys).

The greatest distraction for our girls is not math and science… it’s that there’s no support for stepping out (from the word world) when they want to have their own children.

We have to think about what our kids (will be) doing at 30 when they want to have children. I don’t think we have a good model for female life in an industrial culture.