Focus on education of boys right thing to do


It was bound to happen. No sooner than the Toronto District School Board’s education director announced his plan last week to establish schools and classes exclusively for boys, there were complaints that he was neglecting girls.

Dr. Chris Spence felt he had to respond quickly before things got out of hand so he posted a notice on Twitter to say that he was also thinking of separate schools or programs for girls.

Then, of course, the TDSB’s perennial complainer, trustee Josh Matlow, had to get in his two cents worth by suggesting that by going public (on Twitter) with this latest announcement Spence was somehow out of line and should have first discussed his plans with the board.

That, coming from Matlow, is a bit of a stretch, what with his incessant complaints and comments to the media, mostly the Toronto Sun, on just about anything to do with education in the city. Does he usually talk with his colleagues on the board before spouting off to the Sun on board or education matters?

The issue is not about favouring boys over girls. It is not about leveling the playing field for boys either. Both boys and girls have the same access to education in this city.

The problem is that boys – not all, but many of them – are not taking advantage of the available education opportunities in the same way that girls are. And, the challenge is to find a way – or ways – to change this.

Boys and girls are wired differently. Boys may have a tendency to play more, roughhouse more and be more disruptive in class than girls. They also may focus more on sports, for example. Girls, on the other hand, seem to be more focused when it comes to their education.

Again, this is not true for all girls or, indeed, all boys. But there is enough evidence to show that boys and girls are progressing at different levels with the boys being left behind, sometimes by a wide margin.

Check the statistics. In just about every subject, girls are way ahead of the boys.

So, efforts by those charged with the education of our children to look for ways to address this are commendable and should be supported.

For decades, many in our community have suggested a connection between delinquency among our young men and their high dropout rates and noted that if the one is successfully addressed, it is quite possible that the other will be affected positively.

There has been growing concern over the rising crime rate among young boys and young men, both within and outside of our community. A poor education puts severe limits on employment prospects and future growth. It is reasonable to assume that poorly educated young men with little or no job skills could turn to crime.

So, seeking better ways to educate boys now may also be a way to turn many of them away from criminal behaviour later.

Should there also be separate schools or classes for girls? Of course, if the evidence supports it.

But, focusing on boys now is the right thing to do. Separating them from the girls may help them to concentrate more on what is going on in class instead of them feeling that they have to show off and play tough to impress the girls.

Just separating them, however, is not the complete solution. Teachers tasked with educating boys must be capable of doing so. And there must also be the understanding that all boys will not take to education in the same way or be interested in the same things. To be successful, educators will have to be able to determine from early on the needs of each of their charges and to help guide them in a way that will keep them motivated and engaged. Otherwise, we could end up with the same or similar results.

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