Want Boys to Succeed? Don’t Teach Them How to Be “Masculine”

It is no secret that our nation is facing a crisis when it comes to boys’ education. Boys are lagging behind in almost every subject, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. According to NPR, boys are not only falling behind in school when it comes to the grades they receive, but also in their overall graduation rate and their participation in advanced placement classes. This also makes them less likely to pursue education after high school and, if they do, makes them less likely to be successful.

Recently, the attitude towards this growing national issue has been to create more boy-friendly classrooms, sometimes going as far as to create single-sex classrooms. The idea behind this solution is that, when boys are in classes with other boys, the teacher can target his or her activities to that audience, creating more hands-on and physically active assignments that will help boys learn.

The problem with playing into that “boys will be boys” mentality when it comes to education, though, is that it doesn’t seem to work. According to the new Gender Achievement Gap report by the Council on Contemporary Families, treating boys like the stereotypical rough-and-tumble gender only serves as a detriment to their education:

Our research shows that boys’ underperformance in school has more to do with society’s norms about masculinity than with anatomy, hormones or brain structure. In fact, boys involved in extracurricular cultural activities such as music, art, drama, and foreign languages report higher levels of school engagement and get better grades than other boys. But these cultural activities are often denigrated as un-masculine by pre-adolescent and adolescent boys — especially those from working- or lower-class backgrounds… Our research shows that, contrary to what is rapidly becoming “conventional wisdom,” [single-sex boys classrooms are] precisely the wrong strategy. Most boys and girls learn more in classrooms where girls are present. In classrooms with more girls, both boys and girls score higher on math and reading tests. And several recent studies refute the claim that teacher gender matters for boys’ or girls’ achievement.

The report details options for helping boys in school, and the most interesting of them all is the suggestion to start treating boys more like we treat girls. This means that we need to ditch our traditional notions of masculinity in school. We need to encourage boys to participate in more tradiationally female-dominated activities such as drama, music and art and strip these activities of the stereotype that they are not masculine. We also need to paint a clear picture of how academic success translates into financial success for boys like we do for girls.

These changes will definitely benefit boys, but will also benefit girls. There is already ample evidence that shows that girls’ and boys’ ability levels are not different, and that they don’t actually learn that differently. Furthermore, when we start rethinking our definition of masculinity, as educators and as a society as a whole, we will be headed towards a much better society for women and men.

Related Stories

Single-Sex Classrooms Encourage Gender Stereotyping

The Myth of the “Girl Brain”

Single-Sex Schools “Bad” for Boys and Girls?

Photo Credit: Enokson


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

too many are being taught not to care, or to focus too much on sports

Sue T.
Susan T4 years ago

thank you everyone for your critiquing of my comments, appreciate the feedback. So I am a racist, snide and snarky, lol love you 2 kevin can you feel the love tonight

Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

Your very right Sue T when it comes to, not just Africa but you would be pretty spot on if you thought that. India is one of the major countries who have been known to have murdered so many women, around about 25,000 in a year and it still goes on. Pakistan is another country where women have acid thrown in their faces just because these men don't give a damn. Somalia, Sudan and all around those countries, even in places like Syria it happens if the men don't get what they want. Places like Afghanistan girls are restricted to going to school and if they buck against it they will feel the heavy hand of doom.

Ashley D.
Ashley D.4 years ago

Indeed Rosemary. Masculinity need not mean brutality but protecting of the weaker sex.

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H4 years ago

Well, this sparked off an argument!

Lydia, I appreciate your comment -

'One of the most beautiful sights in the world is a young man who does not equate masculinity with brutality. REAL men show their strength by being kind and protecting those weaker than themselves...regardless of sex or species.'

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W4 years ago

thank you

Prosper E.
Past Member 4 years ago

Been sneaky, underhanded, prejudice, hypocritical, vengeful, conniving
materialistic and condoning gendercide culture for 30 Cents are all the
traits of a “Light & Love” age!

Sharon Tyson
sharon Tyson4 years ago

Seems as if we need to rethink all of our 19th century ideas of education. The world is changing fast and we need both genders fully educated and functional to participate in a meaningful way. We are capable of this change but the question is do we have the will.

Magdika Cecilia Perez

some of earth is still stuck in dark ages with macho sexist attitudes

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Sue T. said "I feel you are encouraging the continuing dynamic of your cultures men dominating women ...and I say NO! not in this country girl. you ain't in Africa anymore."

And "we all have to work harder, be honest (stop telling gang bangers to not snitch) HONEST. get off your ass and get a crappy job, i have one, I don't like it but it is a job."

And "question, I break a law i go to jail, get fined, lose a bunch of my rights. Why are illegal immigrants gbiven a pass:?"

I don't know Sue, maybe the person making all of the racist comments should "just go away"?