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  1. Boys bad, girls good?
  2. School life | Cultural Programme
  3. Subscribe to read | Financial Times
  4. Editor picks
  5. Failing boys at school, failing society

Boys bad, girls good?

I want to outline what I think some of the issues are for teachers and those working in schools who are concerned to address the educational and social needs of boys see Lingard et al. While I believe that boys are experiencing problems in schools and have been for some time Cohen, , I do not agree that all boys are necessarily disadvantaged and that they need special attention.

However, I want to argue that there are certain issues that need to be addressed in any school that serves the interests of both boys and girls. These relate to helping boys to develop an understanding and awareness of how the social expectations of masculinity limit and impact on their lives at school and also on their relationships with others see Martino, My own research in Australian schools, as well as my collaborative work with researchers in South Africa and Canada, points to a lack of focus in many schools on encouraging boys to develop a broader definition of what it means to be male.


Rather, in many schools what gets promoted, both explicitly and implicitly through the hidden curriculum, is a narrow version of masculinity. In fact, boys are not often encouraged by other males in their lives to value expressivity, emotional literacy and nurturing capacities. These stereotypes, too often, prevent boys from developing a broader set of skills for coping and surviving in a changing society where interpersonal skills and emotional literacy are being valued more and more in the labour market.

Men have a very particular role in working with boys to encourage them to be nurturing and caring and to be in touch with their feelings. In schools I have encountered very few men who are committed to doing this kind of work with boys. They themselves are afraid of being seen as questionable by parents.

It is in this sense that homophobia often prevents the development of a healthy masculinity and emotional life for boys and men.

School life | Cultural Programme

This flies in the face of talk about the value of separating boys from girls at school because they feel embarrassed or self-conscious when girls are around. In fact, in my research with boys, many of them appeared to be more concerned about what other boys think rather than what girls think.

Students from Christchurch Boys High School perform Haka for victims of Friday’s attacks

So the question is how to encourage and embrace diversity and different ways of being a boy in our schools and society. Embracing what has been termed a productive pedagogies model of teaching and assessment is consistent with creating such conditions for active learning.

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This model provides a useful framework for thinking about creating the conditions necessary for engaging all students in higher order learning and problem-solving activities within the context of a supportive classroom learning environment Lingard et al. A focus on productive pedagogy in schools as the basis for professional development is what is needed see Darling-Hammond, ; Lingard et al. Failure to promote such critical thinking in schools for boys is to abnegate our social and ethical responsibilities as educators.

Alloway, N. Cohen, M.

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