Ali started her talk with data that showed just how many boys are underperforming as against girls. She stated three main reasons for this:
(1) Zero tolerance in schools: Schools do not allow swords, knives and guns. Boys (and girls) are not allowed to write about violence and video games.
(2) There are fewer male teachers in schools. In U.S. elementary schools the number of male teachers in the totla teaching workforce has fallen from 14% to 7%. This means that there are very few male role models for boys in school where they spend six hours or so a day for five days a week.
(3) The curriculum has become compressed. As Abi says “kindergarten is the old second grade”. This means that teachers, who are pressurised to get test results put pressure on their students to succeed in tests which gives turns boys off.
What she feels needs to happen to combat this is:
(1) The video games industry need to design better games to engage and educate children
(2) There needs to be more men in the classroom where zero tolerance needs to be relaxed
(3) The curriculum needs to be uncompressed so that boys (and girls) can express themselves creatively and explore new ideas.
I have to admit that many of Ali’s points struck home with me. Her hard data of just how many boys underachieve in relation to girls and how many become “special needs” or are diagnosed with ADHD or ADD should make politicians and school administrators take note. There is a lot of sense in her solutions as well. But her point is well made about the yolk of the testing regime that compresses and starves the curriculum of the sort of open-ended creativity that would allow boys to flourish.