Sunday, March 01, 2015

Debate on differences in learning patterns by gender continues

The “Sunday Dialogue” in the New York Times, on p. 8 in the Review Section, contains a sequence of letters to the editor on “How to Educate Boys”, link here There are a number of responses to readers to a posting to a California university professor, Sean Kullerton.
One point that gets made is that girls are more likely to go into math and science when schooled in gender segregated education, and boys may be more likely to take up areas like music, arts, communications.  Boys seem more likely to be curious about learning computer coding skills early, some learning object oriented languages like java as early as 12, giving an enormous advantage for future employment, even part-time work to support college.
But, up until the early teen years, girls mature faster than boys, both sexually and in terms of brain development, sometime being almost a year ahead.  This may be an evolutionary adaptation, that there is some biological advantage in a more primitive society to being able to have children earlier (which gets exploited in some authoritarian parts of the world).  Boys seem to catch up in brain development at around age 13 or 14.  It seems also that some kinds of activity, like music and even coding, may speed development up somewhat.  Mark Zuckerberg may be on to something when saying students should learn coding young.
As Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out (“The Outliers”) what time of year a kid is born can affect his or her progress.  Boys who are six or eight months older when they start school than their peers may have real advantages.   Growth occurs in spurts, and rapid changes can occur in just a few months. 

Update: March 8, 2015

Libby Nelson on Vox writes "5 reasons boys are falling behind at school" here

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