Saturday, August 17, 2013
Do boys learn differently from girls? Should boys start school later?
The print version of Arlington Magazine (for Arlington VA) has a long story by Kim O’Connell in the September-October 2013 issue, p. 41, “Learning the Hard Way: Is our educational system biased against boys?” The issue isn’t online yet; you can watch for it (or subscribe) here.
The article does discuss the different wiring and neurochemistry of boys’ brains, which may explain why a large number of boys are way behind girls in school, at least with conventional teaching methods.
A lot gets written that girls, early in life, mature more rapidly than boys, who don’t catch up until puberty, at about age 13 or 14.
My own personal observation, having worked as a substitute teacher and from meeting people in places like suburban protestant churches in high income areas, is that generally the gender effect is much less important with “upper middle class kids”. Boys raised around articulate and well-educated parents often seem to have done super well in school and demonstrated various talents (like in music, drama, and the like) which are well developed even by middle teen years. And some boys have become prodigies in technology, learning to code java or various programming languages and devices by 13 or so. So environment seems to have a major interaction with hardwired neurology. It may be also true that boys who are less “competitive” physically or borderline autistic (or who show mild Asperger’s) have better than average verbal skills, and show a learning pattern more like that of many girls.
But whether boys should be educated co-educationally (or girls for that matter) is a good question, and even the proper school starting age is a good question.
Some authorities say that parents should consider holding back kids born in later summer. My birth date is July 10, and I did start first grade in public school at age 6. But I may have been younger than average, possibly by several months. At low ages, that can make a real difference, especially for boys.
On the other hand, “backyard baseball” play activities in the middle school years had me competitive with boys three years younger, so most of my physical non-competitiveness was intrinsic in some way.