A couple of weeks ago, I attended our school district's 8th grade graduation ceremony in my official Board of Education capacity. I found the award-presenting part of the ceremony fascinating, in that almost no boys received awards at all. Being the number-crunching geek that I am, and finally having a minute or two to do it, I sat down this morning to work out the exact numbers.
This particular 8th grade class is approximately 55% female, 45% male, for the record.
There were a total of 17 awards, some of which had multiple recipients. In all, 26 awards were presented, a grand total of five of which went to boys (and one boy received two of those awards.) Of those five, one was for excellence in physical education, and another was in a category that required a male recipient and a female recipient by definition (highest GPA for each gender.) That left a grand total of three awards that went to boys on the basis of character, intelligence/performance, personality, contribution to our community, writing skills, or anything else. Noteworthy is the fact that every single subject area performance award (math, language arts, computers, science, languages, etc) went to one or more girls other than the award for physical education, which was also presented to a female co-recipient.
I was embarrassed on the boys' behalf. The girls all but ran the table on them.
This is a good school. Clearly, the girls are learning what they need to learn and are doing well here. What's up with the boys?? Since my two sons are in this school district, I have to admit that these stats concern me in a big way. (NOLA and anyone else with teaching experience reading this, is this a normal middle school award distribution pattern???)
Separately, I recently came across an article in The Atlantic called "Stop Penalizing Boys For Not Being Able To Sit Still At School." Read this. Really.
For anyone who didn't jump to the link, the article argues that boys are disproportionately less able to behave in accordance with the expectations required in the traditional classroom model than girls, and that this behavior results in grade-related penalizing of these boys (and misperceptions relating to their intelligence and potential) starting as early as kindergarten.
It then goes on to summarize some the results of a study specifically directed toward finding pegagogical approaches that actually work for boys, approaches that specifically harness their comparatively greater (on average) competitiveness and activity levels.
You can bet that I will be forwarding this article and my rough calculations regarding our award percentages to our principal and superintendent. Food for thought in a big way.