Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor
Boys' performance in schools declining
More male teachers needed in schools
David Brooks shines a light on the worsening situation for boys in education [“Time to change the cookie-cutter approach to school,” Opinion, July 9]. While convincing in his case that there is indeed a problem, he comes up short on solutions, other than to point out the obvious fact that one size does not fit all.
As an educator and father to an adolescent male, I believe one solution is to increase the number of male teachers in elementary, middle and high school. When I was in middle school in the 1970s, at least half of my teachers were male. In stark contrast, my son had only one male teacher during the two years of middle school he just completed.
This is not to say women are poor teachers or that they don’t try to accommodate the needs of boys, but what better way to understand the male psyche than to actually be one? Having more adult-male role models throughout the day at school could go a long way in improving boys’ interest and success.
I did not like all my teachers, male or female, and surely not all of them liked me, but the six male teachers I can specifically remember — all very different in style, personality, and physique — no doubt contributed in some way to my modest success in school, even if just in allowing me to see myself reflected in the mirror of education.
— Vince Barnes, Edmonds
It’s a different world
David Brooks’ masculine ideal hearkens back to the 14th century. Henry V of England was best remembered for his military exploits in the 100 Year War; he died at the age of 35 of dysentery. His supposed “riotous youth” prepared him for a world that was populated by approximately 380 million people and where the most formidable instrument of war was the lightly armed warriors on swift horses.
Today, Henry V would be born into a world populated by approximately 6 billion people, the most formidable weapon of war is the nuclear bomb and life expectancy exceeds 80 years. Nevertheless, Brooks seems to despair of the fact that boys today are encouraged to grow into adults who are “nurturing, collaborative, disciplined, neat, studious, industrious and ambitious.”
What Brooks apparently doesn’t understand is that this planet can no longer support a culture that gives precedence to “military virtues” (whatever those are) and establishes a “zero-sum” game of “winners and losers.”
— Allan Cooper, Port Townsend
Boys are wired differently
Finally, an article about educating and engaging our boys and young men that makes perfect sense to me. Boys — whether others like to admit it or not — are wired differently from girls and often require different approaches in order to teach them successfully.
I agree with David Brooks that our boys and young men should be appropriately challenged; that they should learn to compete, etc. When my sons were in preschool and kindergarten, I would get numerous phone calls (aka complaints) from their teachers that they were distracted in class. One day I received a call in which I was told my youngest son was climbing on top/swinging off the monkey bars, and that I would need to pick him up from school for engaging in “inappropriate and dangerous behavior.” As a former schoolteacher myself, I was completely dumbfounded.
Boys need to have outlets for their energy. Let them engage in competitive sports in P.E. class. Let them have a longer recess where they are permitted to run, jump and yell at the top of their lungs. Boys also need to be intellectually stimulated and challenged in meaningful, long-lasting ways.
So come on, educators, get with the program!
— Kathy Hill, Duvall