Sunday, October 03, 2004


"Simply put, modern schools are not boy-friendly. This can be seen from the time boys enter school, when many of them are immediately branded as behavior problems. The line of elementary school kids who used to gather every day after school in my son's class for their behavior reports--all boys. The names of kids on the side of the chalkboard who misbehaved and would lose recess--all boys. The nine million children, many as young as five or six, who are given Ritalin so they will sit still and "behave"--almost all boys.

Girls get better grades than boys, and boys are far more likely than girls to drop out of school or to be disciplined, suspended, held back, or expelled. Boys are four times as likely to receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as girls, and the vast majority of learning-disabled students are boys. By high school the typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing.

Modern K-12 education is not suited to boys' needs and learning styles. Success in school is tightly correlated with the ability to sit still, be quiet and complete work. The fact that many young boys are bodily kinesthetic learners who crave physical, hands-on and energetic lessons is inconvenient, and is thus largely ignored.

The trend against competition and the promotion of cooperative learning strategies run counter to boys' natural competitiveness and individual initiative. Group projects and lessons in which there are no right or wrong answers, and from which solid conclusions cannot be drawn, tend to frustrate boys, who often view them as pointless.

Efforts to make schools gentler and to promote women's writing, while understandable, have pushed aside the action and adventure literature which boys have treasured for generations. In their place are subtle, reflective works which often hold little interest for boys.

The dearth of male teachers--particularly at the elementary level, where female teachers outnumber male teachers six to one--is a problem for boys. The average teacher is a well-meaning and dedicated woman who always did well in school and simply cannot understand why the boys won't sit still, be quiet and do their work. Instead, boys need strong, charismatic teachers who mix firm discipline with an understanding and good-natured acceptance of boyish energy".

More here


The British authorities seem to regret it but are still not doing anything about it -- such as indemnifying teachers who take on extra responsibilities

Children are missing out on life-changing adventure pursuits because teachers fear they will end up in court if things go wrong, says Ofsted. "Outdoor activities such as canoeing, rock climbing, archery and sailing are in decline as schools opt for less risky courses or drop adventure training altogether, says David Bell, the Chief Inspector of Schools. Teachers have been prosecuted, and one was imprisoned for 12 months last year, over the drowning of a boy on school visits. Schools also fear compensation claims from parents if children get injured.

The reduction in outdoor education is part of the wider trend of limiting risk that has led to the banning of "dangerous" playground games, such as marbles and skipping, and the curtailing of sports such as rugby. A fall in the number of educational visits to give pupils a taste of challenging pursuits such as mountaineering or abseiling has been fuelled by the decision of the second largest teachers' union to advise its members against taking responsibility for them.

Chris Keates, the acting general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said Mr Bell's comments were "unsympathetic and dismissive" of schools' very real fear of litigation. The union was dealing with a long list of cases where teachers had been unfairly blamed when things went wrong or been victims of malicious allegations from pupils on residential visits. While some tragic cases involved the deaths of pupils, others were unsubstantiated allegations of abuse, she said.

In one case, a member of the union was taken to court after a mother complained he had spilt fruit juice over her son's head in a farm's dining room. The case was later dropped when the CPS offered no evidence.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "The fact is that accidents can happen. With so many parents turning to the courts at the first sign of a problem, schools are right to be extremely cautious in their approach to the organisation of outdoor activities. "Regrettably this has created a situation in which many teachers have felt unable to take on the additional responsibility. This has led to a reduction in the number of visits which are a vitally important part of the educational experience, especially for children from families that could not otherwise afford them."

More here


"Schools will be required to issue all students with report cards in plain English and give children a grade from A to E if the Coalition wins Saturday's federal election. The Government will also introduce new national numeracy and literacy tests for year six and year 10 students. The results sent to parents will show how their child ranks against a national benchmark.

The overhaul of reports, to be announced today, would be introduced for the 2005 school year and Prime Minister John Howard wants the system to apply in government and private schools. The Government believes plain-English report cards and gradings will be extremely popular with parents. Schools and state governments will be asked to sign up in return for their share of the $31 billion in federal funding for schools.

The new report cards will give students a grade of A, B, C, D or E. There will be no F-grade. The cards must also show how the child compares against national standards and against the other children in the school. The requirement for schools to make a national comparison aims to guard against a parent being told their child is top of the class but not that the school is underperforming.

The move is likely to anger some states and teacher unions who oppose class rankings and believe students should be measured against academic standards and not the performance of their classmates.....

Mr Howard and Education Minister Brendan Nelson are driving the changes to school reports because they say parents have asked them to do it. Mr Howard believes some school reports are "meaningless" and give parents no real idea how their child is progressing. He wants them to give parents a simple, easily understood explanation and is scathing of some report cards that say a student is "almost achieving" or "working towards" a goal.

Government insiders were confident all schools would sign up to the reports, arguing that schools and teachers that refused would face pressure from parents to provide the information. Some educators are bitterly opposed to a system of ranking students, saying they believe it can be "harmful" to children.

Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said in July that school reports should show whether students were improving and how they measured up against the standards they were expected to achieve. But she also acknowledged that parents wanted to know how their child compared with other students".



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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