Saturday, February 09, 2008

The "boy parent dilemma"

As we send our young sons back to school, millions of boy parents are apprehensive, dreading the pain of the "boy parent dilemma." Modern schools are not suited to boys' personalities and learning styles. This can be seen from the time boys enter school, when many of them are immediately branded as behavior problems. The line of 10 kids who had to gather every day after school in my son's first grade 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 kids as young as five or six who must be drugged so they will sit still and "behave"-almost all boys.

By any measure, our schools are failing our sons. Boys at all levels are far more likely than girls to be disciplined, suspended, held back, or expelled. By high school the typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing, and is less likely to graduate high school, go to college, or graduate college than a typical girl.

Success in school is tightly correlated with the ability to sit still, be quiet, and complete work which is presented in a dull, assembly-line fashion. The boy parent dilemma is that as parents we must support the authority of our sons' teachers and schools, while at the same time it is obvious to us that the methods and structure they employ are not suited to our sons' needs. Boy parents agonize and doubt every step of the way. We punish our sons when they "misbehave" (i.e., act like boys) because we want them to fit in and do well in school. Yet in the back of our minds-as we cajole, demand, offer, threaten, reward, and punish-we wonder, "what is this doing to my little boy?"

Helping our sons will require a conscious, national effort to retool our schools and create boy-friendly classrooms and teaching strategies. Since many boys are bodily kinesthetic learners, lessons need to be more physical, hands-on, and energetic. Teachers should use the physical and visual spheres as a bridge to the verbal and written ones. Employing boys' imagination also helps, as does using boys' tendency to learn by exploration.

Cooperative learning is useful in moderation, but educators also need to use boys' natural competitiveness and individual initiative to their advantage. 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.

Also, boys in particular need strong, charismatic teachers who mix firm discipline with a good-natured acceptance of boyish energy. Concomitantly, a sharp increase in the number of male teachers is also needed, particularly at the elementary level, where female teachers outnumber male teachers six to one. Same-sex classes can also be helpful, and schools should have the power to employ them when appropriate.

Administrators, school districts, and, ultimately, the taxpayer will also need to realize that creating boy-friendly classrooms can be time-consuming and expensive. Most teachers are competent and dedicated but they are weighed down by paperwork and secretarial labor which limits the amount of time they can spend planning and delivering creative, hands-on, boy-friendly lessons. In addition, large classes often make it difficult for teachers to have the time to determine each student's learning style and how best to connect that student with the teacher and the lessons. To help boys, both of these will need to change, and while it will cost money, the cost to society of uneducated, disengaged boys is far greater.

In addition, we need to rethink the current focus on testing, which has exacerbated boys' problems by forcing teachers to narrow their methods in order to prepare students to take the required tests.

This afternoon, millions of us will pick our little sons up from school and hope to hear that it was a good day. Yet many of our boys will have spent much of the day being scolded and punished, often for doing nothing more than being boys. And with each of these mistreated little boys-waving their arms and running toward us across the yard, happy to be away from that place where everything feels so unnatural and they somehow always seem to be doing something wrong-comes the boy parent dilemma.


Bob Parks comments on the college scene

Bob is a black conservative

While Republicans are scurrying to galvanize the conservative and Latino vote, they neglect one group of the new electorate at their peril: the youth. The left has made great gains at creating little liberals. One need only watch the responses of younger voters, while being stereotypically flaky, these young people are today caught up in the trendy winds of "change". The word "Republican" is a dirty word, and they efficiently recite the obvious sentiments of their progressive professors. Let me give you a couple of examples of how this works..

Let's say a college was to hold a forum on obese people. One would figure they'd have a panel of five or six fat people all giving examples of how it is to be living large in America. I'd be willing to bet there'd be no one on that panel who'd play Devil's Advocate, calling them whiners and giving an opposing point of view. THAT would be "mean-sprited".

A few years ago, I was invited by a student to be a guest panelist for a discussion on "The Rise of Black Conservatism" at Stanford Law College. Judging from the name of the topic alone, I assumed that the panel would be made up prominent Black conservatives who would proudly articulate our positions. I was deeply flattered to be included in such a panel. But what was I thinking.?

As it turned out, I was the ONLY Black conservative invited to speak at the C-SPAN-televised discussion. Instead of explaining my conservative views, I found myself having to defend them against liberal and Marxist professors. I think I held my own.

After the forum, I was invited to a reception in one of the dormitory lounges. The two professors split, and I found myself surrounded by very curious students who had never heard someone who looked like myself, saying what I was saying. For the next 90 minutes, I fielded questions and debated issues with students who were starved for opposing points of view as to come to more informed conclusions.

Let's look at the gay marriage debate. Many students believe Republicans are anti-gay. Why is this? While running for Massachusetts state party chairman, I warned conservatives what would happen when you let the opposition define your positions. I know of NO Republican who is against "gay marriage", but it depends on what your definition of "marriage" is.

When two people in America want to get "married", what's the first thing they do? They apply for and get a "marriage" license. That is the law. With license in hand they are, for all intents and purposes, "married". In many states, gay couples are granted "civil union" status for all purposes legal. Conservatives have no problem with that. However, "marriage" is another thing.

If two people were to go to a church and get married, without a state-issued marriage license, that "marriage" wouldn't be legally recognized. "Marriage" is purely a religious ceremony, and I contend, the gay activist push for "marriage" is simply their way of giving that trendy middle finger to the church. Thus, the conservative opposition to "gay marriage."

There are always two sides to every story, yet students (and their parents who are paying good money for their education) are only getting one side: the liberal side. I've made concerted efforts, from Day One, to tailor my written, verbal, and video presentations to a younger demographic. I understand the need to make sure that young people are not all Republicans. However, if we sit back, they will all become liberals and it's never a good thing to only have one side of an issue.

You Republican candidates had better wake up and recognize the youth vote for what it is. This year, we're not dealing with unreliable Rock The Vote types. These kids today are motivated, will be counted, and are proudly progressive. An appearance with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert isn't the answer. We are not welcome on most college campuses, but through the print and video windows of the Internet, it is possible to reach thousands of young voters every day.


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