The Trouble with Boys in Education

GenderAndEducation

The trouble with boys’ under-achievement in education is well known. Is it really a trouble with boys, or instead a trouble with teachers or a biased pedagogy?  Some simple research is presented here which reveals interesting features in UK educational attainment data which are not conveyed by accounts of the issue in the media.

Let’s start with primary school SATs, of which Key Stage 2 (KS2), taken at age 11, is the most interesting. The 2013 KS2 SATs results for all schools in England can be downloaded in Excel format from Ref.[1]. The file also contains historic SAT data from 2007 onwards. Results for the whole of England are expressed in the form of the percentage of the cohort attaining a given SAT level. In two subjects, reading and maths, SAT results are given both for tests and also for teachers’ assessments. By subtracting the test result from the teacher assessment, say for girls, a measure of teacher error for the girls is obtained. Subtracting the teacher error for boys from the teacher error for girls gives a measure of teacher bias, i.e.,

Teacher Bias =  (Agirls – Tgirls) – (Aboys – Tboys)

where A refers to the teacher assessment and T to the test result. A positive bias implies a tendency for the teachers to over-estimate the girls’ test scores more than they over-estimate the boys’ test scores (or to under-estimate the girls’ scores less than they under-estimate the boys’ scores). A negative bias is the reverse, i.e., in favour of boys. For 2013 the bias for each SAT level is shown in Figure 1 below.

SATS Teacher Bias1

This indicates unambiguously a teacher bias in favour of girls. The proportion of girls placed in the higher attainment levels (5 and 6) was over-estimated by the teachers (relative to that for boys), and the proportion of girls in the lower attainment levels (3 and 4) was under-estimated. This is the case for both maths and reading, though it is more emphatic for reading.

This teacher bias is not unique to 2013. Figure 2, below, shows the teacher bias for each year from 2007, in the form of attainment at or above level 4, or at or above level 5.

SATS Teacher Bias2

In some cases there is zero bias. But whenever there is a bias it is always in favour of the girls (i.e., always positive). These observations do not mean that the gender gap in performance is not real. Based on test scores alone, girls outperform boys in literacy skills, whilst boys outperform girls in maths. Nevertheless, it is concerning that a teacher gender bias is so readily apparent in the data. It is apposite to recall that 86% of primary school teachers in England are women, as are 96% of teaching assistants (Ref.[2]). Whilst this is not usually admitted, many people suspect that secondary schools use the KS2 SAT results as the basis of their initial streaming. Consequently it is possible that the teacher assessments have a bearing on a pupil’s subsequent advantage or disadvantage at secondary school.

Gender bias in favour of girls by primary school teachers has already been reported in the USA, Ref.[3]. To appreciate the Abstract of Ref.[3], quoted below, you need to understand what is meant by the term “non-cognitive development”. This is defined as attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organization. To be more blunt, these phrases mean “well behaved”. To be even more blunt, they mean “behave like girls”. Ref.[3] concludes,

We extend the analysis of early-emerging gender differences in academic achievement to include both (objective) test scores and (subjective) teacher assessments. Using data from the 1998-99 ECLS-K cohort, we show that the grades awarded by teachers are not aligned with test scores, with the disparities in grading exceeding those in testing outcomes and uniformly favouring girls, and that the misalignment of grades and test scores can be linked to gender differences in non-cognitive development…..Boys score at least as well on math and science tests as girls, with the strongest evidence of a gender gap appearing among whites. However, boys in all racial categories across all subject areas are not represented in grade distributions where their test scores would predict. Even those boys who perform equally as well as girls on reading, math and science tests are nevertheless graded less favourably by their teachers, but this less favourable treatment essentially vanishes when non-cognitive skills are taken into account…..White boys who perform on par with white girls on these subject-area tests and exhibit the same non-cognitive skill level are graded similarly. For some specifications there is evidence of a grade “bonus” for white boys with test scores and behaviour like their girl counterparts.

Simply put, the gender disparity in this US study is largely, and in some cases entirely, due to boys being marked down for not being girls.

Moving on to secondary education, a useful source is Ref.[4]. Figure 3, below, reproduces Fig.3-7 of Ref.[4] and is extremely revealing. It shows the percentage of the cohort, by gender, achieving 5 or more grade A-C GCSE passes, or O-level passes, against year from 1962 to 2006.

O level or GCSE 5 A-C passes by gender

This graph shows very clearly that the gender gap occurred abruptly in 1987/88, the same year that O levels were replaced by GCSEs. The adoption of GCSEs also brought the introduction of coursework and continuous assessment for the first time. It is generally believed that girls do better than boys on coursework. Moreover, since teachers mark the coursework, this provided the opportunity for the first time for teacher bias to influence the attainment of candidates taking these exams. It is not possible from the data to determine if teacher bias plays a part in the origin of the gender gap in these examinations of 16 year olds. However, the coincidence between the timing of the start of the gender gap and the introduction of GCSEs, shown in Figure 3, taken together with the evidence of teacher bias in favour of girls at KS2, is sufficient cause for real concern.

Further independent support for the contention that boys’ underperformance at GCSE may be largely a result of the nature of these awards is obtained from the OECD 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study. Boys did better than girls on these PISA tests in both science and maths, though doing less well than girls in GCSEs in these same subjects taken just a few months later.

The gender gap apparent at GCSE may be the major reason for the subsequent gender gaps at A-level and university. For example, Ref.[5] concluded that,

The difference in achievement at GCSE has been shown to be sufficient to explain the differences in higher education participation. What is more, there are strong indications that the nature of the GCSE assessment (and the nature of the teaching and curriculum that feed it) is part of the reason for the relatively poor performance of boys“.

One mechanism by which this occurs is that better performance at GCSE naturally leads to a greater percentage of pupils remaining in full time education post-16. Hence, this percentage increased markedly for both sexes after 1987/88 as a response to the improving GCSE performance after that date (Figure 3). By the same reasoning, the better GCSE performance by the girls would be expected to lead to more girls remaining in full time education post-16 than boys. This is indeed the case, the participation fraction being 72% and 82% for males and females respectively (2005 data, Ref.[4]).

However, it is not only in numbers that women are outstripping men, it is also in terms of performance at A-level. In almost every subject women outperform men as regards the percentage attaining an A grade, the difference being up to ~10% (Ref.[4]). Even in physics, that bastion of maleness, women outperform men as regards the percentage of candidates attaining an A grade – by 8%. However, just as with KS2 SATs and GCSEs, there are some indications that gender bias exists also within the A-level process. For example, Ref.[6] reported a study comparing A-level performance with a SAT type test for 17/18 year olds. It concluded that,

Female students had higher total GCSE and A level points scores and achieved significantly higher scores on the SAT Writing component than male students. Male students performed significantly better on the SAT Mathematics component and on the SAT as a whole. There were gender differences in the relationships between SAT scores and A level grades in favour of male students“.

In other words, the gender disparity at A level may also be due in part to the particulars of the award process. This adds further fuel to the suggestion that the gender gap might be a product of bias and/or feminisation of the UK schooling and exam system.

Finally, at university level, the salient facts are as follows (taken from Ref.[5]). The annual number of women graduates now exceeds the annual number of men graduates by 32% (2012 graduates were 43% men and 57% women). Female dominance of higher education applies across every class of institution. In 2008, 56% of graduate jobs went to women. Current graduate figures suggest that in the near future we can expect ~60% or more of doctors, lawyers and journalists to be women, and ~77% of vets and teachers to be women (the latter being virtually the case already). Women postgraduates outnumber men postgraduates by nearly 60% (the participation rates being 11% and 7% respectively). University staff in the UK are 54% women and this dominance by women is likely to increase considerably in view of the female:male postgraduate ratio.

It is desperately distressing that despite this near-universal educational disadvantage of males, there is no effective action being taken to combat it. A National Foundation for Educational Research report, Ref.[7], frankly admits that,

Strategies to improve gender balance have been put in place in relation to certain subject areas only……..some centrally funded interventions related to strategically important subjects including STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). Of these, the London Engineering Project intends to widen and significantly increase participation in engineering in higher education for four target groups: women, minority ethnic students, students from families where there is no experience of higher education, and adult learners. The programme includes a strand targeting Afro-Caribbean boys and Bangladeshi and Pakistani girls…..The WISE campaign collaborates with industry and education to encourage UK girls of school age to value and pursue STEM or construction related courses in school or college, and to move on into related careers.

So, despite the educational disadvantage of males, only one thing has been done and that is aimed primarily at further promoting the advantage of women.

In conclusion, Ref.[5] offers the following observations,

In the same way as the relatively poor performance of females previously gave rise to concerns that large numbers were being excluded from the benefits that follow from fulfilling their potential, so the same concerns now arise in respect of males. The important thing is to recognise the issue: changing a mindset that continues to see males as advantaged and females as disadvantaged. It is certainly unacceptable to suggest, as was recorded in Ref.[4], that, “it could be argued that the widening gender gap in educational achievement does not matter if this advantage either disappears by the time the girl enters the labour market or if it helps to ensure greater equality for women in the labour market” implying that male educational disadvantage may be acceptable because there is female disadvantage in the workplace. It does not help one disadvantage to perpetuate another. For some, there is no problem with such a scenario. As one of the contributors to the Times Higher Education discussion put it: “…if the boys don’t want to get educated, why not let them play football while the more intelligent sex gets on with running the world.” If this is also the view of those professors of education and policy makers who think there is no cause for concern, then they should argue this, and perhaps try to anticipate the changes in society that would result. For our part we concur with the recent OECD report that concluded that…..the ideal of equality remains preferable.”

References

  1. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AonYZs4MzlZbdHl4T0xCWlcyeGg1M1JmNDZDbTdWZ1E&usp=sharing#gid=2
  2. “School Workforce in England”, November 2012, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-workforce-in-england-november-2012
  3. C.M.Cornwell, D.B.Mustard and J.Van Parys, “Non-Cognitive Skills and the Gender Disparities in Test Scores and Teacher Assessments: Evidence from Primary School”, IZA Discussion Paper No. 5973, September 2011.
  4. Department of Education & Skills’ report, “Gender and Education: the Evidence on Pupils in England”, 2007.
  5. Higher Education Policy Institute, “Male and Female Participation and Progression in Higher Education”, 2009 plus 2010 supplement, http://www.hepi.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/48-Gender-further-analysis-full.pdf
  6. C.Kirkup, J.Morrison and C.Whetton, National Foundation for Educational Research report “Relationships between A level Grades and SAT Scores in a Sample of UK Students”, paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, March 24-28, 2008.
  7. National Foundation for Educational Research report “Gender Differences in Educational Outcomes: England”, June 2010, http://www.nfer.ac.uk/shadomx/apps/fms/fmsdownload.cfm?file_uuid=67EB886D-C29E-AD4D-00A3-6752B523AE2E&siteName=nfer.

27 thoughts on “The Trouble with Boys in Education

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  3. Frances Meyer

    I started in education over 50 years ago and find it frustrating to reflect on the fact that placement of boys special education continues to represent 80 to 90 percent boys who are black and/or Hispanic with a smaller percentage of white males who still out number the total percentage of girls. While this trend
    continues, I am also concerned that enrollment of males in colleges and universities is also declining.
    I am devoting my semi retirement life to investigating these trends. I hope to learn about why Great Britain and Australia decided to mandate policy changes in education. I know that in the United States we are just beginning to discuss the issue. Up until now the women’s movement has been our priority. Needless to say, we have made a great deal of improvements in educating girls. Now what about the boys?

    Reply
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  14. Slowcoach

    The really grievously unforgivable aspect of this is that it is Child Abuse.

    Child Abuse that ought to have every parent apoplectic with anger and vocal with complaint that this has been done to their children.

    Especially their boy children.

    Yet the media have been mostly silent, and the authorities mostly complicit in this grotesque calumny.

    I refer not to the actions of one deranged fruitcake, bad though that may be, but the systematic, institutionalised, pre-planed, legal, officially approved abuse of the politicised educational apparatchik, en masse.

    Why is it so bad, and why should we be so upset?

    Because children can’t fight back or resist or even realise what is being done to them, or how they are being cynically used as helpless canon fodder in a war of ruthless pursuit of power that is quite happy to squander and throwaway their futures.

    They cannot defend themselves, we must defend them.

    This is a vivid demonstration of the foul creed that the ‘end justifies the means’, and this is an example of it in action.
    One day they will realise what has happened to them, and there is likely to be a terrible reckoning, for when you destabilise society in such an egregious way the precise results are likely to be difficult to predict.

    How did we arrive at this grim pass so suddenly, one may well ask?
    The truth is that in reality, it’s not been sudden at all, but is the result of the
    ” Long march through the institutions ” undertaken by assorted forces of the politically left. Only now is a critical mass being reached, that could be described in a more modern turn of phrase as the ” boiling a frog ” principle.

    But then there should be little overall surprise here, since
    much of the blame may be laid at the door of of a particular group of persons.
    Who have a name.
    F-E-M-I-N-I-S-T-S.
    Is there perhaps the teensiest clue in that word of where these people are coming from and what their agenda is – waddiya The really grievously unforgivable aspect of this is that it is Child Abuse.

    Child Abuse that ought to have every parent apoplectic with anger and vocal with complaint that this has been done to their children.

    Especially their boy children.

    Yet the media have been mostly silent, and the authorities mostly complicit in this grotesque calumny.

    I refer not to the actions of one deranged fruitcake, bad though that may be, but the systematic, institutionalised, pre-planed, legal, officially approved abuse of the politicised educational apparatchik, en masse.

    Why is it so bad, and why should we be so upset?

    Because children can’t fight back or resist or even realise what is being done to them, or how they are being cynically used as helpless canon fodder in a war of ruthless pursuit of power that is quite happy to squander and throwaway their futures.

    They cannot defend themselves, we must defend them.

    This is a vivid demonstration of the foul creed that the ‘end justifies the means’, and this is an example of it in action.
    One day they will realise what has happened to them, and there is likely to be a terrible reckoning, for when you destabilise society in such an egregious way the precise results are likely to be difficult to predict.

    How did we arrive at this grim pass so suddenly, one may well ask?
    The truth is that in reality, it’s not been sudden at all, but is the result of the
    ” Long march through the institutions ” undertaken by assorted forces of the politically left. Only now is a critical mass being reached, that could be described in a more modern turn of phrase as the ” boiling a frog ” principle.

    But then there should be little overall surprise here, since
    much of the blame may be laid at the door of of a particular group of persons.
    Who have a name.
    F-E-M-I-N-I-S-T-S.
    Is there perhaps the teensiest clue in that word of where these people are coming from and what their agenda is – waddiya think ?

    Reply
    1. Herbert Purdy

      This is what I think FWIW. Yes, this is child-abuse – all in the name of women’s ‘rights’. It’s foul and disgusting.

      As to why nothing is being done about it? What can be done? It’s the Boiling Frog syndrome isn’t it? put a frog in boiling water and it will jump out. Put it in cold water and slowly heat it up, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. That is why what is happening is going without without resistance.

      This is what feminism does. It works slowly and silently, like yeast in bread, relentlessly changing society to its Marxist dogma by infiltration of the key organs of state and society. Marx was bent on overturning the father’s rule in the family, as the head of the family, so the state could step in and take over people’s lives, and take the children into common control. That is the way communists ensure the next generation becomes conformed to its dogma and is ‘politically correct’.

      These boys’ fathers have had their natural authority taken away from them by back-door feminist social re-engineering (the patriarchy feminists drone on about really means the ‘rule of the father’ that is what they are actually ideologically opposed to). Fathers have been emasculated and removed from the social scene (custody in divorce etc.) and institutionally vilified as a social entity at the hands of feminists who have colonised the places of power in our entire social system.

      I made the point about fathers in my blog about the Rotherham abuse case (http://herbertpurdy.com/?p=519) where it was the absence of fathers that was the key reason why those girls were off the rails (and they were: they were players, not passive victims), and it is the absence of fathers’ intervention inn their son’s education that is causing these boys to be abused and conditioned to favour feminism. (Just look at Yvette Cooper’s utterances here http://herbertpurdy.com/?p=143. This is the Shadow Home Secretary speaking – she might get power next May at the general election)

      Can you imagine only a few years ago? Fathers would have been banging the desk of the head teacher demanding to know what the hell was going in with their son’s education. Can you imagine that being tolerated by ‘the authorities’ these days? This is the acid test, it seems to me.

      Reply
  15. Belinda Brown

    I found Christina Hoff Sommers book “The War Against Boys” very useful for showing how the whole education system has been feminised in a way which disadvantages and discourages boys. Her research is based on the States and I think things are even more extreme over there – but there is loads from it which can be very usefully learnt and applied. It seems to be the case that in the US ways of learning which suit boys really well are actively discouraged and prevented and I am sure that happens a lot here too.

    One other thought – I was involved in a small research project which examined whether there was a relationship between boy’s perceptions about gender roles and their motivation to do well in school. We found that there was a relationship – those boys who had a more of a traditional male breadwinner concept were more interested and motivated in their work. There can be all kinds of explanations for this relationship – none of which necessarily indicate any causality between attitudes and achievement – but I do wonder how the whole western cultural ethos (i.e. feminist) – ‘women can manage without men’, ‘we prefer to do things for ourselves’ etc etc (none of which is actually true – BSA shows most women WANT men to be the main breadwinner) anyway to what extent that whole feminist way of thinking is simply de-motivating males to attain and if we want boys to do well we need to look at these underlying issues.

    Reply
  16. Herbert Purdy

    Thank you for this. What is going on in education is an abomination, and the comment you quote from the respondent to the Times Higher Education discussion is chilling.

    This is a very, very serious situation and I have been saying for some time that there is now a desperate need for single-sex schools.

    We need boys’ schools with male teachers, right from early years to sixth form. And we need them pdq before it is all too late. I am so angry about this.

    Reply
    1. mrnotms

      Out of interest, at what point would the (well-balanced(?), socio/sexually-aware(?) young men who leave your preferred school take their place in mainstream society? Should they work in men-only industries, study in single-sex colleges, drink in gentlemen’s bars, travel in segregated transport . . . ?
      (Also, all males are not ‘masculine’ individuals who love maths/science and
      aspire to a lifetime in engineering, whilst all females are not ‘feminine’
      touchy-feely carers who want to be homemakers.)
      More male teachers, yes, but not exclusively for male pupils.

      Reply
      1. Herbert Purdy

        Not sure, where you’re coming from with this, but I infer from what you say that maybe you believe that boys might not be well balanced, socio/sexually aware etc. by being educated in boys only schools? And, possibly be unable to take their place in mainstream society?

        If that’s so, I would beg to disagree. I suggest that they could be better balanced as boys, soon to be men, by being mentored by men teachers, rather than develop in what amounts to a highly (almost totally) feminised school environment in which their boyish boisterousness is pathologised as ‘a problem’ by an essentially female culture.

        I am sure their socio/sexual development would be better facilitated in a male environment: one in which it could take its balanced place in their overall passage into adulthood – and all under the mentoring of mature men.

        As to working your comments about men-only industries, socialising in male spaces, or travelling on segregated transport, I think perhaps you are taking things a bit far.

        Having said that, I do believe the invasion of male social spaces by women – just because they can, because the social atmosphere allows it (indeed encourages it) – has gone far too far. IMHO, if you invade someone’s space, forcing them to accept a situation they may not want, they will do one of two things: either resist, causing friction, or withdraw, causing alienation. Equality is not women being everywhere (anymore than men being everywhere), but that is the direction of travel.

        And, in the work environment, there are certain work areas that are traditionally male, as there are those that are traditionally female. I see no reason why that should not be. Again, the drive to have as many women as men in what amounts to essentially men’s work (by choice or aptitude, it doesn’t really matter why) is nothing less than an attempt at social engineering, which is changing things for the sake of changing things. Why does it matter that we have, say, as many women engineers as men? And, what about nursing: a steadfastly female profession that men are not hammering on the door to enter? (And, of course, it is obvious that there are no hard and fast demarcations. Men and women share a great deal of common characteristics and that will find its expression in their occupations.)

        I sense that a lot of what you are saying is based on views whose underlying premises are themselves open to dispute. For example your final assertion. In the current, unbalanced situation that prevails in education today – and given what I truly believe is a major crisis in boys’ education – urgent measures need to be taken to protect our boys. They are the men of the future, and I submit men need to be men. You might disagree.

        And, I wonder, given the enormous difficulties that are undoubtedly preventing men entering teaching, how you feel more men teachers are going to be able to enter teaching? And, if they did, how would they be able to operate in the highly feminised profession that teaching has now become? Do you really think that would solve the crisis in boys’ education? For my part, I don’t thing it would.

        And, finally, I have to say I think there is also a very good case to be made for men-only colleges and universities too. Especially in the light of the fact that they too are now heavily feminised, and the toxic culture of campuses today in which young men are highly exposed to false allegations of rape and sexual assault. That, too is a major worry.

        Reply
        1. mrnotms

          Goodness! What a considered and detailed response. Thanks very much for doing me the favour of dealing with my comments with such rigour and in such double-quick time.
          I realise we are coming from different angles on this and we would probably never be able to agree. Personally, I feel I benefited so much from a mixed education at primary, secondary and tertiary level, leading to a relaxed attitude to the company of women, much commented on by my single-sex-educated associates. School, for me, should be so much more than aiming to get the highest grades in everything.
          The MHR view of boys education (depicted by your good self) seems to be that, if we ‘masculinised’ it, somehow or other, boys who are lost, feminised, boisterous, anti-social etc. will become first class citizens, having been allowed to take end-of-year exams in subjects such as Maths and Science and then all will become engineers.
          For me, equal treatment should be throughout life. If we make it look like boys in education are a ‘problem’ (and give the impression that girls are not) we play into feminist hands.
          I repeat, I am so grateful for your feedback – even though we are a few poles apart!

          Reply
          1. mrnotms

            Surely the corollary of all-boys schools is all-girls schools. A recipe for a further polarisation of the sexes? Are you sure it’s the co-ed system that is failing boys, or the way it is administered? Who says ‘the primary purpose of education is academic education’ and what does that mean anyway? Don’t most people who have ever gone to school actually NOT see themselves as ‘academic’? By the way, I’m not recommending any form of indoctrination socio/sexually, just an adjustment and accommodation to the opposite sex at a crucial time in your life. Improve the co-ed system, please. Even for a MHR-follower like me, the idea of being cooped-up with nothing but male company during daylight hours fills me full of dread.

          2. Herbert Purdy

            There was a time only a few decades ago when it was perfectly normal to have single sex schools. I went to a boys grammar school then, later to a co-educational grammar school. (There was also a girl’s grammar school, all in the same small town.) And there is no doubt that the standard of academic achievement was higher in the single sex schools than in the co-ed one.

            During the 1970s and 80s, academic standards in education went through the floor, largely because of left-wing interventions in what was called at the time an ‘egalitarian wilderness’ . If we look at Rick’s graph we can a parallel with this in the marked emergence of better academic achievement in girls. I’m not saying there is causation here, neither am I even implying statistical correlation, but I am saying I think we can join some dots from common sense and see that this was a time when co-education became the ‘received wisdom’ of educationalists, who, of course, were almost certainly the products of their postmodern, feminist/liberationist time.

            Now, you might argue that academic achievement isn’t the only outcome of education. Indeed, some might argue that it has nothing to do with education. (Remember Einstein’s comment ‘Education is what a man is left with when he has forgotten everything he has ever learned’.) However, I suggest that it is important, indeed vitally so in the current social structure, where, thanks to Tony Blair’s triple policy, ‘Education, education, education’, which really meant ‘get young people into universities and colleges, rather than pay them unemployment benefit, having an academic qualification became de rigeur. (This created an interesting further divide between the privileged and the underprivileged, which is the antithesis of what Labour stood for, but that’s another story.)

            Franky, I take serious issue with those who think that sex co-education as a means of achieving socialisation is as important as academic knowledge, and even a valid means of achieving better relationships between men and women. I would actually disagree with it as a fundamental premise anyway, but even more so in the light of what we can see before us: that boys are being disadvantaged in our schools (and, I would argue, our colleges and universities – although for other reasons, such as the incredibly tense and dangerous fostering of anti-male cultures on campus such as the rape culture. It is a current cultural epithet that young men can be ‘a bit rapey’ for example.)

            I confront head on the notion that socialisation can only be achieved by mixing boys and girls at school, Apart from the fact that socialisation of boys with boys, and girls with girls, is also socialisation, I happen to believe that socialisation happens outside of school anyway, and it comes from within the family – the true social unit. It is a matter of education, but it doesn’t have to be concomitant with formal education.

            I also argue with the idea that socialisation/social skills = women’s socialisation/social skills. Women do not, as the current culture holds, have the monopoly on relationship skills. They only have a monopoly on women’s particular social skills. And, I see no reason why men should not teach boys socialisation, and social skills apart from any female presence or input.

            Therefore, I think we need to challenge some assumptions about this, especially in the light of what I believe is a pressing need now – today – that boys are being discriminated against – indeed being abused, especially in their human rights, not least to the right to expect they will be fairly and properly equipped for adult life, which is far more than their ability to relate to the opposite sex. We can ask questions about how to achieve this, but we must beware of the basic error of logic – the begged question – one whose underlying premise is itself open to question.

          3. mrnotms

            Thanks, Herbert. It’s clear we’re never going to agree about this, so maybe we should call a truce. As far as I know, there are still a number of boys’ schools about (although it sounds like you wouldn’t recommend boarding) for those who feel strongly about this. I note that the word ‘I’ features strongly above in your piece, perhaps not surprisingly, but it reveals the importance of choice in education – this ‘I’ would have disliked being at a boys-only school, you would have preferred it. I am not so averse to women that I can’t be in the same room as them; why do we have to separate to gain an advantage?

            The subjects on offer now are much more diverse and ‘I’ think it’s difficult to make comparisons. The world outside didn’t hang around either, so the curriculum has had to adapt. A fantasy past is not helpful (to me) in terms of a helpful future. Males and females have to rub along somehow in society; why not in education?

          4. Herbert Purdy

            Ah. And here was me just starting to enjoy a healthy exchange of views. OK , happy to call it a truce.

          5. Blanco Blank

            Darn. I really enjoyed reading the exchange of views between you both.
            It was civilized and pleasant language, and an intellectual stimulation
            too. It’s good to see that two intelligent people can disagree without
            it being a problem. Let’s hear it for tolerance.

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