Skip to comments.Teaching Girls and Boys Differently - Psychologist Doctor Tells Why Divergences Run Deep
Posted on 07/09/2005 5:35:25 PM PDT by NYer
NEW YORK, JULY 9, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Boys and girls have marked physical and psychological differences and hence they have to be educated differently. This is the thesis of a book published earlier this year by psychologist and family doctor Leonard Sax.
In "Why Gender Matters" (Random House), he takes issue with the modern tendency toward gender-neutral child-rearing. According to this theory boys and girls behave differently because of the way they are educated, or because of cultural factors. Sax describes how in the mid-1990s he began to see more and more young boys arrive at his office with requests for medication, due to their supposed attention-deficit disorder.
The real problem, Sax eventually discovered, was that the second- and third-graders were being educated by teachers who did not understand the differences in how boys and girls learn. For a start, he explains, a girl's sense of hearing is more sensitive than that of boys, so the tone of voice used by a female teacher may be fine for the girls, but does not engage a boy's attention.
This experience sparked off Sax's interest in the subject of sex-based differences. His research showed that behavioral differences are not just caused by cultural factors. Research into men and women who have suffered strokes reveals that in men the left and right hemispheres of the brain are strongly compartmentalized, with the former dedicated to verbal skills and the latter to spatial functions. This division does not exist in women, who use both hemispheres of the brain for language.
And analysis of human brain tissue shows that there is a difference in its composition, at the level of the proteins. This difference is not due to hormonal changes that occur at puberty, but is something innate and is present even in children.
Sax also notes that girls and women can generally interpret facial expressions better than most boys and men. He cites research carried out at Cambridge University, showing that even young babies reveal differences in the way they pay attention to objects. Female babies are more interested in other people's faces, while male babies prefer to pay attention to moving objects.
In fact, evidence exists that from the composition of the retina to the way images are processed by the brain, there are notable differences between males and females. This results in females being more aware of differences in color and texture, while males discern with greater facility location, direction and speed.
This difference is then reflected in the toys that young children prefer -- dolls for girls and trucks for boys -- and the type of pictures they draw, with girls using more colors and including more people in their drawings.
This has consequences when it comes to schooling, Sax explains. Given that most kindergarten teachers are women they tend to encourage their students to draw people and to use lots of colors. This can lead to discouragement among boys, whose different style of drawing is not appreciated by the teacher, leading them to conclude that "art is for girls."
Male and female differences are also evident in the way people navigate. Men are more likely to use abstract concepts such as north and south, and to refer to distances. Women, by contrast, prefer using visual landmarks. Neuroscientists have found, Sax noted, that even by the age of 5 the male brain uses a different part of the brain to navigate, the hippocampus, while the female brain relies on the cerebral cortex.
Notable differences also exist in how emotions are handled. Children are generally not capable of analyzing their emotions, because this area of their brain has not yet developed. In adolescence, emotions are increasingly dealt with by the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain associated with higher cognitive functions.
But this change is far more pronounced in girls' brains than in those of boys. So, if at school adolescents are asked by their teachers to write or talk about their emotions this places boys at a disadvantage.
Another area with marked differences between males and females is in the willingness to accept risk. Most boys enjoy taking risks, and are also impressed by other boys who take risks. This is not the same for girls, who generally are less likely to seek out risky situations just for the sake of it. Boys are also more likely to disobey their parents when told not do something risky.
Sax explained that while boys enjoy doing risky things, they also systematically overestimate their own ability, whereas girls are likely to underestimate it. Researchers at Boston University noted that almost all drowning victims are male, for example. They concluded that a major contributing factor to this was that males consistently overestimated their swimming ability.
Boys are also more attracted to violence and conflict -- for example, in their reading preferences -- than girls are. And in their relations with others, boys are notably readier to fight and to respond aggressively than girls.
Friendships are also carried out differently. Girls tend to organize their friendships around spending time together, talking and going to places. Friendships among boys, however, revolve around a common interest in games and activities, with conversation and secret-sharing not holding a high priority.
Learning methods between the sexes vary greatly too. Most girls, Sax explained, naturally tend to seek out a teacher's help, are more likely to follow instructions, and to do their homework. Boys, by contrast, will generally only consult a teacher as a last resort and are less likely to study if they find a subject uninteresting.
And when it comes to motivating students, boys respond well to stress created by confrontation or time-constrained tasks, an approach that does not give good results for girls.
Sax is careful to point out that every child is unique and, also, that not all boys or all girls are the same. At the same time, he writes, this "should not blind us to the fact that gender is one of the two great organizing principles in child development -- the other principle being age."
Girls and boys, he explained, differ substantially in the speed with which their brains mature. The various regions of the brain develop in a different sequence in girls compared to boys. Therefore, rather than saying that boys develop more slowly than girls, it is more accurate to affirm that girls and boys develop at a different pace. Language skills develop earlier in girls, for example, while spatial memory matures earlier in boys.
In fact, Sax argued, these differences in cerebral capacities between the sexes are larger and more important during childhood and adolescence than the differences between adults, when both males and females have reached full maturity.
This difference, he argues, should be acknowledged by educators, and then used positively. Just trying to stop boys from fighting among themselves or playing dangerous games, for example, is insufficient. The solution is not to try and eliminate this aggression in males, but to transform it by providing constructive alternatives.
And when it comes to teaching, instead of prescribing medications to boys to treat attention problems, a better solution would be to separate the sexes and use teaching methods appropriate for each sex. In a word: letting boys be boys.
An excellent summary! It seems that over the past few decades, boys have been 'expected' to act like girls. When I attended elementary school, the boys settled arguments in the school yard. Now they are expected to sit quietly at their desks, like the girls. Kudos to a psychlogist who "gets it".
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Psychobabbling freak. Boys and girls are different. No sh--.
Maybe if he had a normal relationship with a woman, she'd tell him all about it.
Now they figure out that the educators pre 1960 had it right.
maybe even let girls be boys?
Every once in a while, a girl will be born with less "girl traits" and more "boy traits" (or vice versus). This was very true for me. Reading the article made me realize how much more male than female I am. No wonder I don't like having this female body; I feel like it's holding me back. Still, I am very glad that I'm far from being the average woman.
This is just so politically incorrect, it can't ever be the truth!
Testosterone, the "Great Right Wing Conspiracy!
Today all of this is different, boys and girls are always together, and I think this familiarity means that the sexual awareness which comes with pubery is just as likely to be projected toward members of the same gender.
I teach a class to 2nd graders, and a few years ago, a year or 2 into the program, I read an article similar to this. It changed everything. Instead of spending time correcting (as we were told to do) or disciplining for things like wiggling or not standing still, I simply switched my expectations and let the 'boys be boys', within our 'rules', of course. We had far fewer disciplinary issues and everyone was happier. And some of the odd behaviors diminished as well. One little guy would repeatedly fall out of his desk. Yes, hard to believe until you see it. I thought he was getting far too much attention for that. After I started more or less ignoring it, the incidences fell by more than half. I decided I could live with that because his class participation and effort increased much more dramatically. We now share this info with the new ccd teachers.
Perhaps now they'll leave the few remaining all-male colleges alone!
I think the list is down to Wabash, Hampden-Sydney and Morehouse.
When the subject comes up, the faculty are always behind the movement to co-ed. I hear that recruiting faculty to these institutions is hampered somewhat due to the liberal faculty biases against all-male eductation.
Conversely, the list of all-female institutions goes on and on, with enthusiastic support of the popular press and liberal faculty.
Tim Wohlford, BA,
Wabash College '84
While your sentiment is correct, don't short change the psychobabilist who is, when considering his peer group, venturing into new and heretical realms. Modern educational theory, that has blithly ignored the painflly obvious for the past 40 years, has now so completely lost touch with any semblance of reality that any stab at "getting it right" and not "getting it correct" should be applauded.
Boys and girls are different. I seem to recall that the President of Harvard Univ. was recently crucified for noticing that basic truth.
This just in! Psychologist/doctor reveals that boys and girls are different. We live in a wondrous age. Each day brings a new revelation from our scientists.
Althought this wasn't exactly news to me it was still interesting. It describes my son and daughter perfectly!!
I never thought of that.
Phyllis Schlafly, one of my "heroines" gets it RIGHT all the time. Instead, the idiot feminists want to listen to a pathetic figure like Gloria Steinem.
The feminization of men is one of the most insidious cancers on the character of our society, in my opinion. And I am not talking about men crying or showing their emotions.
I am talking about men being discouraged from acting in ways that are natural for them.
If it weren't so tragic it would be hysterically funny that people have to state the obvious "Men and women are different..."
I am so lucky I went to grade school before they gave drugs for "Attention Deficit Disorder."
In Kindergarten, I spent half the day ignoring the teacher and looking at the clock. I was just fascinated by numbers and liked to think about them a lot. I also could barely hold a crayon and couldn't write letters with any legibility. My teacher got very concerned. Fortunately, they didn't prescribe drugs back then.
Anyway, I thought about numbers a lot. The next year when I was six, I walked into my father's office and said "Daddy, I discovered something. If you take the square of any number and add that number again and the next number , you get the square of the next number." (For you math geeks, that's (x+1)(squared)=x(squared)+2x+1, although I didn't know the algebra.)
My early achievements in math didn't lead to me becoming the next Einstein, but so what? I loved talking about math with my father, and I think calming drugs might have taken the edge on the part of my brain that let me think about numbers. It would have been a much less happy childhood had they drugged me.
Anyway, I eventually got to the point where I adapted enough to pay attention to teachers, and grew up to be a somewhat-absent minded guy with mediocre but legible handwriting who has made a reasonably good living in math-related areas. How would drugs at that age have let me or anyone around me lead a happier life?
Apparently, the PC crowd would prefer it if everyone were asexual so no one would feel 'different'.
I'm a man and I'm proud to be different from the opposite sex. At the same time, I wouldn't want to live in a world without them.
I think it has led to a lot more passive-aggressive personality problems too. Passive-aggressive men are real jerks. Especially towards women.
There is an all girls school in the next town, but our daughter just wasn't interested. She never liked the girls in her class; didn't have anything in common with them. Also, this particular school is full of snobs; even the girls who attend it comment about it. So we homeschool our daughter, and she's enjoying classes at the Community college much more than she would have being cooped up all day with a bunch of snotty girls.
That doesn't explain, however, why the greatest writers (and artists, and musicians) have been almost exclusively men. Men are much more romantic than women. They tend to daydream and fantasize, while women remain largely pragmatic in their view of things.
I have a theory that because so many boys play and master computer games their brains actually adapt to visual style learning. Most school learning in the early years is auditory. You are supposed to listen to the teacher. But boys usually learn by seeing and touching. They are active learners. Unfortunately as the article pointed at this too often leads teachers to suspect ADD in boys.
Also the schools need to bring back recess. It is essential to brain development in areas of creativity and problem solving to have play time. Think about it. What animals play? The ones we think of as being smart for animals. Recess is also very important to socialization.
Maybe some day the experts will catch on to some home truths.
I knew it wasn't me! It was my teacher's fault!
In a situation of finite resources, where you can't be good at everything, it makes sense for guys brains to be optimized for being good at the things that guys are supposed to do, and girls brains are optimized for what girls are supposed to do.
Take spatial skills. A hunting party is commonly going to range over a wide area. Being able to keep straight where you are in relation to the base camp, and how to optimally position group members in order to cut off escape routes for what you're hunting, are obvious survival skills
Big Ole Bookmark
The War Against Boys, How Misguided feminism is harming our young Men Dr.Christina Hoff Sommers
"Boys are also more attracted to violence and conflict"
Doesmt someone here at FR have an icon for something like the stating of the obvious award?
Of course your kidding? You don't really feel that way about your body? If you aren't kidding yo need some serious counseling and help.
Even though I am not a man, I have what many consider to be a masculine mind. My thought process is more logical than emotional, my interest in things spurred by the logical and mechanical progression than by the creative, and I excelled at sciences while in school. In high school, my aptitude tests ranked me in the 99 percentile for spacial relation, cause/effect, and other metacognitive abilities necessary for a mechanical or civil engineer. I do not find this surprising, as I come from a long line of engineers.
The love of language can be viewed as a science. I was interested in the proper use of words, their origin and transitional meanings, their placement in a sentence and its impact on the "mental movie." Without consciously recognizing it, I studied the written word for structure, the narrative voice used to convey the story, the development of the characters, and the logical progression of events.
This love of language invariably leads many to examine how others use it to convey their thoughts, which can quickly blossom into a love of literature in general.
While I do not presume to place myself in their category by any means, great writers have all of these things. There is a cadence to their stories, a sometimes painfully slow development of their characters that is nonetheless worth the pain, and a logical construct of the plotline.
This is not to say that great writers choose a formula for their works, but instead their writing style is a formulation of these things. BIG DIFFERENCE.
If we examine Hawthorne's "The Scarlett Letter," for example, an often overlooked aspect of this book is the changing narrative perspective. The book rotates its focal point by three - first the "townspeople," then Hester, then the immediate circle around Hester, back to the "townspeople," repeat the cycle.
This construct was necessary for Hawthorne to explain the full impact of Hester's actions not just on herself but on those around her. In less logical hands, it would have been a silly romance novel. While I have no proof, I believe this construct was intuitive at first, and then a progressively logical outgrowth as the story unfolded.
In Melville's "Moby Dick," considered by many as a masterpeice in literature, each chapter is a short-story within itself, plumbing the topic at hand with a consistent narrative voice, but a differing tone to convey the underlying sentiment. At the same time, each slowly advances the overall story.
If you have ever pulled back from a book and said, "WTF?" at an odd plot twist, silly surprise, out-of-character action by one of the key players, or other event that seemed implausible or ridiculous, you are in the hands of a skilled (but still novice) writer.
If you have ever pulled back from a book and said, "My God!", you are in the hands of a master.
Despite garnering over 45% of the market share, I cannot stomach the vast majority of dreck masquarading as "romance novels." They are silly, inconsistent bits of fluff. Conversely, I am quite drawn to romantic storylines woven by men, as they tend to be neither silly nor inconsistent.
If you look at science fiction, fantasy, or horror writers, where the reader is asked to suspend reality for the purposes of accepting the parameters of the story, there are typically boundaries (written or implied). Great writers will create masterpieces within these boundaries, novices will set up boundaries and then break them for convenience. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of great sci-fi/fantasy/horror writers are men, because they do not break their boundaries.
While not detracting from the achievements of many accomplished female writers, I hope that the above helps to clarify why men would be drawn to the science of language, the love of literature, and ultimately pen the majority of the world's great masterpeices.
All that bra snapping in high school was merely an interest in applied physics.
You are what would be classified as a "divergent thinker."
The vast majority of people are convergent thinkers, meaning that they use the sum total of their knowledge to arrive at a singular conclusion. Schools are geared towards convergent thinkers, even our test structures focus on this metacognitive thought process.
Divergent thinkers (estimated 3% of the population), however, start at a particular point and move outwards. Instead of focusing their knowledge to come to a conclusion, they use their knowledge to examine the possibilities.
Some of the world's greatest minds are divergent thinkers (Einstein, for example). Nowadays, these children are labeled ADD or ADHD and drugged.
I kept insisting to my girlfriend that her son was a divergent thinker. He asked a thousand questions, always wanted to know "why," always followed a question with a question. This child is exceptionally bright and easily bored.
Exasperating, heck yes! But instead of trying to find an open school environment where he would thrive (I warned her that a typical classroom environment would stifle him), she chose a strict Catholic school first (which was a miserable experience for everyone) and now public school (more misery for everyone), and her son is medicated.
This is not to suggest that all divergent thinkers are brilliant and all convergent thinkers are not. You can find genuis in both groups, and average or below average in both. Still, we need to recognize that it's not only gender and age that impact learning, the metacognitive channels can be different, as well.
I think that many of the characteristics this doctor is ascribing to gender-based differences are more properly attributed to personality types as defined by the Briggs-Meyer personality test. It is true that some personality traits manifest more often in one gender than the other--for instance, more women are touchy-feely types than men--but there is no trait that is strictly gender-specific.
I do not act very "female", and most of the traits this doctor attributes to boys would have described me pretty well when I was a kid.
This is why you can't read a map, but you always know when we have passed someplace before.
Something like this? Actually, I appreciate the initiative of Dr. Sax. Most psycholgists and psychiatrists are so politically correct they are unable to state the obvious. All-boys schools are an idea whose time has come again.
I'll never forget a comment that an astute teacher made to me one day about "schools breaking little boys' spirits".
What a novel idea. Quit teaching them to be wimps and whiney caring little brats.
A boy is the only thing God can make a man out of.
They know what they are doing. Refer to your tagline.
Thank you for your insightful comments to this thread! They tell me that my first sentence as a child was phrased in the form of a question and I still tend to approach problem solving by posing questions. I want to have all the pieces before assembling a response, if that makes any sense.
From the early years, I was proficient in language. After learning French, I moved on to Italian and then 'picked up' different Italian dialects. Language has always fascinated me, especially since words often get in the way of properly describing emotions. Here again, I find myself wanting to learn the ancient language that developed a thought, since contemporary translations often ignore nuances in the original language.
He is probably hoping medical science will allow him to breastfeed one day. Sometimes I think real men are a dying breed.
The Pedagogy of the Difference was created at the end of the 1900 by Sutton-Smith... Nothing new.