Boys, Part One

There is a problem with boys in our educational system.

Among other disturbing statistics, males enrolled in college as a percentage of the total has dropped steadily from 70% to 42% between 1949 and 2006 (Sax, 2007), boys receive 70 percent of the D’s and F’s on report cards (Kauchak & Eggen, 2005, p. 97), 73.4% of children diagnosed with a learning disability are boys (I Teach I Learn, n.d.), and boys make up 80% of discipline problems (Gurian & Stevens, 2005, p. 22). In the state of California, from 2003 to 2009, consistently across all grades and years, 8% fewer boys than girls scored proficient or better on their California Standards Test English Language Arts exam (California Department of Education, 2010).

Michael Gurian said it very well, “Boys get unfairly labeled as morally defective, hyperactive, undisciplined, or ‘problem children,’ when quite often the problem is not with the boys but with the families, extended families, or social environments, which do not understand their specific needs as human beings and as boys” (Gurian, 1999).

What are those specific needs? That is a subject much larger than the scope of this post. However, in general, boys have more need for physical movement and are interested in different subject matter than girls. Developmentally, they tend to be slower and/or different in many regards, especially as it relates to lateralization and language and emotional processing.

We cannot and should not change our learning expectations. There is much room, however, to change the classroom environment and add new teaching tools to our inventory to better accommodate the way boys learn.


California Department of Education. (2010). Standardized testing and reporting (STAR) results. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from

Gurian, M. (1999). The good son: A complete parenting plan. East Rutherford, NJ: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Gurian, M., & Stevens, K. (2005). The Minds of Boys. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

I Teach I Learn. (n.d.). Gender as a factor in special education eligibility, services, and results . Retrieved February 19, 2010, from

Kauchak, P., & Eggen, P. (2005). Introduction to teaching: Becoming a professional  (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Sax, L. (2007). Boys adrift: The five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men . New York, NY: Basic Books.

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