It used to be that girls struggled more than boys in elementary school. However, the tides have turned, and it is the boys who are now struggling. The reason for this struggle is the same reason that females struggle more than males in university, and why women struggle more than men in the workplace – socialization. It is not the physical or mental capabilities of boys; rather, it is because of the dictates of the society in which we live. It was only a few years ago that boys were the ones excelling in school while the girls were lagging behind. The male brain has not changed in recent years. So why do we now insist that the female brain is so much more capable than the male brain?
The struggle boys go through in elementary school is not because of a lack of physical or mental ability. Rather, it is because of the expectations of the parents and teachers. If this were not true, “how would we explain the reason for the turnaround in adulthood?” “Why is it that males excel in university, especially in the sciences and mathematics?” “Why do males excel in business, medicine, law, and so many other challenging careers?”
This socialization begins long before the children enter elementary school. Boys learn at an early age that they are supposed to be strong. If a little girl falls and hurts herself both parents run to her aid. But when those same parents see their son fall, he is told to get up. Boys are not supposed to ask for help, they are expected to figure things out by themselves. Girls are taught to express themselves verbally and affectionately, whereas boys are taught they must be independent self-starters.
I have worked with children from newborn up to the age of eleven. I have observed how parents pamper and fuss over their little girls, and these same very attentive parents show very little attention to their sons, almost to the point of child neglect.
The same attitude is displayed in the classroom. Teachers treat little girls differently from the way in which they treat the boys. The little girls, especially the pretty girls, get more attention. The girls are encouraged by the teacher’s pat on the back, or sometimes merely a pleasant smile. Boys are usually left to fend for themselves, and are rarely touched by the teacher. Because boys are taught at home not to ask, they fail to ask in the classroom. As a result, boys do not get the help that they need. The six year old boys need just as much nurturing as six year old girls.
I am going to tell a story, I am sure you all have heard before. There was once an experiment done with grade school children. A group of twenty kids were selected at random; there was nothing exceptional about the children selected. The teachers were told that these particular kids were going to do well in school. All twenty of the children selected did very well the following year. They did well because of the teachers’ expectations, not because of any special ability. Teachers’ expectations are the reason why girls get the help they need, and the boys do not. It is for that same reason that our little boys are struggling in elementary school.
The solution must begin in the home, even before the children start elementary school. The belief that elementary school girls are more mature mentally than their male counterparts is a fallacy that needs to be dispelled. Boys are struggling in elementary school not because they are mentally immature; they are struggling because society tells them they are mentally immature.