Why schools are failing our boys

Now that I have more information about boys and school I am finding more articles and information on the subject.  In this piece, today on the Washington Post,  the author hits the high points of the common argument and quickly.  Check some of the related links at the bottom of the article, there is more information.

The most important thing to me is that it is already positively impacting my classroom in just a few short days, I have a long, long way to go and a lot of habits to change both subtly and more overtly; however, this is worth tackling and I am pleased to work on continuously improving.

My guess, I said, was that he was upset about having to be back in school after break. I was right.

The lack of movement and rigid restrictions associated with modern schooling are killing my son’s soul.

Does that sound dramatic to you? Perhaps. After all, most of us go through school and somehow survive more or less intact. But if you really think about it, you might remember what you hated about school. You might remember that it took you years after school to rediscover your own soul and passions, and the courage to pursue them.

The stress of school, of trying to fit into an environment that asks him to suppress the best parts of himself, recently had my son in tears. Again.

Reading: boys adrift

IMG_4409 I get asked many times a year about what I now realize are topics including what Dr Leonard Sax MD, PhD calls “Failure to Launch” in his book boys adrift, summarized with “why does my son test so high and yet is so disengaged in school.”  A lot of what we are discussing in education and in the world of raising sons today revolves around this topic.  From boys adrift:

Something Scary is Happening with Boys Today
From kindergarten to college, they’re less resilient and less ambitious than they were a mere twenty years ago. Parents, teachers, and mental health professionals are worried about boys. But until now, no one has come up with good reasons for their decline—nor, more important, with workable solutions to reverse this troubling trend. More

Recently I was in a discussion about this problem with boys and what we can and should do in education as a result of seeing the trend and research data.  This book, boys adrift, was recommended to me.  I found it so compelling this weekend, I did have difficulty putting it down, rereading chapters, and discussing examples of both what the book discusses and anomalies, throughout the weekend.  [photos taken by traveling partner who was reading a list of books that are appropriate for MS and HS boys, more on that later].

I am still gathering my thoughts on what I can do as an educator and what constitutes a good day teaching, it may well not be precisely what I used to think.  I have a richer answer, more informed at least.  I find the book filled in the cracks for me on why specific activities and approaches are successful with boys, especially on a longer term basis: why the activities result in a greater connections.

Raising my own family, and in particular my son, there were a number of decisions that were made that turn out to be particularly prescient along the lines of later research.  So one need not know precisely why, simply watch and make a determined effort to raise a young man.  I imagine if I had been aware of the research I would have been even more attentive to the risks of not implementing those strategies.  They simply made sense for me.  In hindsight I sidestepped a great deal of what happens to so many of the young men in my son’s age group.  This book such is one of a few books that I would recommend every parent of a son read, at every age, at any age.  It takes a lot of that sort of luck, that I had, out of the equation and fills it instead with good practical research into the topic.

IMG_4418My weekend is drawing to a close and I have already recommended it to someone else.  They contacted me back and based on only the reviews on the website and the description of the book, they  are getting a copy and have asked for a time to meet and discuss the topic.

If you have noticed what Dr Sax includes below, grab the book and give it a read.  Under $10 on Amazon.  Your son and a greater opportunity to be a man in today’s world make it pocket change.

Computing Teachers Concerned That Pupils Know More

I saw this article today and wondered why?  Why is the conclusion that students should share their expertise?  Students who perform at the top, whether because of higher self efficacy or practice are not utilized for this in every other area.  Why not stand the model on its head and PAY for an educator with both salary and time.  Research in Math shows that students who do well, continue to work hard, they do not have the time to “share”.  This is an A/V model, not CS.

Why not provide time for a CS teacher and appropriate pay?  Why not admit this isn’t the same as all other teaching?  Other educators do not have to spend the same time every week to keep up with and work on projects with this kind of depth.  When was the last time these teachers didn’t just get training, but time to do an app or a project.  Why would the kids listen to someone who doesn’t.




A survey of UK schools carried out by Microsoft and Computing at School reveals some worrying statistics that are probably more widely applicable.

The UK is working hard to introduce a new emphasis on computer science at school but, as always, the problem is getting the teachers up to speed. With computing there is the added difficulty that if a teacher is a good programmer or just a good sys admin then they can probably earn a lot more elsewhere.


The survey revealed that (68%) of primary and secondary teachers are concerned that their pupils have a better understanding of computing than they do. Moreover the pupils reinforced this finding with 47% claiming that their teachers need more training. Again to push the point home, 41% of pupils admitted to regularly helping their teachers with technology.

On the plus side, 69% of the teachers said that they enjoyed teaching the new computing curriculum and 73% felt confident in delivering it. However, 81% still thought that they needed more training, development and learning materials.

Interestingly, only 41% of the pupils wanted to learn more computing than was already being taught in schools, and only 40% thought that their teachers knew more than they did about advanced things like coding and building websites.

This isn’t all due to the teachers being new at the task – 76% had taught computing before the new curriculum was introduced. It seems that switching from an approach that emphasised computer literacy to one that actually wants students to do more difficult things is the reason for the problem.

To try to help, Computing At School with some funding from Microsoft has created QuickStart computing a training toolkit.


Last week pupils and teachers were invited to the Microsoft Showcase Classroom in London for a Computing At School workshop ahead of the launch of QuickStart Computing

The real problem is that people who know about computing aren’t generally lured into teaching. This contrasts with other subjects where graduates find it more difficult to get jobs that pay as well. Getting teachers who know more about computers than their pupils seems to be a tough thing to do. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that pupils do know more and find ways of enabling and encouraging them to share their expertise.