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Why do we have such low expectations of boys

(82 Posts)
AbbyR1973 Fri 28-Jun-13 10:56:44

Often I read threads on here about reading/writing/maths and inevitably sooner or later someone pops up with a comment like "well he is a boy" or "boys aren't developmentally ready until they are 6" etc etc...
I find this very depressing and clearly is a message that is getting through to the boys themselves.
DS1 who does extremely well at school in year r and is by far and away ahead of his peers actually said to me last week "Mummy boys have weaker brains than girls." I was horrified that he should say something like that as a matter of fact. Heaven only knows where he heard it!!
We need to give our boys positive messages.

78bunion Sun 30-Jun-13 08:55:09

maizie, I agree. In the 70s (before I had children) and 80s there was a huge movement amongst women not to have gender specific toys and colours. Today it is harder to achieve. We bought feminist books showing women as doctors and the like. I had and loved my own pen knife as did my daughters who spent their teens outdoors on horses, in woods etc. I hope new baby girls born today have mothers who ensure they can climb trees. Even the Nat West advert I just saw on my on line bank's page a minute ago shows a boy with Indian head dress on holding a snail. Why not a girl? Girls play with snails. Girls play cowboys and indians.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Sat 29-Jun-13 20:26:42

stillhoping this time a year ago my dts were preparing for reception, he had no interest in writing but with bribery could manage his name while she would write cards, regularly draw etc etc.
He was no less bright and was enthusiastic and articulate about how everything in the world worked. Similarly was only just reading cvc words.
A year later and he has beautiful cursive writing (if a little large) and has whizzed through 5 levels of reading - late spring born and top end of class. Ability wise there's nothing in them - he's super competitive and has had excellent teachers who very early on spotted his interests.
I remember ds being frustrated a year ago because dd could draw stick men and he couldn't and dd said: don't worry, everybody is special and we're all good at different things.
I couldn't have put it better.

ipadquietly Sat 29-Jun-13 19:04:55

Hear, hear maizie I think I mentioned pinkification and fairy books earlier!

And - on another tack as well - I never cease to be amazed by how many mothers sit opposite me in parents' evening and profess to leaving the maths to their 'other halves'. Ummm... this is Y2 maths we're talking about, not A level.

This really has to stop - women are being brought up as bimbos.

maizieD Sat 29-Jun-13 18:30:29

It is not that hard to bring up children in a more gender neutral way and annoying that so many parents seem wedded to proving their prejudices about boys and girls are true.

Wandering away from the original post somewhat but, as a mother who brought up her children in the 80s and early 90s, when we tried to be as gender neutral as possible, I find the developments of the last decade, with the pinkification of girls and shops labelling shelves with 'boys' toys' and 'girls' toys', very rather depresssing.

I don't think that I am viewing the past through rose tinted spectacles.

Stillhopingstillhere Sat 29-Jun-13 18:24:55

When teaching the top ability was a mix of boys and girls. However it was noticeable that my bottom ability group was mainly summer born boys. I do think they are forced in too early and tend to give up and become despondent when they feel behind. Then they never really catch up and dislike writing in particular.

My ds is a summer born boy due to start school this year and I do worry. He's very very competitive so I think he will become very put off if he finds he's behind most of the others. He certainly isn't reading very well (CVC words only) and can only write his name. This is because he has no interest in doing so. My friend's daughter will be in the same year group and is only 6 months older. She has beautiful handwriting. Is she any brighter than my ds? Hard to say, the difference is she wants to do it and willingly practices every day. My ds doesn't even want to draw.

I do think the early years value skills that girls tend to have ( generalising here, of course there are exceptions) and that some boys get fed up!

78bunion Sat 29-Jun-13 17:55:24

It will be interesting to see if men end up with fewer positions of power. When I graduated 50% of graduates were female and at work and over 20 years on we see only 20% of women in positions of power. We are still therefore doing nothing like enough for women and boys are coping just fine. We need to ensure girls are directed into good careers not pick low paid options and they are not brought up to think their wedding day is all they are on the planet to achieve whilst thinking about the colour of their nail varnish and shoes.

It is not that hard to bring up children in a more gender neutral way and annoying that so many parents seem wedded to proving their prejudices about boys and girls are true.

eviekingston Sat 29-Jun-13 17:51:21

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine makes very interesting reading on this subject. As both a primary school teacher and the mother of a boy I feel that the differences in behaviour between the sexes are hugely attributable to socialisation, and this book debunks a lot of the theories of physiological differences. I certainly get very fed up with the stereotypes of boys that I see everyday, which I certainly discourage in the classroom but which are often reinforced by parents. My son is not rough, or overly boisterous, he doesn't fight, is very articulate and is achieving at the top of his class despite being a summer born boy (apparently doomed to failure). In fact in my class (Reception) I have a lot of boys like him, and a fair few girls who are very physical and certainly don't sit quietly! They are all individuals, and I try to teach and respond to them as such.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Sat 29-Jun-13 16:40:10

Our last inspection report highlighted boys achieving better in maths and girls achieving higher levels in writing. Our data shows a wider spread of boys in literacy, heavier at both ends. At school we don't have different expectations but some (and only some) parents do - i have had comments made to me at parents eve like 'boys are lazy' etc. Children are aware of this and in some cases have even been present when comments like tgat are made!
We have bought in 'boy books' according to the marketing such as project x - which most children enjoy regardless of gender.
With my own children b/g twins i've resisted having a pink/ blue approach - he has watched more princess films than most boys his age and is entirely unaware of that. And she's the more fidgety of the two - I'd class both as having high energy levels and have always spent lots of time outside with them.
The problem is that differences between genders are inspected and feature in school improvement plans when in reality multiple factors influence achievement.

maizieD Sat 29-Jun-13 15:50:38


Probably not the report you cited but some comment on gender differences in 'O' level results 1950s - 1980s

maizieD Sat 29-Jun-13 13:00:30


maizieD Sat 29-Jun-13 12:59:45


What I was trying to say was that girls were doing better in a male devised model of schooling which was designed to educate males.

I have no doubt that privately educated children did (and still do) better but the model of education was much the same, private or state, if better tuaght and with better resources. Monopoly of 'top' jobs and wealth has as much to do with 'who you know' as with education.


I'm not surprised that fewer girls passed physics and chemistry in the 1950s and 60s. We weren't encouraged to go down that route! I don't know how old you are, so you may not remember it, but even we Grammar School girls were mostly only expected to have a 'career' which would bridge the gap between school and marriage...shock This may not have been true of all girls' Grammar Schools but it certainly was at mine. We even (top 10% of female ability!) had a 'stream' which was channeled towards 'domestic science' and away from the sciences.

In a way, the present day worry about boys' perceived underachievement/low expectation of boys feels slighty ironic in view of the low expectations that girls have had to live with for centuries.

CecilyP Sat 29-Jun-13 11:08:55

maizieD, there was a big report on this but I can't find the link for it as I have it at work. It gave (amongst a lot more information) the % of pupils getting 5 GCEs/5 GCSEs A-C between when O levels were introduced in the early 1950s and the year of report. It showed that slightly more boys passed 5 O levels until about 1970, after which slightly more girls passed 5 O levels. The gap between girls and boys achievement really opened with the introduction of GCSEs in 1987. The real eye opener in the report was how few girls passed physics and chemistry in the 1950s and 60s.

Elibean Sat 29-Jun-13 10:58:56

There are 5 male teachers in my dds' state primary. Not bad.

I can't say I see expectations being any lower for boys than girls there, but don't know about other state primaries!

MrButtercat Sat 29-Jun-13 10:55:13

And lets not forget the very tiny minority that own the nations wealth were privately educated in single sex schools- says it all really and pretty much gives a perfect example of how boys stuck in the female dominated state sector get the shitty end of the stick.

maizieD Sat 29-Jun-13 10:38:42

Historically, once the concept of universal education was established, girls' secondary education was modelled on boys' secondary education, which was, in its turn, modelled on boys' Public School education. Of course, only a tiny percentage of boys and girls (about 15%) went on to an academic secondary (grammar school) education but those who did followed this 'male' education model. I don't have the statistics for GCE pass rates sorted by gender but I do know that when it came to the 11+, the pass rate was lower for boys than for girls in the 1950's & 60's. So the girls who went to Grammar school were actuallymore academically able than a significant number of the bboys.

Does this mean that girls responded better to the traditional 'sit still in rows', rote learning model of primary education or were they just beating the boys at their own game?

It would be interesting to see if the GCE results reflected this gender imbalance.

Having personally experienced it, I can also say that it was expectations for girls that were low at the time. Out of about 100 girls in my year group (all girls grammar school) only about half went on to do 'A' levels and perhaps 15 went to University.

katydid02 Sat 29-Jun-13 10:28:57

78bunion, when the men in those positions were educated, school was very different place to be then. Now schools are completely different - group work, moving around the classroom, interactive learning, talk for learning are some examples whereas it used to be all sitting in rows and listening to the teacher and getting on with it.
The education system then, when compared with the social environment at the time clearly favoured boys but both the education system and the social environment have changed massively since then and clearly boys will not be in the same positions re the amount of wealth, income and power that they have in the world because of those changes.

MrButtercat Sat 29-Jun-13 10:24:20

78 a very, very small proportion own the world's wealth and to be frank I'm utterly sick to death with the argument of life waaaaay further down the line justifying a crap system in schools.

78bunion Sat 29-Jun-13 10:20:13

Far too many parents make sexist generalisations. Men own 99% of the world's wealth and make 66% of its income and about 80% of positions of power in the UK so whatever we are doing with boys it is hardly going wrong.

MrButtercat Sat 29-Jun-13 10:11:11

Wrong again Ipad.

I don't mollycoddle my dd any more than my boys.Again sweeping generalisation.

And I know very few kids who have had a series of dads.Marriage rates are down but not being married doesn't mean dads don't father. 23 years unmarried here,my dp is extremely involved.

The fact is boys have nigh on zero male teachers,my boys are 9 and have never had one.School is female dominated and organised as such,boys aren't stretched and boys cope less well than girls with the current education style. There is generalisation,stigmatising,belittling and prejudice.

It stinks to be frank.

ipadquietly Sat 29-Jun-13 10:03:30

And there is also the increasing problem of many children having a series of 'fathers'. This doesn't encourage consistency or a male role model. At least three children in my class are on their second or third daddy, and they're only seven. It doesn't inspire trust.

On another tack, ime mummies do a lot of organising and molly coddling of boys, whereas girls are expected to be more independent.

katydid02 Sat 29-Jun-13 09:41:32

Helpyourself - I agree, useful to have male role models when so many do not have a positive male role model if they do not have a father at home and, in the case of boys, do not take part in sport outside of school where many of the coaches are male.

Helpyourself Sat 29-Jun-13 08:45:57

Moreen should be men!

Helpyourself Sat 29-Jun-13 08:44:51

I think you can have zero tolerance to lazy stereotyping and recognise that there are serious problems with the early years curriculum that disadvantages many children. A syllabus that includes more time outside and a massive push to get moreen into primary schools would benefit all our children.

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Sat 29-Jun-13 07:29:06

"there may be subtle average differences between boys and girls development"

This might be true, on average, but the distributions are different between the sexes. For example, there will be significantly more boys with language delay than girls (it varies from study to study, but it is probably in the region of 4:1). I have observed at my own dc's school that not only are the bottom groups heavily biased towards boys, but also the top groups.

There is also a difference between having low expectations of boys and appreciating that they are often later to get started academically. Both sexes can be late developers, and it is important that the education system allows for this. The fact that this trait is more prevalent in boys is perhaps only relevant in that if late developers are not catered for it will statistically impact more boys.

katydid02 Sat 29-Jun-13 07:07:39

It's not just in schools either, when DS was not moving much before birth the midwife said "Oh, he's just being a lazy boy" and when he was very shy people would say, disparagingly, that he was a "Mummy's boy" - there seem to be a lot of people in our culture who are very down on boys.
I tell him that he is my best boy and make sure he knows that he is just as clever as his sister; he knows she is doing well at school and has the mistaken idea that he isn't for some reason.

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