Vermonters for Better Education
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Anne Roche Muggeridge is an author and the mother of four boys. When her youngest was two she took him to the doctor for treatment for croup. An active child, he kept reaching out to touch the medical paraphernalia around him. She describes what happened next in an article she wrote for the Women's Quarterly:
"Is he always like this?" the doctor asked (her). "Yes," I said. "He's always like this." "Perhaps we should put him on Ritalin," said Doc. "Over our dead bodies," said Muggeridge. "He's not disturbed. He's disturbing."
Boys are ten times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, according to a 1997 American Psychologist article. Is it because they are more prone to ADD or is it that we have failed to distinguish any more between the different natures of boys and girls.
Archibald Montgomery, headmaster of the all-boys Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland and treasurer of the International Boys School Coalition, unabashedly believes that boys are different - they are more tactile, he says, and "squirmier."
Montgomery has the luxury - he calls it "the honor" -- of structuring his curriculum to boys' special needs. Because their fine motor skills don't develop as quickly as girls, for example, he doesn't schedule cursive handwriting into the curriculum as early as it might appear in a co-ed setting. Boys at his school are also allowed to move around the classroom more and allowed to be tactile. His school celebrates the gross muscle development of boys. Our boys sing, he says, and they sing unselfconsciously.
What happens if you don't focus on boys' special needs or recognize their differentness? Unfortunately, we're seeing the results of this silent gender gap in some troubling statistics:
There are many more of these disturbing facts, but here's the one that leaps out at me: while more girls than boys attempt suicide, boys are five times more likely than girls to actually succeed in killing themselves during a suicide attempt.
This last statistic, by the way, shows up in incomplete form in what is known as the Wellesley Report, a study commissioned by the American Association of University Women in the early '90s that showed -- surprise, surprise -- that girls are the ones who are shortchanged by schools, not called on enough, not given enough attention, etc, etc.
It's time for the pendulum to swing back to the middle. Boys and girls deserve equal access to a decent education. Equality, however, doesn't always mean sameness.
What are little boys made of? "Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails." Turns out that old rhyme holds an intuitive ageless wisdom.