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Penis fixation misses the point

It's interesting that girls have consistently outperformed boys in English from the start of universal public education ("Gender gap going strong in 1900", September 11).

There are anomalies. For instance, boys outperformed girls in "composition" in 1900 - boys scoring 91 per cent and girls 76 per cent. But by 1923, girls were outperforming boys in composition by 24 per cent.

What happened in those 23 years and subsequently? As the biology of gender is more or less constant, the answer must be social. We are given a clue in the societal effects of the First World War. Anther, albeit unconscious, is the snide reference by the writer to high-performing boys being "tubercular 13-year-olds called Herbert".

I'm fed up with half digested socio-biology "theory" about boys' brains. They can't have altered much over the last few hundred years. And, to my knowledge, Shakespeare, Dickens, Orwell and Ian McEwan all had, or have, penises and all were, or are, pretty ace at "composition".

What's important is what a culture is telling boys and girls about who they can be and what we, as teachers, are doing to challenge and critique assumptions and stereotyping.

  • Graham Jamesonm London.

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