And the Lord sent a pestilence of boys

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
IT would appear that there are now significantly more boys being born than girls. This is not just bad news for the future dating pool but for those teachers who will have to deal with a pestilence of growing boys a decade or so from now.

Boys bring trouble. So we won't be surprised when we encounter even more behavioural problems in our schools than we do already. Any year head in any secondary school will confirm that boys cause far more problems than girls and primary teachers confirm that they identify the troublemakers from an early age.

The male sex has cornered the market not just in terms of challenging behaviour but in poor exam results and the errant attitudes that used to be the domain of the few rather than the many. Once upon a time you could assume that the effing - and blinding - little thug in your class came from an apparently deprived background, maybe with an absent father, probably in prison.

Not any more can you make these easy assumptions. That grunting Cro-Magnon creature in front of you is just as likely to be the son of a doctor, lawyer, businessman or, dare I say it, teacher. For some reason an absence of social skills in young males is no longer a respecter of class. The male pubescent years pass in a haze of inarticulate mumbles and, yes, the inevitable trademark, the eyes which don't make contact.

Their parents make all sorts of excuses for these unmannerly objects. They can't help it. They're just doing the macho things boys do. Boys will be boys. He's just one of the lads. Yes, he's horrible to his mother but, deep down, he does appreciate her. Yes, he is defying our wishes by turning into a professional miscreant rather than aiming for that job as head of the orchestra. It's his hormones, you see - he can't help it.

Rubbish! It's not a surfeit of testosterone or some kind of temporary suspension of connections in the teenage brain which makes it impossible for male adolescents to choose between rudeness and politeness or playing their Playstation for six hours and doing their Standard grade homework. No, the problem is the low expectations their parents have of them.

It seems that parents continue to demand more from their daughters. When I mentioned this to my sister - who has three daughters and one son - she became very concerned and started analysing how she treats her son. Actually, he's a bit of a saint but then he's only five years old.

You can tell from an early age which of the boys in your classes has had high expectations placed on them by their parents. They are the ones who actually communicate and show empathy towards others.

Maybe I wouldn't be saying all this if I had a son myself. I, too, might be desperately scratching around making excuses for a social misfit.

Why are boys so difficult? My two daughters have both been very successful in national examinations, but what I value most is the fact that they both communicate with ease - and eye contact - with whoever they encounter in their daily lives. However, they would be the first to acknowledge that they were not born with this skill but that they were taught it through insistence, encouragement and example.

But I mustn't be too pessimistic. I have recently completed a pile of senior school reports and I was conscious that I was writing positive comments about the social skills of many of the boys. Their parents can be justifiably proud of them when they read remarks such as "So-and-so is a sensitive and caring young man who is very supportive towards his peers."

None of this happens by chance - someone has worked hard to give these guys social skills.

Marj Adams teaches religious education, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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