Demonisation of failing boys

11th December 1998 at 00:00
I MUST take issue with your representation of my views in "Failing boys 'public burden number one'," (TES, November 27).

I do not believe that failing boys are public burden number one. In my contribution to the book Failing Boys? I argue that they are often regarded as such and that rather than concentrating on addressing problems consequent on changes in the labour market we blame the boys themselves. Problems of unemployment become unhelpfully reconfigured as problems of unemployability.

I also point to the international epidemic of concern about boys and argue that there needs to be a much more careful analysis of who is underachieving relative to whom at what age and in what subject areas.

Here we might ask why working-class girls receive so little attention and why it is that we continue to blame schools, instead of addressing the socio-economic factors associated with under-achievement.

Again, I argue that the problem is not with the boys rather with the way the debate is being conducted. The demonisation of working-class boys and the stereotyping of them as the sole carriers of aggressive and dominating masculinities is distorting.

Failing Boys? edited by Debbie Epstein and her colleagues is a serious book which attempts to shift the terms of the debate in more constructive directions. One of the points made by a number of authors, including myself, is that media sensationalism of the kind we have witnessed over the past few years is unhelpful. It is somewhat ironic therefore that your report of my views should be another example that rather proves our point.

Pat Mahony. Professor of education. Roehampton Institute. London Froebel College. London SW15

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now