Stereotypes help neither gender

29th November 2002 at 00:00
Your article claimed to provide teachers with all they needed to know about why boys are falling behind. You revealed a number of "facts", many of which are highly contestable. So I didn't know whether to laugh or heave a sigh of desperation when I saw my book listed under the resources section.

Far from supporting the article's claims, I have attempted to show how many of these "explanations" for boys' underachievement are misleading and inaccurate.

For the record, worries over boys' responses to schooling is not a recent phenomenon - for example, a Board of Education Report published in 1923 talks of schoolboys adopting "habits of healthy idleness". Also, there is no evidence to support the idea that boys are disadvantaged or turned off learning by being taught by a predominantly female teaching staff.

And, if the "school curriculum is too girl-friendly" why does the research show there has been no change to the way in which girls are judged and present themselves in the classroom?

Girls continue to be seen as hardworking rather than "naturally clever" and are less confident and more anxious than boys, irrespective of social class.

Underachievement is not just a "boy" issue and we should move away from perpetuating gender stereotypes.

Dr Christine Skelton

School of education, communication and language sciences

University of Newcastle

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