Gender Experts: Boys, girls together may not be best
Source: the Times. Nov22,05.pageA5 By Wendy Plump special to the Times.
The brains of males and females are hard-wired differently - not
better or worse, just differently. Ignore this basic fact of life
and you put children at risk in school and in the larger social
arena, so say two gender specialists and educators.
Olen Kalkus, headmaster of the Princeton Academy of the Sacred
Heart in New Jeresy believes the reason we have gender issues
in education is because people have wanted to pretend that the
differences between boys and girls are not there. "That's what we
learned in the '60s and '70s, that it's all socialization. Well,
it's not true."
Girls hear better than boys, according to recent research, says
Kalkus. "If you have a soft-spoken teacher, a boy in the back of a
classroom will tune out the lesson, not because he is disagreeable
or has attention deficit disorder, but because he often cannot hear
his teacher. There is a difference in emotional responses to
educational material introduced. "Ask a group of girls to
respond to a particularly emotional book and they'll write
reams and reams about it", says Kalkus, noting that negative
emotions tend to activate complex thought areas in
female brains. In boys, negative emotions often trigger
the fight or flight response.
"Gender differences determine an adolescent's response to
sexuality and drug use", says Dr. Leonard Sax, pediatrician and
the author of "Why Gender Matters" published last February. In it,
Dr. Sax, who is also executive director of the national Association
for Single-Sex Public Education based in Maryland, argues that
if you want adolescents to be responsible about education, drugs,
sex, even parental relationships, you need to understand how
differently they respond to information. One example is that
math skills develop earlier in boys, verbal skills earlier
in girls. If you teach all students the same subjects but
ignore such differences, he said, there will be more girls
who don't think they can do calculus and more boys who don't
believe they are able to write well. The failings are not in
the students, he said, but in the schools that neglect to
adjust their teaching to how the genders learn best.
"The brain is a sexual organ… (in the sense that the reproductive
hormones affect the tissues of the brain). Brains are also constructed
differently in boys and girls", says Dr. Sax. "If you ignore these
differences when you are dealing with children, then you will
perpetuate gender problems and stereotypes."
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