By JR on Saturday, December 03, 2011
I have myself seen evidence of the advantages for boys of having male teachers. I sent my son to a private High School where his mathematics teachers were all male and enthusiastic about mathematics. He now has a B.Sc. with a first in mathematics and is working on his Ph.D. in it at a university known for its excellence in mathematics -- JR
By David Thomas
Fred and his father
So now it’s official — young women are outdoing men at work. The Office for National Statistics has confirmed that female twentysomethings earn more than their male peers — 3.6 per cent more, to be precise. As the father of two daughters in their 20s, I can’t say I’m surprised.
I’m incredibly proud of my girls. Holly, 23, is working day and night to make her way in journalism, a profession that is even more competitive and insecure than when I started out 30 years ago.
Lucy, 22, is training to be a doctor, a profession which, it emerged this week, will have more women than men in just six years’ time. I’ve seen how much effort and determination both have displayed, from their first GCSEs onwards.
They went to a comprehensive, so they weren’t spoon-fed their A-grades. They had to put in the hours, keep themselves motivated and sweat for their achievements. They’ve earned their success.
I also have a 13-year-old son, Fred. He attends the same school as his sisters did. He has just as much energy and, when he puts his mind to something, just as much determination. But he is growing up in a world that seems more and more biased against boys; one in which our sons are falling behind our daughters in almost every measurable way.
A world in which politicians still obsess about every conceivable form of discrimination against women, but ignore the young men who so desperately need help.
That’s why it’s time to send out an SOS message: Save Our Sons.
Huge numbers of young men are effectively being thrown on the scrapheap when they are barely old enough to shave. It’s not just that they are failing or choosing to fail within the education system: the system is failing them.
Let’s just start by looking at the facts. Barely half the pupils in this country get five or more GCSE passes at grades A-C. Of those who do, well over half are girls. The majority of boys in this country, therefore, are failing to reach the basic level of educational attainment. Every year hundreds of thousands of teenage boys leave school with virtually no chance of getting any kind of decent, well-paying job.
In fact, of all the class, race and gender groups in this country (with the sole exception of the tiny number of traveller children), working-class white boys perform the worst. A staggering 85 per cent of boys from poor white families fail to get those five good GCSEs.
The prevailing dogma in early education now demands that both lessons and sport are devoutly non-competitive. It requires children to sit still around tables in which they work together as groups, rather than alone at desks. It is, in other words, perfectly suited to sociable little girls and anathema to boisterous, competitive little boys.
Thus it is all too easy for boys to conclude early on that school is what girls are good at — and they, by extension, are not.
And yet it does not have to be this way. When my daughters went to a small village primary school, the teachers were all women. They were absolutely dedicated to their pupils, but they could not relate to the boys as naturally as to the girls. And then, for a single year, a young, male teacher took over the Year Five and Six class of ten and 11-year-olds.
Suddenly the boys in the class had someone they could talk to about football, computers and other Boy Things. There was someone who understood them, and they blossomed. Then that teacher left, and it was Girl Time again.
Seeing that convinced me I would pay for Fred’s prep school education if it meant he would be taught by male teachers and be given the chance to play competitive sport. Sure enough, he thrived in that environment.
By the time they get to secondary school, though, too many boys who don’t have that opportunity are actively hostile to education. That hostility is a defence mechanism, of course, a way of masking their own sense of alienation, but if that outlook continues until they are 16, they may well be headed for the scrap-heap.
Some will get one of the ever-decreasing number of manual jobs that remain in manufacturing and industry, others will join what’s left of the Armed Forces. But many more slip into the twilight, underclass world of unemployment, drugs, crime and the feckless spawning of children who are then effectively fathered by the State via the benefits system.
These young men have little to offer women, no lasting contribution to make to society, no hope for their own lives. They cost society a fortune, all the way from the dole queue to the prison cell. And if that’s not a major social and political issue, I don’t know what is.....
This may be a politically incorrect and sexist observation in the eyes of some delicate Guardian-reading souls, but most women still want a man who can provide for his family, and who is confident enough in his own status not to feel insecure about his partner’s.
And this leads us on to a deeper, more human issue that has nothing to do with statistics or incomes. We have, as a society, lost the ability, or the will, to acknowledge that our sons have anything at all to offer the world as men.
Our daughters, raised in the era of Girl Power, have rightly been encouraged to believe that anything a man can do, they can do, too. But they’ve also been told again and again that they have qualities men lack. They are more emotionally mature, more sensitive, better communicators, better team-workers, and so on.
In other words, they have been taught that men and women are equal — except for all the ways in which women are superior.
There is now a massive equal rights industry that is obsessed with every real or imaginary form of female inequality. But equality must work both ways, and if it is now boys who are lagging behind, then the political and educational establishment must make it a priority to help them.
Though they are rarely celebrated any more, there are solid male virtues that still exist in decent men: reliability, stamina, physical strength, the desire to provide for and protect their families, and sometimes, as unfashionable as it might be, the ability not to be too emotional. There are times when an arm round the shoulder and the offer of a drink can do more good than all the agonised empathy in the world.
All of us, men or women, are moved by pictures of soldiers coming home from war. The men reach down, their arms open to greet the children running towards them in an image that embodies the strength and courage of a warrior and the love of a father.
But who is telling our sons about that kind of positive, benevolent manliness? Who sets them a good example? Having more male teachers, especially in primary schools, would be a start.
And we should stop being afraid to say anything positive about men, or masculinity, for fear of offending women. In a culture in which so many young men do not have father figures at home or at school, too many boys take their lead from the ill-disciplined brats of Premiership football; the swaggering, misogynist materialism of rap music; or the psychotic violence of computer games.
Our boys — including my own son Fred — are full of potential, full of energy and full of ambitions. All they need is the encouragement and the attention to help them realise their dreams.