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The Forum > Article Comments > Boys, and all that girly stuff > Comments

Boys, and all that girly stuff : Comments

By Suzanne Rice, published 5/5/2005

Suzanne Rice argues that encouraging ‘emotional literacy’ in the classroom benefits boys throughout their lives.

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Not to many positive comments made about the male gender in this article, and almost all of it can be turned around and looked at from a different angle.

“we need to resist the argument that boys should be excused from work requiring them to discuss feelings, opinions and ideas (rather than facts) just because some of them dislike it.”

“we need to resist the argument that girls should be excused from work requiring them to discuss facts (rather than feelings, opinions and ideas)just because some of them dislike it.”

But the idea, (that seems to be regularly advocated by various feminists), that the male gender is Neanderthal like, unemotional, cannot express feelings, etc does not actually equate to fact. Much, (if not the majority), of music, literature, paintings, sculpture, dance etc is produced by males, and males have also invented most of the things that have been invented, built the cities and towns, gone to the moon, climbed the highest mountains etc, and none of this would have been achieved without emotions, thoughts and feelings.

Men and boys do like expressing feelings, thoughts, opinions etc, but not "All The Time", or not "All Day and Every Day". Eventually there has to be facts as well, as there has to be food on the table or no one eats, or the company has to win the contract or the employees are not employed etc.

If I have to drive a car across a bridge then I would like my relationship with the engineer who designed the bridge to be based on a number of facts, and not just their thoughts or opinions.
Posted by Timkins, Thursday, 5 May 2005 11:57:06 AM
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Obviously, emotional intelligence is an important commodity for every member of society. However, does that mean it should included as part of the school curriculum? Surely parents should take responsibility for the emotional health of their child, rather than teachers.

There are so many important, specialised skills that kids need to learn while at school - so many subjects to cover. Teaching feelings in the classroom means something else misses out. I don't think we should parody the author's basic premise - that men need to know about feelings too to get on in society - but I do think making it part of the educational department's purveiw will lower the quality of state education.

Boys and girls are different, and learn differently. Boys haven't got dummer over recent years but they are doing worse on basic skills like literacy and numeracy. This indicates a failure to engage boys in the classroom. 'Gendering' the classroom further in favour of the types of learning experiences girls are comfortable with and excell at, is not a step in the right direction.
Posted by TimM, Thursday, 5 May 2005 2:33:56 PM
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Well said TimM. There seems to be a tendency on this board to allocate to the school system the "teaching" of feelings, ethics, discipline, manners and so on. It is already ill-equipped to do so, and there are few signs that it is likely to be in the future.

Perhaps it is because we have become accustomed to "outsource" every little task, in the same way that an insurance company will outsource its call centre to Bangalore. We live in a service-driven economy, so when faced with a scheduling problem at home we cast around for someone to shoulder the burden for us. This is "just another job", it would appear, rather than an extension of the learning-by-example that has been employed quite successfully in previous generations.

I don't believe it is the solution to ask our education system to be solely responsible for instilling every last skill required to get ahead in the world. Unfortunately, it is more likely than ever that they will take it upon themselves to do so, and fail miserably.
Posted by Pericles, Thursday, 5 May 2005 4:58:40 PM
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"Giving into this pressure is only likely to further consign the boys in these schools to the small and shrinking pool of dead-end, muscle-bound jobs, and to lessen their chances of obtaining work in the growing service and knowledge sectors, where communication skills are highly valued."

What kind of dead-end jobs are you talking about, Suzanne.
Not everyone wants to go on and be part of the knowledge sector or do a PhD in Education.

The problem is that over the past 30 years, university education has been pushed as the only worthy option for both boys and girls, when many boys prefer the kind of hands on jobs such as trades.

Being a plumber or builder may require a certain amount of muscle but it is certainly a worthwhile occupation where you actually get to see the results of your hard work.

And telling males they only have a bright future if they are great communicators in a knowledge based job is ridiculous.

You would be the first to call a bloke with a dead-end, non-knowledge based plumbers licence if a water main burst in your house in the middle of the night.

TimM - You are right, emotional development is more of a home/parents thing than a school/education thing.

Posted by the usual suspect, Thursday, 5 May 2005 5:11:54 PM
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Firstly; purely "musclebound" occupations are in the throws of dissappearing off the face of the earth, with the increasing mechanisation of the workplace. My interpretation of such jobs, are those requiring brute strength and perhaps not much else. Manual trades, on the other hand,reqiure one to have a fair amount of nouse and increasing so it seems, due to the increasing computerisation of our society. Its not just the "white collar" and academic jobs which require intellect, and I refer two emotional intellect as well as academic intellect. Your plumber who comes out to fix the burst main in the middle of the night, as someone pointed out, requires to be more than just "musclebound" to do the job at hand. He or she, requires the skill, the relevant know-how, and SUPRISE SUPRISE!, social skills. Plumbers need to listen to and communicate with their customers, as well as fix the bloody pipe. :P Yes all young guys need to learn social and emotional skills, but not just to go into white collar careers. Anyway the important thing is teach these in some sort of practical and relevant context to what they are studying, rather than just expecting young men to blurt out emotions for the sake of social change, or someones PHD thesis. ;)

As for teachers to be the ones to teach these skills, well.... as anyone who is or knows someone who teaches kids will agree.... when the hell are they supposed to squeeze that into the curriculum. Call me old fashioned but there are parents and families, or significant others filling that role (all going well of course), whose role includes this type of life skill education. Teachers may be able to reinforce this, but they cannot be expected the shoulder the responsibilty fully.

Cheers All!
Posted by silent minority, Thursday, 5 May 2005 6:21:23 PM
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I agree wholeheartedly with the first two posts.

TimM, I realise Suzanne Rice wanted to set aside the feminisation of the curriculum but I think your point about boys not getting dummer raises exactly that issue. For most of educational history boys outperformed girls in every respect, so much so that people actually believed women weren't as intelligent as men. Now, only 30-40 years after the feminisation of education people keep asking what is wrong with boys! Well, nothing is wrong with boys (evolution takes a bit longer than 40 years); it's the goal posts that have changes.

Rice herself addresses the same issue when she talks about girls in computer class:

"when computers were first introduced in schools some years ago, many girls were uncomfortable and unfamiliar with them. They were required to become computer-literate at school"

The problem is feminist educationalists have changed the curriculum to suit girls. The new NSW Physics syllabus is a good example. Girls weren't doing as well as the ideologues would like so they simply changed the goal posts; they changed the emphasis to what the SMH reported as the 'human side'. In the same article John Storey, head of physics at the University of NSW, says that NSW HSC physics is an "interesting subject, but it's not physics". See:

I find it intriguing how Rice asks us to leave aside issues like the watering down of the science syllabus and then as her first (and presumably most important) point cites teaching boys skills that allow them to relate to women better. Is that really the biggest issue facing boys? Forty years ago when girls were doing badly did educationalists say girls just need to be taught to relate to men better?

I think it's educationalists not boys who are the problem.
Posted by Josh, Thursday, 5 May 2005 6:42:42 PM
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