A Whiff of Oxytocin for Autism
Monkeys in the Wild

Addressing the Gender Gap in Education

The latest edition of the American School Board Journal has an article by Michael Gurian about efforts by educators to take into consideration the different ways that boys and girls learn.

Gurian writes,

On the day your district administrators look at test scores, grades, and discipline referrals with gender in mind, some stunning patterns quickly will emerge. Girls, they might find, are behind boys in elementary school math or science scores. They’ll find high school girls statistically behind boys in SAT scores. They might find, upon deeper review, that some girls have learning disabilities that are going undiagnosed.

Boys, they’ll probably notice, make up 80 to 90 percent of the district’s discipline referrals, 70 percent of learning disabled children, and at least two-thirds of the children on behavioral medication.

Gurian, who authored "The Wonder of Boys" and runs The Gurian Institute, consults with schools, community agencies and businesses kn how to accommodate gender-based differences in learning and work styles.

Although this remains a very touchy subject (see "Feminism vs. Oxytocin"), Gurian believes that teachers owe it to their students to offer instruction that acknowledges the differences and stimulates both boys and girls.

Because of neural and chemical differences in levels and processing of oxytocin, dopamine, testosterone, and estrogen, boys typically need to do some learning through competition. Girls, of course, are competitive too, but in a given day, they will spend less time in competitive learning and less time relating successfully to one another through “aggression-love” -- the playful hitting and dissing by which boys show love.

The current emphasis on cooperative learning is a good thing, and the basis of a diversity-oriented educational culture. However, because they are not schooled in the nature of gender in the brain, teachers generally have deleted competitive learning, and thus de-emphasized a natural learning tool for many boys. We’ve also robbed girls of practice in the reality of human competitiveness.