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Closing the gender gap in education

High School Seniors Alex Webb and Luisa Zamora participate in gender wars
Claudia Zimmerman

Boys and girls learn differently but they are often given the same education. Luckily, North Texas educators are wise to the trend and how to create a classroom that engages both the female and male mind.

Psychologist and family physician Dr. Leonard Sax wrote a book about this very thing. His book Why Gender Matters is the result of his studies and experiences with both genders and the different things that motivate them to learn.

Boys tend to be motivated by competition where girls are more likely to be satisfied with adult approval. Of course this is not true of every girl and every boy but this study answers the tough questions about boys who can’t sit still and girls who fail to find interest in physics.

These findings begin as early as what young children choose to draw in school. “Girls typically draw pictures of people…boys typically draw action.”(Sax) Girls draw nouns and boys draw verbs. This shows an innate difference in interest which results in separate things that engage the minds of boys versus girls.

The importance of recognizing the problem is that it can be addressed. Kevin Ratliff, an AP English teacher at Little Elm High School, addresses this in his classroom. “Most boys don’t enjoy sitting and listening for very long, and with most instruction, that is what we are asking them to do.”

So when asked what he does about such an obvious gap he says that he responds by using various books, with both male and female narrators, and using multiple types of assessments targeting different learners.

It is important to recognize that action generally creates an interest for boys while the background story creates an interest for girls. (Sax) If one gets left out the teacher has just lost the interest of a large percentage of their class.

Patti Kinsey, a veteran teacher of 18 years, notes that “teaching to female interests while still holding the interests of the boys is a challenge. Usually it's the boys who need to have their interests sparked to keep their attention, they tune out when it doesn't interest them.”

While the boys in the classroom tend to be the “trouble-makers” it is often the lack of interest that leads to this result. With a teacher that is aware of the different dynamics, and plans for each learner in their classroom, education no longer leaves boys or girls out, resulting in a diminished gender gap in education.

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