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Most coed colleges and universities don't want their campuses to be 70/30 female/male. "It's the College of William and Mary, not the College of Mary and Mary," said the director of admissions at the College of William and Mary, defending his college's policy of admitting less-qualified boys in order to maintain a 50/50 gender balance.

Many American colleges and universities "are maintaining their gender balance by admitting men and women at sometimes drastically different rates" according to that article in US News and World Report . And there's no taper of that trend in sight. As a result, "that thumb on the boys' side of the admissions scale will have to press much harder in the coming years" if colleges and universities are going to maintain a 50/50 female/male balance in coming years, again quoting from the US News and World Report .

And what happens once boys get to college? As the New York Times reported in a front-page story, "At Colleges, Women Are Leaving Men in the Dust." There's a growing "gender divide" in academic achievement at colleges and universities, according to the Times . Thirty years ago, the majority of students who graduated from college with honors were men. Today, most of the students graduating with honors are women. To be sure, the fact that more women are going to college, and doing well there, is NOT the problem; on the contrary, that's cause for celebration. The question is: why can't their brothers keep pace with them? One young man, who graduated from a private high school in New Jersey and then went to Dickinson College, told the Times that "I came here with the attitudes I'd had in high school, that the big thing, for guys, is to give the appearance of not doing much work, trying to excel at sports and shine socially. . like Bart Simpson. For men, it's just not cool to study ."

Why? What's changed? Why is it no longer cool "for men" to study? Why do more and more boys and young men regard superior academic achievement as unmasculine ?

And what can you -- as a teacher or a parent -- do about it?

Those are the questions which Dr. Leonard Sax (director of NASSPE) addresses in his second book, Boys Adrift: the five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men . Dr. Sax presents evidence showing that on a wide number of measures, a growing proportion of boys just don't have the drive and motivation which their sisters have. And he shares strategies which have been used by parents and teachers around the United States and Canada to get their sons back in gear. One of those strategies is single-sex education: either boys in boys' classrooms at a coed school, or an all-boys school. For many boys, the single-sex format - when done well - can change a boy's attitude toward school, from sullen resentment and apathy to enthusiasm and energy. That doesn't happen automatically just by putting all the boys in one room, of course. Teachers have to know how to take advantage of the all-boys format. Teachers have to have the right kind of training. That's what our conferences are for ; that's what our teacher-training workshops are about.

Question: Why does the all-boys format motivate boys to learn?

In answer to that question, Dr. Sax likes to share a story he heard from parents after visiting an all-boys school in Dulwich , England. A particular boy didn't like school. He had always attended a prestigious coed private school, but he wasn't motivated. Then his parents transferred him, at age 12, to Dulwich Prep, an all-boys school. Same class size, same demographics as the coed school. But the boy's attitude changed almost instantly. The first week of school, he didn't want to go to bed one night. He wanted to stay up and keep working on the homework assignment. He'd never before wanted to stay up late just to do homework.

What was the homework assignment?

The homework assignment was from the creative writing class. "You are a Roman gladiator. Tomorrow you fight in the arena. How do you prepare today?" The boy had so many ideas. You would kill a chicken, and smear the fat over your shield to make it slippery. Then drink the blood! Then sacrifice to the gods. And on and on. He didn't want to stop. And he went on to become a prolific and enthusiastic writer. At coed schools in America and the UK today, we seldom encourage boys to write such stories. Teachers who lead all-boys classrooms know that some boys want to write such stories. When they are discouraged -- when the teacher says "why do you want to write such violent stories? Why can't you write something nice, like Melissa wrote?" -- the result is not that the boy writes a story like Melissa. The result, too often, is that the boy decides that writing stories is something that girls and geeks do. Real boys play video games. That's the message which many coed schools today are unintentionally giving to boys. Teachers in all-boys schools can send a different message.

Graham Able, of Dulwich College, studied the performance of girls and boys in 30 single-sex and coeducational schools throughout England. He found that while both girls and boys did better in these single-sex schools than they did in the coeducational schools, the single-sex advantage was greater for the boys than it was for the girls.

Here's a quotation from Graham Able's report:


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