Thursday, April 3, 2008

gender differences and how it relates to education

The first session I saw at the Cincy Homeschooling Conference was led by Andrew Pudewa...

I'm going to write about the first half of his talk, when he opened with a discussion of Leonard Sax's book on gender differences, Why Gender Matters. (Sax has a website on this topic as well.) Pudewa gave some caveats about the book (how explicit it is and that it does not have a Christian worldview) and stuck mostly to Sax's writings about physiological differences.

First, he noted that boys don't hear as well as girls.

Second, he noted that boys see differently than girls-- something to do with more/less "m-cells" and "p-cells". As a result, boys are built to see speed and direction, whereas girls are built to see color and texture. This manifests itself in art. For example, boys tend to draw verbs (action) while girls tend to draw nouns (items). In writing, girls are quick to use adjectives while boys are more likely to use adverbs.

Third, boys tend to do better in colder environments, with an optimal temperature of 68-69 degrees. (Girls learn best, on average, at 74-75 degrees.)

Pudewa noted that teachers are rarely as knowledgeable as doctors or pediatricians about these things. Moreover, they're often trained to see and treat children equally-- rather than making gender distinctions. And he didn't mention this, but since most teachers-- especially those in elementary schools-- are female, they are presumably more prone to see the classroom through female eyes.

The intuitive inferences here are not pleasant-- and they line up with the difficulties boys have in school. (Of course, these are generalizations!)

Pudewa recommends classrooms separated by gender, especially early-on. There are a number of good reasons for this, but the physiological differences alone point to significant advantages in separating and specializing.

From our perspective, since we have four boys, this is one more reason for us to homeschool.

If we pointed to the primary-- or at least, the first-- reason why we decided to homeschool, it would be the desire to spend much more time with our children. With government or private schools, kids disappear for most of the day and when they're home, there's snack, homework, play with friends, dinner, etc. How much time does one get with their kids? When people say that Johnny seemed to grow up so quickly, it occurred to us that the time should seem to fly by-- since many people don't see all that much of their kids after they turn 6.

At last year's convention, we heard Susan Wise Bauer on learning methods by age-- that kids tend to memorize a lot of facts (K-4), analyze arguments (grades 5-8), and learn to form arguments (grades 9-12). She also said that most schools stick to the K-4 approach all the way through high school, emphasizing facts rather than engaging the material. (Bauer didn't mention this, but note that American schools compare favorably with other countries-- until 4th grade, when we start to taper off.) Girls tend to put up with this (boredom) much better-- while boys often disengage from learning or act out increasingly. Again, more reasons for us to homeschool our boys!

Pudewa offered us more reason to doubt that private or public schools will ably educate our boys. At least through the 8th grade, I think we'll be homeschooling...


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