Fidgety boys and how they learn.

Fidgety boys: how they learn.

Here are some examples of Letters to the Editor of the NYTimes on David Leonhardt’s piece,  A Link between fidgety boys and a sputtering economy

First, Mr Leonhardt’s piece:15-fidgety-kid-150x150

 “A Link Between Fidgety Boys and a Sputtering Economy,” by David Leonhardt (The Upshot, April 29):

Then some commentary–

The Different Way That Boys Learn

The achievement gap between boys and girls is not quite the mystery your article describes.

“Educational reforms” pushed by wealthy donors like the Gates Foundation, testing corporations and both Democrats and Republicans have cut recess, gym and the arts to focus on testing.

While both boys and girls need time to run around, girls are more socially conditioned to sit still and obey the rules while boys more frequently act out. The focus on longer hours and more testing has not bridged race and class gaps as proponents promised, and it is no surprise that gender gaps are also apparent.

The testing model fails to consider broader socioeconomic realities, underpaid and under-rewarded teachers, and children’s overall needs for effective learning.

Rather than force “fidgety boys” to sit still for longer hours (or diagnose attention deficit disorder and drug them to comply), let them play! Address children’s need to move from one activity to another and blow off energy in the playground while offering multiple approaches to learning. This approach has put Finland at the top of educational performers among developed countries.

More recess, more arts and sports, the elimination of standardized testing, the valuing of teachers — it’s not a mystery!

New York, April 29, 2014

To the Editor:

Your article doesn’t mention an important ingredient of the problem. The rise in boys’ troubles coincides exactly with the push by schools to ramp up literacy demands in the earliest grades — a time when boys are least able to cope with reading and writing.

Thus, boys fall behind and conclude that school is for girls.

Arlington, Va., April 29, 2014

The writer is the author of “Why Boys Fail.”

To the Editor:

As a longtime educator and student of learning differences, I believe that one means of bringing boys into school success and the “knowledge economy” is a serious effort to redirect their inappropriate media use. Multiple studies document the academically and personally damaging effects of too much recreational “screen time,” particularly for youths on the lower socioeconomic rungs.

Boys are particularly vulnerable to getting “hooked” on first-person shooter games. These can affect the growing brain by resetting motivation circuits into an addictive loop that blocks sustained academic effort. Nighttime games also interfere with sleep, causing attention problems.

Whether or not violent games create violent behavior, a hyper-aroused, externally driven young nervous system is a poor candidate for self-control of either behavior or intellect.

In fact, one reason boys succeed in the “best performing schools” may be that their parents and teachers tend to restrict the amount of time students spend with video games while encouraging the active physical and social pursuits so necessary for healthy development.

Vail, Colo., April 30, 2014

The writer, an educational psychologist, is the author of “Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning From Birth to Adolescence.”

To the Editor:

As headmaster for 26 years at the Browning School, an all-boys school founded in 1888 here in New York City, I believe that David Leonhardt may well take heart in the fact that some schools do acknowledge the profound differences between boys and girls.

At Browning, we are aware of the obvious distractions and learning styles and are dedicated to educating boys in such a way that they enjoy learning; in fact, they thrive.

As for the toughness Mr. Leonhardt believes is all too desirable a trait in the minds of boys who aspire to success, let me add that “grit” was one of our founder’s favorite words and became our motto (“Grytte”). Grit is distinct from overbearing “macho” masculinity.

Rather than emphasizing the need to be gruffly assertive, we have chosen instead to stress that failing is part of the learning process and that anything worth having is worth working hard for.

New York, April 29, 2014

The learning gap.

Leonhardt writes:

… if we want to make inroads into the achievement gap…policymakers have an option: either create more schemes that support parents to in the linguistic development of their children, or offer pre-school classes for students as young as one—as they do in Sweden.

This may sound radical, but doing nothing is nonsensical. As Americans wring their hands over the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, it seems foolish to neglect policies that would help children reach their full potential.”

This argument is underway in Canada with mixed results since education is a provincial responsibility in Canada.



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