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What About Us ? Boys in Schools and Men in Society

by Peter Zohrab (1999 - 2000)

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The Principal of Motueka High School is quoted on page 4 of the New Zealand Education Gazette of 14 June 1999 as stating that many boys said that "teachers favour girls over boys." I think we need to take these boys at their word – after all, they are the consumers of the educational process, and their feelings and opinions deserve to be taken seriously. If they aren't (and the Principal concerned did not take them seriously), then that itself is an indication of bias against boys.

In addition, Massey University lecturer Sarah Farquhar was reported in the lead article of the Education Weekly (Vol. 8 No. 284, Monday, 3rd February 1997) as having carried out a study which showed that men were being discriminated against in early childhood teaching. Fifty-five percent of male teachers had had experiences of being treated as an actual or potential child abuser -- because of all the publicity surrounding a couple of cases of alleged child-abuse. This scared men away from the profession, and led employers to discriminate against male applicants for positions.

But the excessive numbers of female teachers may have even more sinister effects on the education of boys. Here is a quotation from the abstract of a research article from Fergusson, D.M., M. LLoyd, and L.J. Horwood (1991): Teacher Evaluations of the Performance of Boys and Girls. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies Vol. 26, No.2:

"These comparisons revealed systematic tendencies for teachers to evaluate the performance of girls more favourably than the performance of boys.... in the areas of reading and written expression teachers showed consistent tendencies to evaluate the performance of girls more favourably than the boys even after adjustment for gender differences in objective test scores were (sic) made."

The authors of this study state that the reason for this bias might be that teachers unconsciously included an evaluation of the students' behaviour and personality in their evaluation of the students' work. They also say:

"It is also possible that the tendency for teachers to evaluate girls more favourably is, in part, an unintended consequence of misapplication of gender equity principles."

The basic problem that boys have in New Zealand education is the same one that males have in every facet of New Zealand society – there is constant anti-male propaganda surrounding us, and one place that this anti-male propaganda and anti-male prejudice is particularly prevalent is in the female-dominated education system.

Where I work, a middle-management Feminist woman was heard to say at an ad hoc PPTA (Post-Primary Teachers' Association) branch meeting that the proportion of six women to two men present constituted "excellent gender balance". If I hadn't made an issue of that remark, no one would even have noticed that that was a sexist remark. Similarly, The Chair of a regional PPTA meeting was heard to say that men were too stupid to operate combination-locks. Again, if I hadn't made an issue of that remark later on, no one would have even noticed it. No one smiled when those two remarks were said, so they were not "just jokes". And it would be absolutely unthinkable for any PPTA member to say, as a "joke", that six men to two women was excellent gender balance, or that women were incapable of operating combination-locks – there would be howl of protests.

So this is the double-standard that we live and work under, and that boys suffer from. Indeed, I was right to have my doubts that this article would be published in the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) Boys' Issues Newsletter, to which I submitted it for publication -- which is why I am publishing it here. After one issue, that Newsletter has ceased to exist -- principally in order to avoid publishing my views, in my opinion. I was also barred from attending a "Boys In Schools" Conference. I had asked Rod Miller, the PPTA Boys' Issues officer, for details about the conference (having learned about it through a chance allusion he made to it), and he did not reply. I happened to find out details about it through other channels. So it may be that Rod Miller, who did not get onto National Executive on a pro-boy platform, is actually part of the problem, rather than part of its solution. This impression is confirmed by the fact that he has not replied to my email asking for details as to how I could attend the Men's Section of the PPTA's 1999 annual conference in Wellington, New Zealand.

In Education, as in every other part of Society, Feminists have looked for female "victims", and they were able to come up with some. We could say about Feminists and female victims more or less what what the famous French writer and crusading campaigner Voltaire said about men and God: if female victims don't exist where Feminists look for them, they just invent them !

One myth that was circulating -- and probably still is circulating -- around the education systems of Western countries was that boys dominated the teacher's attention in coeducational classrooms. In many countries, this myth was no doubt promulgated at taxpayer expense, and at the expense of the union dues that male and female teachers paid to their unions. A lot of hand-wringing ensued.

However, an Australian Professor of Education, Eileen Byrne, visited New Zealand in 1994, and I went and heard her speak at the Ministry of Women's Affairs -- no less ! Professor Byrne holds the Chair of Education in Policy Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia. She debunked several myths about girls in education, including this one:

"It's not true in mixed classrooms that all boys dominate the discourse. A massive survey of 120 of those studies that are most often cited showed that, in a third of those surveyed, neither sex dominated and in another third, the difference was so slight as to be not a basis for policy-making. In the remaining third, yes it was true that girls did not dominate at all and boys did, but, it was three boys who did, or two boys, one boy. Most of the boys don't. That is a question of classroom management. It is a matter of good teaching. In the first place, it's bad for any three students to have excessive air time and dominate, be they male or female. In each of those cases there was always a girl or two who attempted to dominate. Smart Alec girls exist too" (PPTA News, Vol. 15 No.3, April 1994).

The boys' and men's side of the story needs to be told. If more boys than girls try to hog the teacher's attention in a minority of classrooms, then that may well be because most of their teachers are female and they are attracted to them sexually. Feminist teachers, supported by their unions, have been making such a song and dance about the supposed problem of women and girls that boys (quite rightly !) have felt neglected, and even demonised. This is not good for their morale, self-esteem or (in all probability) academic performance. To give you one tiny example of bias in schools: where I work, I once looked up the library catalogue and found that the library catalogue listed over 300 books on "women" and "girls", and fewer than 30 on "men" and "boys" ! And in one particularly anti-male department, a female teacher was allowed to post the slogan "Men Can't Do Anything !" at her desk -- until I complained. How many western workplaces would allow you to post the slogan "Women Can't Do Anything " ?

That, presumably, is why Sue Wood, of the Holmes TV programme, had to go to the Principal of an upmarket private school to find someone who would speak out publicly in defence of boys (July 29 1999). The politically correct left-liberals have all been trained by their partners to be anti-male.

For example, competition, which boys seem thrive on more than girls do, is now Politically Incorrect, and is being discouraged in the education system. Continuous assessment is steadily replacing examinations in some countries. Continuous assessment removes the anonymity of written examinations and allows full scope for teachers' anti-boy bias. A further possible factor is the banning of corporal punishment. Corporal punishment has a salutary effect on the behaviour and attitude of some boys (in my experience as a teacher), and its removal from the school system is seen by some politicians as a major reason for the number of suspensions of boys from schools in such countries as New Zealand. About three quarters of suspensions involve boys, according to page 5 of the New Zealand Education Gazette of 14 June, 1999.

But now the crown of victimhood has to some extent been wrested from the girls and placed on the heads of the boys in western societies. This is an important breakthrough, because it means that educational sympathy, funding, research, publicity, and perhaps even legislation will move from excessive concentration on the perceived needs of girls towards a recognition that boys are people too.


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Peter Douglas Zohrab

Latest Update

19 July 2018