Boys Under Attack: How Gender Stereotyping in the Classroom Hurts Boys

 “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools. Boys are treated like defective girls.”

-Michael Thompson

In recent years we have noticed there have been issues in schools regarding boys in the classroom. Boys are more likely to be punished for their behavior, whereas girls are given more warning. Schools are suited to handle the “sit still and listen” montre which does not adhere to boys more specifically in the younger ages. Lessons and content are presented in ways that do not appeal to boys in classrooms that are not designed to accommodate boys in a system where boys are being ostracized simply for showing enthusiasm or energy. If the effects go unnoticed or unattended then the results can be problematic and/or  irreversible at a young age.

Why discuss it?

Aside from the desire to make sure everyone in the classroom, it is crucial to the health and educational futures of boys to make sure they are welcomed in the schools. Schools do not accommodate boys, and boys are being expected to rapidly adapt to their standards. Not to say school’s purpose is not to train and indoctrinate students into the life and way of education, both in the grade school levels and preparation for the collegiate level, but boys have a much larger barrier to overcome. But the reason for discussing it, is because many do not believe it is happening nor do they see a problem for one specific reason: school is predominantly dominated by women.

What do we know?

Over years of studies starting since the 1990’s, we have statistics and records that boys have a much higher chance of dropout rates than girls. Setting aside race, socioeconomic status and school environment, across all metrics boys drop out at a higher rate than women and 60% of college graduates are women. Now the population in America is about a 50-50, boy-to-girl ratio, which makes the disparity much more severe when you realise that this means not only do women outnumber men in college, but the percentage of women who even attend and graduate from college, is significantly higher. This dominance of women has lead to one theme: “At most college campuses the attitude is that men are the problem.” (Marcus). Men aren’t going to want to be in this environment, and they know it’s coming from an early age.

Boys in the Early Grades

The first years of education for boys and girls are a rather fun time. They get to meet new people, they make strives in their learning and most of all, this is where we train them to be students. The time I am referring to is K-3 education. While this should be a good time for all, sometimes it is where boys are already learning they are being ostracized in education.

I am not saying that all boys have  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and I am not discrediting it as a real mental disorder (since the U.S. military recognizes it), but what I am saying is how largely it affects boys at the younger ages. Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a 12.9% chance where girls sit at just 4.9%. ADHD has been linked to various other learning disabilities and behavioral problems in the later grades. Moreover one of the symptoms Doctors look for is: hyperactivity and lack of focus. Something most boys exhibit in the younger ages and up through the grades. All this speaks to the notion that we should be setting our classroom to appeal to boys to try and keep them in the schools. A good place to start reading on boys in the early grades would be



Boys in the Middle Grades

After surviving the indoctrination into the world of education, boys now move on to the middle of their education: grades 4-8. While some like to seperate the 7th and 8th grades, it actually is apart of one long transition process which needs to be looked at as a whole. This is where the troubled students are isolated and where they begin to identify struggling students via systems like Response to Intervention Programs (RTI’s) and IQ Performance Assessments. Unfortunately this is where a large gap can already be found in boys, not only in performance but also in content appreciation.

Boys and girls both read about the same in terms of quantity, the difference comes in the form of content and genre. While girls are likely to read chapter books about drama, boys are more likely to read books with violence/fighting, History (usually wars) and sports autobiographies. All of these, are not acceptable in some classes as they are not “in depth” enough. Or they are “too violent” and the boys have to read something else. The argument of this is not to say boys shouldn’t read the same class material as girls, but to say that boys have their reading censored more often than girls. All this introduces to boys in middle school is that schools will not support their interests, and they will lose interest in reading, which will put them behind in school, increasing their chances of dropping out.

As a side note, this is also where recess is beginning to be taken out of schools for these grades. Some as young as 5th grade. Boys need physical activity to release energy. Denying them a release for it, and forcing to keep it bottled up, increases their chances of acting up in class, not paying attention, and not being able to retain information. Also, it decreases stress, and denying boys physical exercise just makes them all stressed out, and makes them see school as a punishment instead of a place of needed learning.

Boys in High School

If boys make it this far, Grades 9-12, then statistically they all won’t make it to graduation. This is where dropout rates begin to climb. Let us look at high school classrooms. You walk in, you sit down, you listen and you take a test. Some teachers have an activity every week or two, but for the most part those are the classes. As was mentioned earlier, boys need physical exercise and in most high schools across the country, gym is the only  place to get it. If you’d like to read more on if recess is right for High School students, then Do Teens Need Recess is a good place to start the argument.

Boys in College

As was mentioned earlier, boys are less likely to attend college and have a higher chance of dropping out if they do. Why? Everything that was mentioned up till now is how collegic classes are ran. True you get to be in attendance less days of the week, which some boys enjoy, the truth of the matter most don’t care. They don’t care what it’s like because they learned from a young age that college wouldn’t be worth because they saw high school wasn’t worth it. In most cases, boys don’t fail in education; education failed for the boys.

Boys in Society: Keep This in Mind

This section is where the mentality of boys such as “Be a Man” is brought into the classroom and what teachers are going to have to keep in mind when dealing with boys.

The article How Man Up and Other Stereotypical Sayings Hurt Boys opens up the floor, and it is recommended that teachers read it. Not because it is what you are doing, but because it highlights a large part of the mentality of/toward boys in society.

Tradition vs Change. Boys and Girls in our society are being raised with the traditional values and expectations of our parents and theirs and so on. While it is nice to see value passe down the family tree, one thing is not changing that needs to: what we expect to do in our adult lives. Boys are raised and expected to get manual jobs, to be a man, and make money out of high school. Women are more likely to go to fields like education and healthcare while boys are more likely to go into agricultural fields, oil and gas, mining, and forestry. The problem is that those male-dominated fields are shrinking as machines do more of the work. Boys aren’t being raised to acknowledge this, and are being prepped for fields that aren’t producing crops anymore. You can read more about this phenomenon in the article 'Problem for an entire gender': Boys, men not adapting to changing job market. This study takes place in Canada, but the trend is affecting the United States as well.

For an overview of this situation being played out in our schools, then watch the video War on Boys, by clicking the title or down below. Here you will find suspension rates for boys, the limits of boys in thinking and reading, and impact in higher education and the economy that was discussed throughout this piece.





“Why our boys struggle...” focuses on the different learning styles of boys and what a lack of inclusive curricula can do to their motivation in school.

“The war against boys” focuses on boys and the power switch in the school system. Any new teacher would do well to keep this in the back of their mind when making decisions that may affect boys negatively.

“The Nation’s Schools are Failing Boys” focuses on the praise of female inclusivity in the higher schools while at the same time, boys are dropping off from school younger and younger.

“American School System” focuses on school’s focusing too much on the material, and not on the children. Teachers read this to acquire teaching strategies that keep learning engaging for all genders.

“Is School Biased” addresses the delima that boys face in school where their fine motor skill haven’t developed like their female counterparts. Teachers should read this to keep in mind what struggles boys face in the younger (and older) grades.

“Teachers Biases Girls” focuses on the biases faced against girls in more critical thinking courses such as mathematics. Teachers should read this to gain insight on hidden biases based in certain subjects.

“Stop Penalizing Boys for not…” focuses simply on the over activity of boys. Teachers should read this to learn the psychological effects of punishing boys for something they cannot control.

“Why Men are the New…” focuses on the impacts of various factors that cause men to drop out of school and not continue further education. Teachers should read this to ensure these conditions are met and their classroom is more male-friendly.

“ADHD Facts” focuses on ADHD; teachers should read this to gain more knowledge on the statistical and mental effects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

“Recess…” focuses on the lack of recess, and physical outlets for boys and its effects on their education. Teachers should read this to attempt more kinesthetic learning practices in their classroom.

“The serious reason boys…” focuses on problems within schools that cause boys of various races to drop out and do poorly. Teacher should read this to make their classroom more diverse and boy friendly.

“Do teens need recess” focuses on the impact recess can have on students. Teachers should read this to see what students have to say on the matter.

“How Man Up…” this article focuses on gender-programing sayings can impact boys much worse than girls. Where schools go against most female stereotypes, boys are upheld to the same standart. Teachers should read this to ensure they aren’t bringing these into their classroom.

“Men and boys falling behind…” focuses on jobs boys believe they will have an abundance of. Teachers should read this to be aware of job opportunities in the future to be more equipped to teach boys and maintain their focus.

“War On Boys” is a video that addresses policies that affect boys throughout the various grade levels. Teachers should watch this to gain a quick oversight into the world of gender bias in schools.

Helping boys resources:

Boy Friendly Classroom” focuses on just keeping boys engaged in the classroom. Teachers should read this to make sure their classroom isn’t pandering to one gender.

“Teaching to the Minds of boys” focuses on the thought process of boys and teachers should read this to learn how boys learn.  

“Supporting Boys in the Classroom” this article focuses on the atmosphere of the classroom where boys thrive. Teachers should read this to know of what not to do, like building up girls by talking down boys.


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