Schooling the Boys: Masculinities and Primary Education

Schooling the Boys: Masculinities and Primary Education

Schooling the Boys: Masculinities and Primary Education

Schooling the Boys: Masculinities and Primary Education

Synopsis

This book explores where masculinity is in primary schools. It has been argued by some commentators that a contributory factor to boys' underachievement is the predominance of women teachers in primary schools which has led to classroom management and teaching styles which 'favour' girls. As this book shows, primary schools produce a range of masculinities for pupils to draw on. A number of questions are raised: what are the tensions for boys between what the school expects from them as 'school pupils' and how they are drawn to behave as a 'boy'? How does a primary school produce certain masculine styles in its day-to-day routines? In what ways do girls respond to male practices and behaviours in the primary school classroom? The book provides readers with an understanding of the background literature on boys and schooling, an insight into 'masculinity-making' in primary schools, and to offer strategies for developing gender-relevant programmes.

Excerpt

The fact that this book appears in a series focusing on boys and education reflects the growing interest in the area. Many of the writers contributing to this series have been researching and writing about masculinities and schooling for many years before the mid-1990s. I mention this as 1995 appears to mark the time when discussions on boys and education, which had largely been undertaken in academic journals, attracted the attention of the British media and politicians. The manner in which this interest was expressed was in terms of a moral panic as can be seen in such headlines as 'Where did we go wrong?' (Times Educational Supplement (TES) 14 February 1997). Such has been the concern that schools are 'failing boys' that there has been widespread response from the government, local education authorities (LEAs), schools and publishers offering strategies and materials for tackling boys' underachievement (Noble and Bradford 2000; Sukhnandan et al. 2000). One interesting quirk in the discussions of boys' education (and there are many as this chapter will show) is the apparent concern with boys in secondary schooling. Yet, those aspects of schooling which dominate the discussions, such as boys' performance in Key Stage tests, their disinclination towards academic work, negative behaviours in the classroom, and truancy, are as relevant to boys in primary school as they are to boys in secondary school. Lessons could be learned here from the gender equality work of the 1980s when Judith Whyte (1983: 8) pointed out that concentrating initiatives on girls in secondary schooling was misplaced as 'it is unlikely that crucial differences between the sexes suddenly make their appearance at the age of 13. Their roots are to be uncovered … in the primary years'.

To say that this book redresses this oversight by focusing on boys in primary schools is accurate but also too generalized. Such a claim masks the complexity of asking questions about what 'being a boy' in school . . .

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