The Gender Equation in Schools

 Gender bias affects boys’ experience in schools.

It’s most often unconscious and unintentional bias but it affects how our boys see themselves and how they feel about school and learning. And until we admit that fact and grapple with the gender equation in schools, things aren’t going to get much better.

Educator Jason Ablin learned that lesson the hard way. Early in his teaching career, he assumed he was doing a great job connecting with students of all genders. An in-depth, in-classroom evaluation, though, helped him see that he disciplined his male students more harshly — “which, ironically,” he says “reinforced the messages they were receiving about manhood, versus providing them with a different paradigm of how to open up and express frustration or vulnerability.”

The need for gender-aware education has perhaps never been greater, but too many people, Ablin says, forget that gender affects boys as well.

“When I go into schools and mention the word ‘gender,’ there are two assumptions that are made immediately,” he says. “One, that we’re talking about girls and feminism. Two, that we’re talking about LBGTQ kids. That’s all extremely important, but it limits our ability to address the concerns of teachers in the classroom who are struggling to connect with and teach kids.”

Boys, meanwhile, frequently feel like they’re “never winning,” Ablin says — which, in some boys, can escalate into reactive behavior. Other boys fall into a depressive spiral. ALL boys need the adults around them to recognize their need to be seen. Without this support, boys often create social hierarchies based on dominance; these hierarchies frequently perpetuate unhealthy forms of masculinity.

In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Jason discuss:
  • How gender affects student/teacher interactions
  • Helping boys succeed in school
  • The boy crisis in education
  • The “kept prince” phenomenon
  • Disciplining boys
  • Boys and mental health
  • Boys’ social hierarchies
  • How parents can encourage change in schools
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode: — Jason’s website (includes preview chapter of his book)

The Gender Equation in Schools: How to Create Equity and Fairness for All Students — Jason’s book

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