Boys don’t do as well as girls in school – video games can help

Here and Now

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The statistics on boys in schools keep getting worse. The latest show that boys in 65 countries scored significantly lower than girls in literacy tests. Other research shows that boys are far more likely to be held back a year in school, to be suspended or to drop out of school altogether.

The problem is not boys, says scholar Ali Carr-Chellman. The problem is that schools no longer welcome the competitive, physical culture of boys, and boys are getting the message that school is not for them.

Carr-Chellman is professor of Education at Penn State University and board member of The Boys Initiative. She points to research that shows how the current school environment in America makes it difficult for boys, including factors like fewer male teachers, misapplication of zero tolerance policies and curriculum compression.

The fact that 93 percent of teachers are women sends a message to boys that school isn’t an environment where males are successful. The things that boys are normally interested in — like toy weapons and physical play — are not accepted in a school setting. And, increased tests and standards don’t match well with how boys learn.

Carr-Chellman says to reach boys, schools should start with what appeals to boys — like video games — and incorporate that into teaching. The idea has been met with a lot of resistance, which she believes is reflective of schools’ rejection of boy culture.

“I get to the possible solution of gaming, and I get a real wall put up,” Carr-Chellman explains. “… mostly it comes to things like they’re violent, they’re competitive, they’re individualistic. But what is interesting to me is that … those are aspects we might say embody boy culture.”

Many don’t realize the benefits of using certain games in a teaching environment, she argues. “What we find actually is that a lot of the multiplayer games and the really rich narrative games are ones that actually develop a huge amount of leadership, empathy for what’s happening around them, so it actually has a lot of significant benefits.”


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