Please watch this insightful short video by Christina Hoff Summers. She illustrates some key stumbling blocks facing boys in education.

1. Reading

2. Lack of Recess

3. Schools that are feelings-centered, competition free, and sedentary.

Ms. Summers rightly points out that in many schools the reading curricula lack the themes boys most enjoy. She points to studies that show boys enjoying non-fiction and comics. Now, I agree with much of what Ms. Summers states in the video, but I don’t agree with this finding. Though there is some truth to this study, there are plenty of boys out there that love fiction. I find that they are more interested in stories that contain missions, mysteries, action, and humor.  Ms. Summers has many good insights in this video, but at times I think that she and Peg Tyre are getting the “boys don’t like fiction” claim wrong.

I know a duo of brothers who love mystery and the Hardy Boys. They also enjoy the Redwall series and Ranger’s Apprentice. I know another group of boys who enjoy reading about World War II weapons and battle strategy, but do not enjoy fantasy. Some boys struggle to enter into fictional worlds, while others thrive in it.

Boys like to read about how to build and invent. The Dangerous Book for Boys, and books like the classic The Boy Mechanic, are good examples of books for boys that focus on doing and making. Natural history is also a good theme that will interest them. Many boys love to read about bugs, birds, dinosaurs, and adventurous exploration books about exotic places.

Reading can be difficult for both boys and girls if they do not develop an inner narrative voice. If you can imagine a droll monotone adult reading a story, boring the listeners to tears, then you might imagine what some children go through inside their heads when reading. This will stifle their desire to read. However, if we can help the young to develop these inner voices through having them read dramatically, perform reenactments of literary scenes, or record radio shows, they begin to regain that natural storyteller within. Listening to audiobooks is also a great way to help them in this regard. Imitating voices in cadence and inflection is also helpful.

In the video Ms. Summers makes an excellent point about the lack of recess in schools.  She says that many schools are taking these breaks away and that this is hurting boys. I once taught at a school where we had a great recess routine. Each day we played an every man for himself  dodgeball game. Though some teachers in certain schools might consider this antagonistic and violent, we found it enthralling–and we teachers would often play with them! There were alliances, betrayals, scraped knees, victories, and losses. And this game lasted all year–never growing old. These are the kind of games Ms. Summers is talking about. I learned that this school no longer has this once sacred time of break. This is the case with many schools–and it is hurting boys. There will be another post on this matter in connection to the great educator Don Bosco! If we do not take a break with them, we will too often fall into the role of overlord of the classroom, and not a mentor who loves what they love.

Christina Hoff Summers is pointing out some very important issues with regards to boys education. I hope you enjoy watching her short video. She is right on–though I think she and Peg Tyre need to go easy on the fiction and poetry issue. There are very enjoyable ways to teach great poetry to boys–ways that include competition, music, loud chants, and reenactments.

Final Comment:

It is not small incremental changes we need to turn the tide, but a new approach to teaching boys that will change school into a landscape of action, guided by virtue and faith, where they can truly thrive. It will take an adventure to wake them up from the stupor of passivity that is so frustrating them.



Peter Searby

Author Peter Searby

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