Sunday, March 18, 2007

Quote of the Week

This comes from U.K. education secretary, Alan Johnson, and while it leaves room for debate and may be seen as an exaggeration by some, I find a great deal of truth in what he says:

"The average family spends four hours a day watching television. If they read to their children for a tenth of that time, we could practically eradicate illiteracy."

The quote is part of a Guardian Unlimited article in which Mr. Johnson explains ways that schools can encourage boys to read so that they will be better able to keep up with girls when they reach secondary school.
More action-packed fiction and more attention-grabbing teaching could help boys engage with their learning - and benefit girls too by making lessons go more smoothly, he suggested.

Mr Johnson called for a comprehensive educational strategy which "builds a positive identity for working-class boys, instilling in them pride and a love of learning." This would include encouraging more parents and grandparents to read to children, a campaign to attract more men into teaching in primary schools, and special one-to-one tuition.
Something similar to Johnson's approach should be taken in this country where boys so often fall behind girls at an early age, and to an extent, that they never catch back up. Girls have benefited from the extra effort that has been made in recent years to ensure that they get off to a proper educational start. Unfortunately, the boys have been largely left to fend for themselves and that neglect of their needs has created a new problem with which educators now need to deal.


  1. I agree with many of his statements. Parents should take the time to read more with their kids. Heck, just spending more time in general couldn't hurt.

    The "more action-packed fiction" bit, I'm not so sure about. I've noticed that some children's book publishers have begun labelling some of their books as "Boy Books", "Books For Boys" and so forth. I'm not okay with that. It perpetuates a stereotype (one that counteracts their ambition to have more males teaching at the primary level). A wider variety of books benefits everyone, but to assume that all boys need "high[er] action" than girls is wrong. Furthermore, the whole stereotype they're feeding into is part of the problem. I'm not sure when it happened but suddenly learning and education is not "macho" or "manly". Funny, especially when it used to be the opposite. Oh how the pendulum swings! We need to defeat those attitudes, not give into them. The rest of Johnson's argument goes on to say just that, but the "action packed" books for boys is off the mark.

    Incidently, I am one of those rare breeds: a male trained in primary education. I would support a campaign to get more of us there. I remember, just 8 years ago, being the only male in my entire education class at university. It struck me at the time that there was an abundance of scholarships for women persuing science or medicine (and understandably so), but there were none for males in such female dominated schools as education and nursing. Meanwhile, female numbers in those aforementioned fields have increased dramatically (maybe not so much in political science or engineering yet) but male numbers, especially in primary or elementary education, remains incredibly low.

  2. John, I have two daughters, both who teach in elementary schools, and I don't recall meeting a male teacher in either of the schools. One of my sons-in-law does teach 6th grade and there seem to be quite a few male teachers in his middle school.

    I tend to agree with you that "books for boys" can quickly get out of hand if boys are only steered toward books of a certain type. Perhaps, though, that type of book will help to get them excited about the whole reading process and might open their eyes a bit to all the possibilities. Let's hope so.