A study released last year in the Journal of Human Resources confirms my suspicions. It seems that behavior plays a significant role in teachers’ grading practices, and consequently, boys receive lower grades from their teachers than testing would have predicted. The authors of this study conclude that teacher bias regarding behavior, rather than academic performance, penalizes boys as early as kindergarten. On average, boys receive lower behavioral assessment scores from teachers, and those scores affect teachers’ overall perceptions of boys’ intelligence and achievement.
While I love teaching boys, many of my colleagues do not, particularly during the hormone-soaked, energetic, and distracted middle- and high-school years. Teachers and school administrators lament that boys are too fidgety, too hyperactive, too disruptive, derailing the educational process for everyone while sabotaging their own intellectual development.
Peek into most American classrooms and you will see desks in rows, teachers pleading with students to stay in their seats and refrain from talking to their neighbors. Marks for good behavior are rewarded to the students who are proficient at sitting still for long periods of time. Many boys do not have this skill.
Boyish behavior has become something that has to be stamped out or medicated away. We’re doing that instead of teaching boys how to channel their energy into productive behavior, a process that in quainter times was called “becoming a man.” The results of that policy is everywhere before us.