My Back Pages
Project "Boys" (1965)
"A disproportionate number of the boys were poorly motivated for school and for life in general . . . . Our girls, on the other hand, presented minimal problems by comparison." This isn't a quote pulled from the latest "boy crisis" magazine cover story; it begins the article "Project 'Boys'" (PDF), which appeared in the September 1965 Educational Leadership.
Read the article: "Project 'Boys'" (PDF)
Not only were boys, by and large, behind girls academically in author Kathryn Y. Hazeur's school in Wilmington, Del., but their hygiene and social skills were wanting, too: "The appearance of boys as far as grooming was concerned was not good, and the boys cared little about the impressions they made on others." Girls were taking on all of the leadership positions, from Safety Patrol to Student Council.
The school faculty discussed the issue and decided that boys were underexposed to positive male role models. The vast majority of school faculty were women, and the community was "essentially matriarchal . . . . The male image in the neighborhood ranked as one of lesser importance." Reaching out to the community, they arranged for a series of successful men to talk with the students and answer questions about their work and lives. Field trips designed to broaden boys' perspectives were arranged to coincide with teacher conference days to minimize class interruption.
The program, which was eventually extended to girls, offers only anecdotal evidence of success for the article, but it's difficult not to be optimistic about the school's efforts. Although present-day debates on gender and schooling get caught up with brain development and learning styles, this program's story remains an inspirational lesson in the power of introducing positive role models and real-world examples of success.
In "My Back Pages," we look at important issues through the historical lens of the Educational Leadership archives. ASCD members can access EL issues from 1943 to the present by signing in at the right.
David Snyder is a reference librarian in ASCD's Information Resource Center
ASCD Express, Vol. 6, No. 4. Copyright 2010 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.