Monday, June 11, 2007

Why Gender Matters

Jack picked up Why Gender Matters at the library before a long car trip. We took turns driving and reading to each other while the boys colored, looked at books, stuck stickers on the windows and made faces at each other. Perhaps we are somewhat nerdy, but this was one of the highlights of our trip.

Based on emerging science, Dr. Sax offers a fascinating look at the differences between girls and boys. He begins by discussing the biological differences scientists have discovered that are not widely known. For instance, when your son acts as if he didn't hear you, he may not actually have heard you. Apparently, a boy's sense of hearing is not as acute as a girl's. This has all sorts of implications, such as a boy who sits in the back of the classroom getting into trouble when he simply may not have heard the teacher. Or a girl feeling like her father is yelling at her when he is simply speaking in a normal volume for him.

Although Dr. Sax provides compeling research, the second part of the book branches out to his opinions on how to apply this knowledge in everyday situations. He discusses discipline, drugs, sex, self-esteem and education. In regards to drug prevention for example, the research shows that boys tend to get into drugs because of peer pressure, whereas girls do drugs because of a low self-esteem. When it comes to education, Dr. Sax is a strong proponent for single-sex education. I've heard many arguments in favor of single-sex education for females, but I haven't heard much about the benefits for males until I read this. I can see his point. In single-sex education, the students can learn regardless of gender stereotypes and the teachers can tailor their lessons to meet the needs of the students more effectively. For instance, a high school English teacher at an all-boys school divided the students into two teams and asked questions Jeopardy style. This teacher drew upon the boys natural desire for competiton to help them review for the exam.

As with all discussions that put people into categories, you must be careful not to generalize to the extent that you forget that these are guidelines. The descriptions may fit the majority of boys and girls, yet it may not fit you or your child. Nonetheless, this is a thought-provoking and must-read book for all parents.

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