"Boyhood Studies"

One of my big research interests is the "boy crisis." It's always fun to read articles about boys and how they're all failing schools, and it's interesting to note the differences and similarities in how this topic is addressed on various media platforms.

Most recently, The Chronicle of Higher Education (you can guess the readership) published a piece called "The Puzzle of Boys," which was an attempt at a more encompassing take on contemporary work about why boys are falling behind in schools. The article provides some persuasive background regarding the predominance of masculinist thought in the history of "boyhood studies"; masculinist perspectives rely on "essentials" or "hard-wired" facts about boys vs. girls to justify educational changes based on gender differences.

A former professor of mine and writer at Mama PhD provided some nice commentary about the piece and offered that perhaps we should consider that certain hypermasculine spaces and ideals are not fit for all boys. The argument here extends, I think, into commentary about how debates about what is "right" for boys eventually becomes what is right for certain boys. Pieces about all boys and all girls can in many ways be essentializing stories that serve to Other boys within the boy category.

But for me, the most annoying piece of nearly all news articles about the "boy crisis" and particularly annoying coming from an academically-oriented publication like the Chronicle, I find the lack of attention to intersections of race and class to be unethical. Statistics are everywhere that show how the "boy falling behind girls" issue is really only an problem as far as educational achievement goes among poorer boys and among Black and Latino boys. One in four black boys graduates from high school, and Black and Latino women are far more represented in colleges than Black and Latino men. And among wealthy children, boys of all races are overrepresented in higher education. What does this mean? It means that we can't really claim that there are innate characteristics about boys that affect their educational performance on certain topics. It means that we can't justify transforming the classroom into something like a sports field, as some authors have suggested, in order to help all boys learn better about the topic.

It means that not all boys are the same.

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