Are Schools Becoming Intolerant of Boys?
My son starts Kindergarten in a few weeks and I'm nervous. I'm not worried about his academic skills - he can read, add, and loves science. I'm also not concerned about his ability to make friends - he loves to chat with boys and girls of all ages. I'm not even anxious about the separation - school is only a half day and I know he can follow the teacher's instructions, sit at circle time, and concentrate on his work.
What makes me nervous is his stereotypical “boy-ness”. I worry that I've never seen boys in the top reading groups. Is this because few boys arrive reading or because the teachers do not recognize the literary streak in the more active nature of many of the boys?
This all seems like part of a trend that rewards students who sit silently in their desks, unquestioningly absorbing information. This hurts both our boys and our girls who don't fit this mold.
I'm also nervous that his boy play will be pathologized and penalized. He is a little puppy dog and very physical, though gentle, in his play. We've worked on making sure that he knows he should never touch anyone without their permission--but in the current climate, is that enough?
With current news stories about boys being expelled for pretending pencils and slices of bread are guns, I'm even more worried that his recent interest in weaponry will be a problem. Up until recently, my boy never engaged in "gun" play, though he has always loved swords and dragons and knights. Perhaps he learned it from an older boy or maybe it is his new interest in Indiana Jones. Or maybe he made the connection between guns and his father's work in the Army. He does not watch violent movies or television and does not play any video games. We don't have toy guns at home but that doesn't stop him from turning all sorts of toys, sticks, and other items into guns.
Either way, I have told him that he cannot talk about guns in school and definitely cannot play any games involving guns. He cares very much about being a "good kid" and earning praise from teachers. Still, he is not even yet five and it is a lot to expect that he will never, ever, forget this rule.
It is unfortunate that the message is that this form of play is wrong. "Good Guy / Bad Guy" play is important for imaginative and moral development. At its best, this opens up the opportunity for dialogue about the nature of good and evil, making decisions when there is no clear right answer, and when force is an acceptable response to evil, if ever.
Instead of instituting zero tolerance policies banning all mention of guns from school, we should set reasonable guidelines and have these conversations with our children.