Do You Smell That?

It’s my muffin burning.

Edison and Clooney go to a school that is only co-ed through the third grade. When I went there, the ratio of boys to girls was about even, but I guess over the years it’s developed a reputation for being more of a girls’ school and the number of boys has dwindled. This year, the two sections of third grade have eight boys total, with four in each classroom.

Last year, there were no boys in the third grade at all, and the administration freaked out. What can we do to keep boys? What can we do to attract boys? They had this big parents meeting where all these ideas were aired and floated, but this year, there really hasn’t been much talk of the problem.

Edison has been there for the last five-plus years, and until this one, I really didn’t feel many gender differences in terms of the teaching. But this year is different. He had to read Sarah Plain and Tall, which was a chore for him. In fact, this child who does love to read when the material means something to him, has begun to lament that he’s “not good at reading.” And that’s not good at all.

I’ve also noticed that the assignments this year have a definitely feminine slant. The word problems are often about girls. They did another reading packet several weeks ago that involved sewing and making a quilt. Today he was doing corrections on a test about African culture that focused on a girl who made a certain kind of special cloth. How is that meaningful or engaging to an eight-year-old boy? And Edison’s not the most rough-and-tumble kind of guy either. He’s the kind of guy who will always have soft hands, which isn’t a bad thing, I’m just saying he’s more cerebral than physical.

So then, I’ve kind of noticed in the last year or two that the party invitations have dried up. Not a big deal. He definitely goes to plenty of them, but not as many as he did in kindergarten or first grade. The other day, he mentioned that one of the girls was having a Valentine’s Day party. I asked if he had been invited, but he said no, that none of the boys were invited because as the girl’s mother put it, “They would be too wild.”

Way to teach the boys how to act in social situations, lady! Besides, there are only four boys in the classroom, and I happen to know that they are all nice kids. There aren’t any problems in the classroom. It’s not like the teacher’s got eleven girls and four monkeys.

Though this is the same woman who didn’t contribute to aid a needy family at Christmas that the class had taken on. The family had five kids, the youngest of whom had cerebral palsy. The parents had been out of work for several weeks. It was a sad story. But this girl’s mom told her daughter (who then told my son) that it was pointless to give them money because “the parents are just going to spend it on cigarettes.” Nice. Charitable. Really Christian. (Not that I am into that, but hey, it is a Catholic school whose motto is “to serve.”)

But maybe I am wrong. Maybe separating girls from boys for parties a reasonable thing. Edison doesn’t care that he wasn’t invited to the party, and frankly neither do I. But I just think that it’s a little young to start excluding members of the group. Plus if we are so worried about keeping and attracting boys to this school, excluding them from activities certainly doesn’t help. 

One Comment on “Do You Smell That?”

  1. Very good and thought-provoking post. It also makes me wonder about how sincere they are about wanting to attract more boys. If I was a prospective parent visiting the school or touring it as a potential fit for my son, the activities and curriculum (reading Sarah Plain and Tall, sewing, etc.) would give me pause.

    Or even if I asked say, another parent like YOU who has boys in the school.

    I understand about the “not good at reading” when in fact the child enjoys reading when he has something of interest. I have one of those (Boo) too. Not good.

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