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Feminization of education: One of five reasons why boys are failing

Actor Hannah Endicott-Douglas as Anne Shirley in CTV's 2008 production of Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning


Why are boys falling behind in school? Kate Hammer takes a look at video games, the education system, the boy code, developmental differences and a lack of role models in search of answers.

Anne of Green Gables, the Canadian classic about a red-haired orphan girl and darling of English teachers everywhere, is not only a fine book, it's also a great way to turn boys off literature.

"Boys prefer a male protagonist, they need action in the first few pages or else they tune out, and their stories have to be linear - they start at the beginning and end at the end rather than using flashbacks," said former teacher Eric Walters, who now writes books for young adults.

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English teachers often pick books that they enjoyed as students to include on their reading lists. Given that most English teachers are women, the average class reading list appeals more to girls than boys. This has contributed to the fact that fewer boys than girls enjoy reading, and fewer of them are reading in their spare time: In its more recent provincial report, Ontario's Education Quality and Accountability Office noted that consistently over the past five years, more girls than boys reported reading outside of school for more than three hours a week, and that the percentage of boys who fit this group had fallen four percentage points to 32 per cent.

And boys' creative writing skills are often stifled when teachers reprimand them for writing the violent, gross or morbid tales that tend to spring from their imaginations. An illustration of the gap between what boys find engaging and what many educators deem appropriate emerged last spring at an Ottawa public school where a female principal reportedly stopped a reading by the bestselling author of Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger because she thought the name of one of the characters in his latest book was inappropriate.

With research from Carolyn Abraham, Rick Cash and Celia Donnelly

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About the Author
Education reporter

Kate Hammer started her journalism career in New York, chasing crime and breaking news for The New York Times. She came to the Globe and Mail in 2008 to do much of the same and ended up investigating allegations of animal cruelty and mismanagement at the Toronto Humane Society. More

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