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Traditional School: Too Much to Ask of Boys?

In the September 13, 2023 issue of The Wall Street Journal, psychoanalyst Erica Komisar wrote an editorial entitled, School Is A Hostile Environment for Boys. You can read my response, which was published in the Sept 19. 2023 edition of The Wall Street Journal, here.

In this piece, Ms. Komisar talks about a "boy crisis" in education because girls are outperforming boys in school achievement, meaning they are getting higher grades in most subjects.

She goes on to suggest that the problem is that classroom learning is better suited to "feminine-typed personalities", whatever that means. She says that because boys have more testosterone than girls, making them sit still for too long throws them into fight or flight mode, which causes them to become squirmy and distractible.

This "feminizing" of boys is, according to her, leading to low self-esteem among boys, and to their being misdiagnosed with ADD, etc., being marginalized and ridiculed by teachers, and becoming "depressed and anxious, developing feelings of inadequacy and helplessness."

Good grief.

It seems beyond ridiculous to suggest all of this dramatic emotional fallout is a result of too much sitting. Could it be that this anxiety and depression is a direct result of psychologists' constant probing and parents' constant hovering and hand-wringing?

As far as I know, it has always been pretty standard for kids to sit for fairly lengthy periods of time in some kind of academic setting; nobody loves this, girls or boys.

And yet, throughout history boys have been growing into men who are capable of amazing achievements, even after all that sitting. I'd guess almost every successful man, whether professional, blue-collar, clergyman or businessman, got his start sitting in a classroom.

Could it be that the self-control required for quieting the body and attending to a task or an instructor might actually be a component of success?

Rather than constantly focusing on how they feel, here is what they need:

  • Everyone, boys and girls, should be allowed free recess every day.

  • After school and on weekends, stop sending them off to adult-organized and supervised sports! Let them organize their own games in whatever way they like!

  • Parents should teach boys and girls how to pay attention and do as they are told.

  • Kids should be assigned daily chores, and held accountable to perform them well.

  • Teach kids manners and respect for legitimate authority

  • Require kids to follow all the rules of the home and the school, even if that means cutting their hair or wearing a uniform, without their parents making a fuss about their "right" to express themselves.

  • Parents should stop trying to protect their kids from every possible discomfort, stop supervising everything, and start focusing more on their marriages and hobbies than on their kids;

  • Instead of treating kids as equals, let them see adulthood as something they hope to reach one day.

If parents did this, kids would have time to think, time to deal with issues on their own, have something to look up to and strive for, would develop self-control and maybe, eventually, even gratitude and humility.

Not only that, but they'd be far more secure: children need structure, close family relationships, time for quiet reflection, and time for free play.

We don't need lower behavioral standards or physical demands any more than we need lower academic standards. We need stronger, more confident parents who set rules and expect kids to follow them, and less meddling from the psychological "expert" industry.

Read my letter to the editor in response to Ms. Komisar's commentary, published by the WSJ on Sept. 19, 2023, here, and let me know what you think!

And if you'd like to get started teaching the things I've outlined above--chores, manners, etc.--and don't know where to begin, book a call or check out my course by clicking the appropriate button, above. I can help you move from uncertainty and insecurity about your parenting to full confidence!

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