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Problem isn’t little boys, it’s little minds

4 juin 2003

par Michele Landsberg, journaliste

Dans cet article publié dans le Toronto Star de samedi, le 7 juin 2003, la journaliste torontoise Michele Landsberg répond, après Pierrette Bouchard et Jean-Claude Saint-Amant (cf., aux idéologues de droite qui nous font depuis une décennie un chantage à la castration de nos ’boys’ si on ne trouve pas au plus vite des façons d’empêcher les filles d’avoir de bonnes notes à l’école !

Elle révèle qu’un test pan-canadien du niveau d’alphabétisation des jeunes a été manipulé pour tenter de biaiser les scores en faveur des gars : on a changé le texte pour y parler de serpents, d’accidents de train et de coyotes ! Chapeau, le fair-play et les valeurs modernes !...

Commentant le backlash qui déferle contre la présence des femmes dans les milieux d’enseignement primaire, Landsberg remarque que ceux qui poussent les hauts cris passent sous silence la responsabilité de tous ces hommes qui sont directeurs d’école, auteurs de manuels scolaires (ou ministres), ainsi que celle des pères qui ne lisent que les pages sportives et des "figures masculines" qui règnent sur notre culture en général, et dont les garçons apprennent très vite les valeurs de compétition, de marasme affectif, de cruauté, d’obsession de l’argent et de domination mâle. Des valeurs qu’il est devenu urgent de renverser - plutôt que de rendre l’école encore plus virile’ - si l’on veut réellement venir en aide aux garçons.

En attendant, s’il y a déséquilibre dans les résultats scolaires, écrit
Landsberg, c’est simplement parce qu’on retient un peu moins les filles
qu’avant, ce qui - pour la première fois - confronte les gars aux
conséquences d’une distraction de longue date. Mais, statistiques à l’appui, elle démontre que le pouvoir financier et politique demeure bien logé du côté des hommes, quoi que prétendent le quotidien National Post et le lobby masculiniste. (Martin Dufresne)

It’s spring, and all over town I see little boys - 1, 2 and 3 years old - stubbornly pushing their own strollers, with their resigned parents half-crouched behind them and helping to steer. It was our 14-month-old grandson’s ardent devotion to stroller-pushing that alerted me to the phenomenon. Maybe little girls do it, too, but not in my experience.

Is it biology or culture ? Nature or nurture ? I don’t know, but the "boy difference" is a matter of huge uproar in the media. In fact, the supposed failure of boys at school has become another plank in the masculinist platform, otherwise known as the male backlash against the advancement of women. The same week that I noticed the baby boys and the strollers, there was another fuss in the newspapers about boys lagging far behind girls in the so-called national literacy test.

Dr. Paul Cappon, director-general of the Council of Ministries of Education, got major front-page play in the National Post with his hand-wringing about boys. And get this : Boys lagged behind even though the test had been made more "boy-friendly" with subject material about snakes (O Freud, thou shouldst be here), train-wrecks and coyotes.

In other words, even when the tests are rigged in boys’ favour, girls do better.

Last year, Cappon was disturbed to learn that girls were quickly catching up to boys in math attainment. "Are boys going to be superior in anything any more ?" he fretted to the Post.

Boys drop out of school at a far higher rate than girls, and are no longer the majority of university enrolments.

Commentators who are anxious to shore up male hegemony blame feminized schools, female teachers, feminists, mothers, single mothers, working mothers. As far as I’ve seen, they never blame male principals, male textbook authors, fathers or the male role models who abound in our society.

Here’s my take on this ludicrous situation. Believe me ; I was there. A couple of generations back, school was strict. We sat in rows. We did not talk without raising our hands. Boys were as fidgety then as they are now and the proportion of female teachers was even higher. Yet, because girls were openly and explicitly held back - told they couldn’t do math and science, discouraged or outright prevented from going to university or entering professions - and because boys were loaded with extra privilege and preferment, they rose effortlessly to the top, skimming off the scholarships, awards and top jobs.

Today, thanks to feminist analysis and activism, society and schools profess more egalitarian values. That’s why girls, freed from the old girls-can’t-do-math propaganda, are zooming ahead in school.

But don’t be fooled. Men still rule the banks, governments, the military, agriculture, manufacture, senior management and universities.

For all their academic accomplishment, women still hold only 14 per cent of the full professorships. They are 21 per cent of Canada’s senior managers. And their incomes lag behind men’s at every stage of their career, even when they work full-time in identical jobs. Women, especially women of colour and aboriginal women, are more than twice as likely to be poor as men are.

So, the patriarchy is safe, thank you very much. Men have little to fear from women, but a great deal to fear from globalization, economic restructuring, downsizing and the loss of well-paid industrialized jobs, melting away to the subsistence-wage world with a giant sucking sound. Hence the panic and the woman-blaming, no matter how illogical.

If boys are to catch up with girls in literacy, an entire heritage of gender-conditioning will have to be jettisoned. All that energy, affection, curiosity and life force we see in little boys is channelled, not into free play, but into violent corporate sports (just look at all those "It’s Another Little Goalie !" birth notices ) with their sick emphasis on competition, emotional inexpressiveness, cruelty, unearned wealth and male dominance.

Literacy ? You must be joking.

Research shows that the majority of fathers don’t read books. They watch sports and read the scores. And so, therefore, do boys.

The answer is surely not to bring more boy-privilege into the schools, rigging the tests in their favour and importing more violent games. Both boys and girls can and should excel in all subjects ; the fault is in us, not in them.

To cope with the globalized future, boys don’t have to be "superior." They just have to be equal. We better start figuring out how to change our culture’s values if we want to make that happen, because schools can’t do it on their own.

Texte paru dans le Toronto Star le 7 juin 2003.

Mis en ligne sur Sisyphe en juin avec l’autorisation de l’auteure.

Michele Landsberg, journaliste

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