Boys and girls come out to play

Jukka Laari jlaari at cc.jyu.fi
Mon Feb 5 12:12:39 MST 1996


Gary, thanks for that: 

"What is especially interesting about this is the response of the media. 
No one has advanced the explanation that girls are born smarter than 
boys. No way. Here by sharp contrast with the I.Q. debate the emphasis is 
all on environmental factors. The favourite explanantion appears to be 
that feminists have bullied educators into ignoring boys!"

"Few people have advanced an hypothesis which is linked to the way boys 
are constructed. What we are seeing with these results is surely the 
result of the encouragement of anti-intellectualism among boys."


1. Interesting. Exactly that argument I've never heard of. However, it 
seems that in Australian media a traditional view, that boys somehow are 
smarter by nature, is still held? Here was few years ago public 
discussion on kindergartens: there are only few male teachers, and 
because of that boys don't get proper 'role-models'; female teachers try 
to suppress boys' activities as too rude because they don't understand 
how important it is for boys to learn practice their bodies physically, 
etc. As a result sort of common wisdom emerged: it's important to get to 
kindergartens more male teachers who would teach boys virtues of hunters 
and warriors while playing - as if that would be relevant in modern 
world... 

2. That 'social construction hypothesis' is quite widely studied in 
sociology, too. Unfortunately I don't know that research very much. What 
seems to be present day view is that there are several factors affecting 
subjectivization of boys and girls. All the way from socio-economic 
background to cultural factors (different characteristics of school 
system, media entertainment and the like). For example, what kind of 
family background kids have, is there clear differences between boys and 
girls in the case of High School Certificate? (One might start to ask, 
whether there was more divorces - single parent, usually mother, families 
- 'behind' boys than girls? That could imply weaker socio-economic 
status. 'Lack' of father figure could cause more 'problems' to boys etc.) 
There even might be some 'biological' factor, but how to study that with 
contemporary instruments? In general, look at social circumstances would 
tell quite a lot about differences. 

3. What I doubt a bit is supposition that we/people are simply 
constructed. Think about how kids use some people as "role-models", 
usually own parents and in a case of absent parent some neighborhood 
figure or entertainment hero. Children aren't just passive recipients, 
who could be constructed the way we want. In subjectivization there is 
their own activity as one 'factor.' However, that is not to deny the 
importance of social environment. I just would avoid kind of social 
determinism.

Yours, Jukka L


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