The intellectual ability of girls and women was, as feminists argued all along, latent. It was awaiting social permission to emerge.And boys? It isn’t a mystery. You only have to stand in the school playground, or listen to your child’s tales of who’s good and who’s bad, or go to kids’ parties, or talk to other parents. Who gets the Ritalin? Who gets the detentions? My oldest daughter is, at 10, a child with many interests. She does ballet and Greek dancing after school, learns the piano and swims once a week.She complains, but she does her homework. Some of her male counterparts, however, simply play football, night after night after night. They begin the day with cartoons, and end it with Gameboys, and they “don’t have time” for homework.I am not at all alarmed by the success of girls.
Why would I be? But the Government and some of the teachers’ unions are worried by the gender gap. Not least because there is nothing to indicate that the trend won’t continue, and the gap get wider. For many years we failed to make the most of our girls, and squandered the talents of several generations of brilliant women. It’s hardly sensible to repeat that failure with our boys.The education minister, Baroness Blackstone, says what we all know to be true, which is that girls work harder than boys and are more conscientious.
The head of head-teacher’s union, David Hart, blames this on a “laddish culture, that despises academic achievement and [which] is tolerated by too many parents”. Their sons come to school unwilling to learn, and convinced that they can succeed without application.There are things that schools can do to help boys along. The literacy hour has, apparently, boosted the reading abilities of boys significantly. There’s also evidence that segregating girls and boys for some lessons is of benefit to both (though what do you do about the child who does not want to be entirely defined by his or her gender?).