A couple of years back, investigative journalist, Peg Tyre, wrote a big story in Newsweek titled The Trouble With Boys. In that article, Tyre wrote about how, “by almost every benchmark, boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind.” It caused quite a stir and many, frankly, were outraged. Wasn’t everyone working hard to make girl’s education equal? How had boys fallen off the cliff?
We at The Father Life release a regular podcast in partnership with host Mike Austin (from RadioDAD.com). In our most recent podcast, Mike interviewed Peg about her new book and what, exactly, is the trouble with boys. We think this is an issue and a conversation worth passing along…
Mike Austin: Boys are lagging behind girls in school; in fact, 2 ½ million more girls than boys now attend college. Peg Tyre is on the phone with us from New York. She’s a journalist, prize-winning investigative reporter, she’s worked for CNN and others, and her new book is titled The Trouble With Boys. Peg, why is this subject important to you?
Peg Tyre: Well, I was an education reporter at Newsweek for 7 years. Than, actually, had sons of my own and I saw the experiences of their friends at school. And I talked to moms, and the kids who really struggled were invariably boys. So I started looking at schools in a slightly different way. And the more I looked the more I found that boys were badly underachieving.
Mike Austin: So, what’s wrong with the boys? Or is it the schools? Or is it the parents?
Peg Tyre: You know, my answer is that it’s not a simple answer. I can’t wag my finger at parents, I can’t wag my finger at schools, I can’t wag my finger at communities; but I think there are a lot of cultural cross-currents now that little boys are drowning in. So, what’s changed? Parenting has changed, ok. There is virtually no unstructured free play for children any more.
Mike Austin: Little boys, they can’t play army anymore…
Peg Tyre: …they can’t play army because that’s aggressive play. In a school district in Los Angeles that serves 100,000 kids they can’t play tag because it brings out the aggression in children. Now, c’mon.
Mike Austin: Boys generally – we learn more physically, don’t we?
Peg Tyre: Well, I will tell you, thinking about movement and how boys learn – I went to a guy in Canada who studied how much kids move. And what he found is that there are differences in the amount of movement that boys and girls exhibit from the time they’re inside their mother’s womb – boys and girls move at different rates. Not tremendously different rates, but boys move more than girls.
Mike Austin: In your book The Trouble With Boys, do you address this? How do we fix all this?
Peg Tyre: The first thing to do, I think, is to have this discussion and to have it out loud; so that’s the first thing. The second thing you can do is that when you go into your kid’s classrooms – look around. Is it big enough? Are there places for active play? What’s the schedule like? How much recess are they getting? 39% of first graders in our country get less than 20 minutes of recess. You know that’s wrong, I know that’s wrong.
Mike Austin: Yeah, when we were kids we went out 2 or 3 times a day!
Peg Tyre: It’s not only wrong, it’s driving our kids crazy. So there are other things you can do. Look in the classroom – see if there are books that your son might be interested in reading. You know, the kind of books that he would – if you went into Barnes & Noble – he would gravitate towards? Maybe non-fiction. Make sure there’s stuff that your son would like to read. Biographies, action stories…
Mike Austin: Did you find at all what % of moms vs dads went into the classroom? First of all did any parents go into the classroom?
Peg Tyre: I found a lot of parents in the classrooms, but I’m gonna tell you I didn’t find that many dads in the classrooms. Now, there are some really neat programs that I’ve found. I found one of them in the bay area. And it’s a dad’s club; it’s sort of the beefy-arm-of-the-PTA. And the dads said, “You know, we don’t want to go to the PTA meetings. They’re boring and everyone talks too much.” So, what they do is they have a dad’s PTA sort of – very few words are spoken – they get a task like, you know – they need to hang posters – and first they figure out who’s going to do it and they get a work crew together. They put on their dad’s club t-shirts and they go into the elementary school and they do stuff for the school …and the kids see that there are dads involved in this enterprise and education and I think it makes a HUGE difference to the boys in their school!
Ben Murphy, founder of The Father Life, is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.