The Nature of Boys
Michael Thompson, Ph.D.
Educators and parents in the United States are engaged in an important debate about the way we raise and educate boys. After twenty years of illuminating research on girls and debate about gender equity in schools, it is time to consider some of the risk factors that afflict the lives of boys. They are four times more likely than girls to be sent to a school psychologist; they are diagnosed with 60-80% of learning disorders. Their areas of strength, physical activity and visual-spatial perception, are not as important as verbal skills in the feminine, quiet, word-dominated environment of schools. Boys do not do as well in school as girls, from elementary school through college and they are at risk for concluding that schools don’t work for them and becoming withdrawn and bitter.
In early adolescence most boys begin to attach their sense of status to mastery and achievement. They are subjected to a powerful “culture of cruelty” which may require boys to adhere to a narrow ideology of masculinity: avoidance of feeling, avoidance of anything feminine, fear of personal weakness. The result may be a boy who is or appears closed and often angry. In this talk, Dr. Thompson gives suggestions to teachers, fathers and mothers about how to support a boy in the early years of school and how to help a boy remain emotionally open in adolescence.
For nearly thirty-five years, Dr. Michael Thompson has worked as a clinical psychologist, school consultant and international speaker on the subjects of children, schools and parenting. He’s authored nine books focusing on the emotional lives of boys, friendships and social cruelty in childhood, the tensions that arise in the parent-teacher relationships, and psychological aspects of school leadership. His work with independent schools and public school districts throughout the United States, and with international schools in Europe, Asia and South America takes him to about fifty schools a year to lead workshops for teachers, administrators, parents and students. Dr. Thompson has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC 20/20, and CBS 60 Minutes. He wrote, narrated and hosted a two-hour PBS documentary entitled “Raising Cain” that was broadcast nationally in 2006.