Posted on 09/11/2015

About A Boy: Part 1

At FBS we are always asking our boys for their suggestions on how we can improve the school. Many of their ideas and feedback are taken on board and are now part of our policies and practice. Having the boys’ input has made the school better. However, one request that some of them make (even last week!) which hasn’t been granted, and never will be, is the one to ‘get girls’.

But why? Why don’t we introduce girls? Why do we not become a Co-Ed school? Are we just The Fulham Boys School because that’s what we decided to do and now we’re stuck with it?

Absolutely not. We are committed to being a boys’ school because we think being a boys’ school is in the best interest of our boys. Not to mention the best interest of girls and the community as a whole.

In today’s blog, and in my blogs over the next few weeks, I will try to explain why. I will obviously be making generalisations – I know that not all boys are the same. I appreciate that some of the characteristics of a ‘typical boy’ may be very true of your son, grandson, boys you teach, or boys you know, and other characteristics rather less so. But I believe that what I say over the next few weeks, and the approach we take at FBS, will help all boys. So here we go…

‘Boys will be Boys’

Boys and girls are different. Not better or worse, not superior and inferior, just different. Very different. As a Christian I believe this is true (Genesis 1.27; Galatians 3.28). It is confirmed by those who have carried out research on the male and female brains and is the experience of anyone who is the parent of, teacher of, or has ever spent any time with, boys and girls!

Boys’ brains develop in a different sequence and tempo to girls’ brains. This means that the average 5 year old girl is far more able to sit down and learn to read and write than the average 5 year old boy. Some parts of girls’ brains develop rapidly between the age of 6 and 10, whereas in boys the same area of the brain grows rapidly after 14.

This means that from the word go in a boy’s experience of school, he is asked to do things that his brain just isn’t ready to do. Given this, it is difficult for the average 5 year old boy to sit still and learn to read and write. But we think that because girls manage it and boys don’t, boys are naughty and girls are good. We keep asking boys to do things they are simply not ready to do. As a result, too many of them have switched off by the time they get to secondary school. By the age of 11 they may conclude, consciously or unconsciously, that school is more for girls.

Furthermore, girls generally will do things to please. Girls, for example, will do homework as well as they can because they’ve been asked to and they want to please the teacher. Boys have to see the value in it. Girls are more mature and likely to see the situation from the perspective of the grown up. Boys just want to mess around, have fun and impress their peers. In fact, instead of pleasing the teacher or adult, it can be more fun and rewarding to do the opposite and ‘act up’. And when a girl acts up in class it is usually because they know this kind of thing impresses boys.

There is a wildness and recklessness about boys. In schools this is often seen as naughtiness, and teachers are constantly trying to suppress it and encourage boys to behave more like girls. Some teachers and parents even conclude that some of these boys must be ADHD and seek to get them on medication, when the reality is many of them are just being boys (albeit particularly excitable ones!). They can end up seeing school as a place where they can’t be a boy, and so switch off and become disinterested and disengaged.

The result? Boys with ‘spirit’, enterprise and bags of potential end up underachieving, become apathetic, lazy, disillusioned and get into trouble. Please don’t get me wrong – some boys are just being naughty and need to be dealt with accordingly! But I do think that a lot of the ‘problem with boys’ is that they are just being boys. School, and the education system as a whole, I believe, is more suited to girls.

So what’s the answer? A school geared towards boys! Over the next few weeks, I will be talking about FBS’ approach to educating boys and suggest some things parents can do to support us.

Boys can be little nuisances, silly, immature and more hard work than hard working! But they are also full of energy, exciting, sparky, fun, risk takers. FBS has set out to harness that raw material and make them into gentlemen; men of character and brilliance; men that will go into the world and change it for the better!
Tom Sawyer (who I would have loved as a pupil at FBS!) was in many ways the ‘typical boy’. Aunt Polly said of him, ‘Who knows he may grow up to be president someday, unless they hang him first’. My next blog will take a look at how FBS has set out to make sure Tom Sawyers become presidents.

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