Do Contemporary Schools Favor Girls Over Boys?
Before discussing this I think it is important to note that (1) boys and girls are different and therefore learn differently and (2) anytime one moves toward one group of people one moves away from another group. Let me take a moment to unpack the second statement. Consider a pastor. To clarify a passage of scripture a pastor might give an example from marriage. The second he does this he is talking to married folks and not to single people. Likewise, he could give an example about dealing with a tough manager. The second he does this he is talking to employees and not to employers. There is no way that his examples will equally reach all people. Given this, in some sense he is “favoring” the groups that he speaks more often to or about, but it does not follow from this that the other groups cannot learn from these examples.
Over the past few generations schools have moved to deemphasize competition in the classroom (e.g. we don’t publicly post grades after each exam!) and towards more cooperative and group activities, they have moved to spoken languages like Spanish from written languages like Latin, and they have moved away from aggressive physical games (like rugby) to co-ed recreational games. Every child is unique, so nothing said generally is true for all, but *in general*, girls have benefited from these reforms more than boys. That being said, from this it doesn’t follow that these are discriminatory against boys or that we should undo them. What I believe we must do is be aware of the fact that “Women now outperform men academically at all levels of school, and are more likely to obtain college degrees and enroll in graduate school.” Given this fact we need to be looking for ways to bring in boys that have lost interest in school or that don’t thrive in a contemporary school environment.
I think this is one of the strengths of Charis. I have a son that I fear would collapse in on himself like a dying neutron star if he had to sit in a desk five days a week. He can hold it together for two and a half days and Tuesdays and Thursdays give him ample time to run around and be outdoors and play so that he is able to focus when it is time to learn and do work.
There is far more I ought to write about this than I have space to write about, but I would encourage you all to find ways to use the flexibility of our model to meet the unique needs of your children. If they are competitive, find ways to bring that into your home (“you were able to get X amount of flash cards done yesterday, can you beat your record?”); if your child has high amounts of energy, have them do pushups or chin-ups or jumping jacks between subjects; does your older child need an extra challenge? Have him or her wake up early and run a couple of miles and lift waits before beginning classwork.
Unequal outcomes between boys and girls don’t necessarily mean that something is wrong or that the scales are unfairly tipped against boys, but this trend is something we need to be aware of and that awareness should encourage us to be seeking creative ways to ensure that all our children are having their educational needs met.
Why do Christian Schools so Often Struggle?
There are two dominant models in Christian education right now: (1) Christian schools that are funded by the state via vouchers or (2) schools funded by attending families. Think of how different both of these models are from most Christian ministries! Would you feel comfortable if your church used state funds to pay your pastors? Or if your church’s youth group had to walk through a labyrinth of bureaucratic requirements to carry out its work? Or would you worry that funds from the government would inevitably corrupt your church in some way?
Likewise, do you think it would be wise for a missionary to set off to a foreign land and receive no support from any church or sending agency, but instead rely completely on those he served to fund his ministry?
These examples seem incredible, and yet this is the situation in which the majority of Christian schools find themselves. I know of no other ministry that operates like this; where success or failure hinges on the ministry’s ability to procure state funds or to effectively marshal the resources of the people being ministered to (and this latter scenario is often true even of schools that are connected with churches).
Christian schools exist to carry out the great commission; they are Christian ministries that partner with parents and churches to disciple the next generation. It is my judgment that they are one of the most effective ministries around as well as one of the least supported. What is more, I have found that many teachers work significantly more hours than many in other Christian ministries and they often do so for less pay.
The Church, in failing to see and support Christian schools as ministries, has in effect forced them to choose between state involvement or limiting their ministry to those with the means to pay for their ministry. I am convinced that the long-term flourishing of Christian education will require the support of people in the body of Christ outside of those directly participating in and benefiting from it—as many of us know, it is very hard to provide for our families and cover the full costs of educating our children.
Support for Christian education should not take away from support for one’s local church, but if one is looking for an impactful ministry to give to, I think Christian schools are some of the best places to support. Thank you all for your support!
I hope you have found this series of messages helpful or edifying.