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Monday, September 12, 2011

Could Video Games ‘Re-engage Boys In Learning?’

 Southern Leadership Academy Social Studies teacher Wilma K. Spencer, center, answers questions from a class of 8th grade boys in Louisville, Ky. (AP)

Southern Leadership Academy Social Studies teacher Wilma K. Spencer, center, answers questions from a class of 8th grade boys in Louisville, Ky. (AP)

The statistics on boys in schools keep getting worse. The latest show that boys in 65 countries scored significantly lower than girls in literacy tests. Other research shows that boys are far more likely to be held back a year in school, to be suspended or to drop out of school altogether.

Scholar Ali Carr-Chellman tells Here and Now‘s Robin Young that the problem is not boys. The problem, she says, is that schools no longer welcome the competitive, physical culture of boys, and boys are getting the message that school is not for them.

Carr-Chellman says to reach boys, schools should start with what boys like, including video games, and incorporate that into teaching.


  • Ali Carr-Chellman, professor of Education at Penn State University and board member of the Boys Initiative

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  • Muriel

    I have 3 boys and the 3 of them always loved reading, loved school, did well in school, never played with guns.  They do not fit any of the stereotypes.  Why?  I do not subscribe to the motto that boys will be boys..  Kids will be what we expect them to be .  If we think that boys should play with guns, trucks, etc and they see that reinforced in the culture then that is what they will want to be and do.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      What’s wrong with boys playing with toy guns?  How else will they learn the rudiments of aiming and trigger control?

  • Rick hawksley

    Right on…as one who has helped in classrooms at church for many years, i am convinced that attention deficit is mostly normal….boys just are not made to sit still!

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Just so.  When I was in school, boys were made to sit still and learn.  It worked.  Now, we don’t insist that chidren, boys or girls, behave in a civilized manner.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

        Instead, we over-discipline instead of working to help relieve them of stress, anxiety and energy. We set them up for failure by making them sit still all day. We did not have to sit still all day for 8 hours 320 years ago. We took recesses, we took lunch (away from the classroom), we stood up and did practical science instead of paperwork. The classroom is designed for little girls these days.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

          Overdiscipline?  We used to spank students who disobeyed or misbehaved.  Now we put such delinquents in a room for an all-day vacation.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

            Up hill both ways, 6 feet of snow…blah, blah, blah. Yeah, uh…we get it.

    • Slbustamante

      so please explain how you play video games? Do you not ‘sit still’?

      • Lyndseyk

        Not all video games involve sitting still. Most of the major consoles have a motion control adapter that involves getting up, and moving around. The Nintendo Wii (including the Wii Fit Board), the Xbox 360  Kinect, and the Sony Playstation MOVE all have several dance, excersize, and yoga games. Gaming is not just about sitting on the couch in a dark room while stuffing your face with junk. Video game developers have made great strides in making games that are health conscious.  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

      “Made to sit still”? Really?!? Little boys are not supposed to sit still. They are LITTLE BOYS. The environment is hostile to their learning style.

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

        Nonsense.  Boys sat still for centuries when they were made to do so.  What changed?  Society lost its will to win.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

          That’s a misrepresentation. Boys can now, and always have been able to sit still. What changed is that we now do not give them outlets for their energy. They do not take recess and PE the same we did 30 years ago. Teaching styles have changed form “hands on” to “auditory”. That makes it difficult for little boys to learn. We did not lose our “will to win” we forgot “what it takes to win”.

  • Rorytn

    Oregon trail anyone?

  • http://www.jondreyer.org Jon Dreyer

    World of Warcraft is destroying the lives of at least two kids I know because they have become addicted and prefer the virtual world to the real one.

  • Anonymous

    I am the eldest of 5 kids, three girls and two boys. We went to school in the late 60′s and 70′s.  We never worried if school was a nice place to be, or if the teachers catered to our method of learning. We went to school and treated it like the job it was.  No one has to enjoy school, but then not many people enjoy their jobs either. School is your first job, you have to do it and do it well.  What will happen when these students enter the work force and find out they are not catered to?

  • Megan

    What about other teaching methods, ie. Montessori?

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Oh please–let children direct their own education?  Children are children, not little adults.  It’s the job of adults to guide children because we know better.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

        But, as adults, I believe we have lost perspective. Now, we over-educate our kids. The teaching styles (visual and auditory instead of kinesthetic as we did 30 years ago) are counter-productive to little boys. Longer hours, less practical learning, more discipline, In general, we have set little boys up for failure in the school system. Knowledge is going down, ADHD (mis-diagnosed) is going up per capita, et cetera. We are doing it wrong, these days.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

          Kinesthetic?  I had a textbook, a sheet of paper, and a pencil.  I was expected to sit in my chair and do my work.  My classmates and I learned.  Please don’t give me this blather about learning styles.  A properly motivated student (be it inherent motivation or through discipline) will learn.

        • Hack

          I have TWO WORDS for these boys that will break up their day and really help them out:  DODGE BALL.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

            HEdoubleL yeah!! Anything to burn energy. Then, suddenly, you have a little boy who wants to learn. And, it is more akin to how we went to school 30 years ago.

  • Guest

    Get kids outside, running around, hands in dirt and teach them about where they live, NOT a virtual reality. 

  • Jemiman

    Tom Sawyer wasn’t relevant to my era, either, but it helped me learn about how people lived before me.  I find that so many kids these days have no historical references…even only as “far” back as 15 or 20 years. And I think that perspective is so important.  I’m not agreeing with Allie…sorry!

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Classics are always relevant, and not just because they teach history.  A classic–a great work of writing with great ideas–is timeless.

  • Bob Reardon

    A more complete conversation needs to happen here.  1.  There are emerging data about any screen time prior to 5 years old effecting vision.  This may extend higher in age and effects the ability to read.   The number of kids in school with glasses has gone up. 
    2.Even kids who can read often donot comprehend what they read because they haven’t learned to actively read, they are used to video media, games etc.  doing this for them.
    3. Most primate research shows we are “copy cats” modeling violence as solutions to probrems is not good.
    4. Why not introduce Games around 8 years old, ones that have some sort of socially redeamign value.

  • guest

    Wait- boys can’t sit still and learn algebra but can sit still and play a video game?  And perhaps a boy will sit still if his 2nd grade teacher had been a man rather than a woman?  Does this strike anyone else as absurd?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

      No; it’s very factual. Boys learn better from men. The “best” teachers I can recall, from whom I learned the most and hold the highest respect, were men.

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

        Nonsense.  Most of my teachers were women, from elementary school through graduate school.  A motivated student will learn; a student who doesn’t care won’t learn.  It’s that simple.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

          Sorry you are so miserable and misguided.

  • Mike

    So we want kids to play video games at school, so they can go home and play more video games and get fat…extreme case, video gamers in Asia dying from only playing games at a video game parlor.  Is she living in a fantasy?  I was told to buckle down and get my work done…just as you’ll be expected to when you graduate and get a job.  Deal with it.  Other successful men who also like to play video games have made it through the school system without this rubbish “alternative education.”

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree with Ms. Carr-Chelman’s assessment – boys are in danger of dropping out of school altogether.  My son attended a progressive charter school that prided itself on beating the local public schools in 4th and 8th grade test scores.   Consequently, they drilled the kids endlessly in test-taking.  The boys had a really difficult time with this, esp. in 4th grade.  On top of this, the school only had 3 male teachers : in Gym, Music and only one homeroom teacher.  And most of the female faculty had only girls so there was a very poor understanding of boys behavior.  The upshot of this was that, when boys got antsy or just behaved like boys, they were punished and often sent to the principal’s office.  I became very concerned with my son’s developing dislike of school and tranferred him into a private school with a long history of educating boys.  I’m extremely fortunate to be able to do this.  I’m really concerned about boys in the public school system.  We’re in big trouble if things don’t change.

    I’m a feminist (went to a private girls’ school) and very happy to see how things have turned around in the education  of women.  but I think it’s time to address educational issues with boys.

  • Jessica H

    I have 3 boys and I am all for changes being made in the classroom to reflect the reality that boys in general learn differently than girls and definitely need to expend energy.  I am not against well-monitored, limited use of video games as an extra-curricular activity, but I don’t think they should be brought into the classroom.  I hate observing a child in a social setting totally disengaged because they are completely consumed by their video game or texting on their cell phones.  Children should read and use their imaginations.  Parents and educators should not subscribe to one-size-fits-all teaching.

  • Joanne R

    When my son was about 3 or 4 we gave
    him a Super Nintendo (which was only slightly out of date at the
    time) after a while he stopped asking us to read the text screens. I
    thought he’d memorized them. When he got Kindergarten, he already
    knew how to read.

    I also read with him regularly and he
    attended a daycare with a preschool curriculum built in.

    I’m not one of those parent who thinks
    an 18 month old should be able to read, geez, at that age they’re
    still learning to talk and process the world isn’t that enough? So I
    never pushed reading at him, I was always more interested in how he
    was thinking.

  • Jules

    I think we should be careful assigning aggression to boys. Yes, males have more testosterone than females, and testosterone contributes to aggression, but to say that a certain level of violent behavior is normal or healthy is, I think, inaccurate. For the last century, society has made it clear that men are “supposed” to be strong and aggressive. Much like girls feel pressured to be feminine and pretty, boys feel pressured to be “tough”. Putting these pressures on children has become such an inherent quality of our society that we don’t even notice we’re doing it anymore.  It’s a violent world we live in, and that should be something we want to change. To encourage aggression is to perpetuate things like war and violent crime. How can we justify that?

  • Anonymous

    All I can say as a former, nonviolent, non-aggressive, book-minded boy is that your guest seems to be blowing smoke. Thank goodness her ideas are controversial! I have never heard so much airy blather from a university professor in my life! She says she is a feminist after painting boys as naturally brutal and unteachable without encouraging their worst instincts? Can’t get more sexist than that.  She dismisses scientific evidence of the negative effects of violent games on boys (and girls) as inconclusive. Has she been near a public school in a major inner city ever? She poo-poos gun bans in schools? Where did you find this person? And she accepts all violent role models in games and sports as normal. Has she no vision of a peaceful, nonviolent, non-sexist society? And she’s teaching teachers? 

    Something positive: Robin did a good job of countering her arguments. It didn’t seem to compute with this person at all. I now have a better idea why the public education system is a disaster nationally.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      I don’t agree that violence is a bad part of boys.  Boys need to learn discipline, since violence without that is just brutality.  With discipline, the world is available to be conquered.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DPKS3HUGQBPILPIU7IVZSHGXLI Robert_N

        I guess it depends on how you define violence. An aggressive approach
        can sometimes be appropriate, but we should be moving beyond violent conquest in the more traditional sense.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

          Libyan rebels would take a different view.

          • spencer

            well said.

    • guest

      I didn’t hear her that way at all. Aggressive does not equal violence. I am very  anti-violence, guns, etc.  But there has to be a way to let boys be boys and still learn what they need to learn in school and in society and be compassionate. I’m not sure if violent video games is the answer, but she is making me ask more questions about the games my 12yo wants to play.

  • Angela Deller

    We have 3 school-age sons, and have struggled with school/teacher attitudes particularly with our middle son, who has ADHD.  We had an interesting experience in middle school, where for the first time our middle son had a male teacher (26-year old, vibrant personality) in a small, parochial school.  When progress reports would come home, his female teachers comments were mostly about how our son’s performance would improve if he would stay more focused, paid attention and followed directions.  Interestingly, his male teacher would have mostly positive comments about his energy and enthusiasm.  I think that most of  our elementary school issues is from not having male teachers who understand (“get”) boy behavior.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    School is not the place for undirected playing.  School is for learning.  When I was in school, we didn’t bounce around the room; we didn’t have yoga balls.  We did what we were told to do.  If we didn’t, we got spanked.  It worked.  Why not go back to what we know works, instead of medicating, testing, and psychobabbling in an effort to reinvent the wheel?

  • Don

    I’m with pjco2129 and, Muriel, and the like.  When I was a boy, I got into exactly one physical altercation, which lasted all of three seconds.  All of this, “boys will be boys” nonsense denies us our accolades and denies us our guilt.  If a boy’s destructive behavior is dismissed as “boy culture”, it will lead to adult boys (rather than men) who continue their destructive behavior.  Hold us accountable at an early age!

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Historically, boys liked school?  ?Como que huh?  Carr is clearly clueless.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

      Wrong verbiage; boys did better in school than they do now. I believe this is more concise.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    You will communicate to boys that they belong?  They belong because they’re children.  Their job is to learn the material presented in school.  Quit accomodating laziness, and demand achievement.

  • Lucaserikadams

    Do we fail in teaching boys to form to what is needed of them to succeed when the conversation is how can we form to them?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Reggie-Parker/100001001830616 Reggie Parker

    I completely agree with the guest.  Boys seemed to start struggling at about the same time schools and curriculum shifted to help girls do better in math and science.  Boys in general learn in different ways than girls. I’m so thankful that my teachers let me have freedom in class to work on my own.  In my early years I was held back but once I was allowed to learn my way I took off and passed everyone else.

  • Phil

    Perhaps we should look into designing educational video games that combine intermittent action with problem solving that incorporates history, mathematics, and other subjects?

    • Lyndseyk

      There are a lot of educational video games. There have been since I was in elementary school ten years ago. ‘Math Blasters’ was my favorite. Now there are educational games that cover way more subjects such as a DS game called “Learning Geography.” The DS has the largest library of educational games but most of the other consoles have at least a few.  

  • Jjcrupper

    Where is the great outdoors in this study.  Overcoming Nature Deficit Disorder (Richard Louv) is much more effective than sticking a kid in front of a TV.  We evolved outside, it only makes sense that the lack of outside time is the biggest problem with our youth, and the biggest hurdle for us to overcome.

  • Cecelia

    This is the most unintelligent suggestion for improving schools for boys that I have heard yet! What active children need is exercise–outdoors! They need a combination of structured games like soccer and freer form active games like Keep Away. Girls can benefit from this too. We need to get away from confining children in chairs in front of computer screens. As for the ADHD issue, this has been linked to pesticides in food and too much TV. Clean up their food and get them outside!

  • Gyorgyi Voros

    Oy.  As an educator, I have always felt that one of the primary roles of education is to take a critical stance toward mainstream commercial culture.  How is Professor Carr-Chelman’s position not a version not only of pandering but of playing into the hands of corporate culture?  Furthermore, I have to say that that word “relevance” makes my hair stand on end. The way it is used here suggests that every fad of the moment is “relevant” whereas the Big Questions of what it is to be human, how one relates to one’s civiliation and, yes, nature, are, yawn, just too “old fashiondy.” Oh–and speaking of nature–where is there room for giving youngsters the experience of that?  I guess once most of the human race is glued to cyberspace, maybe they’ll stop wrecking the earth at least. 

  • Faeterri

    I pulled my son out of public and private schools to support him in his learning styles.  I refused to sign the “reading contract between child, parent, and teacher” about how many and what books to read.  He picked up reading when he was ready and now excels as a university senior on the Dean’s List.

  • Slbustamante

    There are some glaring contradictions here…..  She speaks of how ‘still’ people can be while playing video games.  Perhaps transfixed, perhaps stuck.  But that is besides the point because the next ‘topic’ they cover is how little physical movement there can be in Public Schools.  So how does introducing video games encourage physical movement?
    How does advocating a virtual reality prepare people for the nuances of our social, emotional and mental life?
    Like the previous comment, the guest seems to acknowledge only the lowest aspects of masculinity.  She speaks of boys as if they are future convicts instead of Good Knights.    Perhaps your guest could read more fairy tales…

  • ThinkAboutYourActions

    Finally someone understands that boys need direction in education as much as girls do. Even the typical classroom structure is geared toward girls (sit still, don’t move, don’t make a sound, raise your hand and wait to be called upon when we all know boys have a lot of energy and do well when they’re allowed to learn while being allowed to move). At my son’s school there are so many extra programs to help develop the girls socially and academically and I think that’s all well and good but the boys are left out. There are no extra programs to help develop boys (except for sports) and so many boys are slipping through the cracks. So many boys just want to grow up to be in music or sports. It’s time for educational equality for both sexes!

  • MomOfaGreatSon

    Finally!  someone is bringing attention to the fact that schools were changed to cater to girls.  It is not a matter of bringing video games into the classroom but in recognizing that boys have been  made to feel less for almost 20yrs.  Girls can sit and listen to lectures, color and read all day… boys need to burn energy, THEN, they are ready to sit down and listen.  Boys are curious and love experiments; to build things; to explore; to engage in activities where there is a physical cause and effect.  Have you ever made a baking soda volcano and watched the reactions of the kids around it? Boys were positively elated while girls did not know how to feel…

  • Caroline

    My brother and his best friend have aspergers. I think if they had played some video games in school they would have been much more engaged. My brother played a lot of video games and some of them were rich in narratives and plots. I think it helped him learn to read and write better much in the way I learned to write well by by being an avid reader as a child. I now work at a library where we use many materials including comics to get kids reading. To learn and question you must be interested.

  • guest

    I think that many of the comments below are assuming that Carr-Chellman is saying that kids should be gaming at all times.  It seems to me that she is advocating for the implementation of gaming into curriculum as an alternative to other methods.  Taking World of Warcraft, for example, students can learn statistics, cultural relations, proper interactions with others also using the game, strategy, and increasing their reading skills.  The amount of reading a player needs to engage in is amazing!  Players learn how to fully complete tasks and not leave a job undone.  If we look at this with a strength based perspecitive, this is a valuable tool that a teacher can use to engage their students beyond other conventional tools.  I don’t think that Carr-Chellman is advocating keeping our kids inside, I think she is advocating for an alternative to a system that appears to be missing some keys for our children’s success.

  • Tankazoo

    Waldorf Education holds many answers.  Anyone  who see the blatant, mis-guided, fallacy of Car-Chellman’s argument might be interested.  

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      I’ve worked with the victims of that kind of answer.  You do realize that children are children and adults are adults, no?  Adults know what children need to learn and have the duty to set the curriculum.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

    I left a v/m to try to get onto the program, so sorry I could not contribute live. I am not sure about gaming in the classroom. I woudl be more apt to support allowing boys to be more physical and making sure that they get plenty of recess/PE. 30 years ago, we only went to school for 7 hours. And, in that same 7 hours, we took 2 hour long recesses and an hour for lunch. Now, there is only 1 hour of recess and a 30 minute lunch taken in the classroom…and the kids are in school for 8 hours plus tutoring, homework and such.

    I think that we fell into a bad pattern a few decades ago when 1)we de-segregated classrooms by gender, and 2)we changed the teaching methods in the classroom. I’ll summarize; little boys learn differently. They are rougher, more physical and all of the related. But, more specific, boys are often not visual and auditory learners. They are often kinesthetic learners. But, these days our classrooms expect boys to sit still and take dictation. My son (8) excels in school. But, it is because of his intelligence, not because of the classroom instruction. His First-grade teacher once gave a science lesson on “push/pull”. She had the students write about pushing and pulling. 30 years ago, we woudl have stood up and pushed/pulled with a partner; kinesthetic.

    We are killing little boys in the classroom. We have gotten dumber as a society in the US as we have forced more edcucational rigor. Kids show up at college and are referred to as “crispies”. Maybe you some people should google the term and try to learn that we expect too much of our kids, and moreso of little boys.

    I love the statement in the book “Raising Cain” which states “schools don’t view little boys as little boys…they view little boys as defective girls”. How true.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Oh please.  Students used to learn.  Now that we moan and wring our hands about how they learn, they don’t learn.  Let’s do something revolutionary:  Return to what works.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

        I agree. Returning to what works means giving them outdoors time. It means giving them hand-on learning. It means teachers teaching to individual students instead of just giving an oral presentation. It means segregating boys and girls in classrooms. See, that’s what we DID!

  • Keith B

    Robin, I’m glad you are addressing the challenges of education today.  Some of your comments show some breadth of knowledge on the subject. I hope you will include the following resources to your background and consider hosting either of these people:
    Dr. Stephen Hughes website goodatdoingthings.com has screen-casts of several of his talks. Specifically look at “Parenting Tips,Trips & Traps” (which debunks our hyperfocus on self-esteem) and “Good At Doing Things.” Both will bring some scientific data to a discussion fraught with here say. He is internationally known for his education research.Steven Hughes PhD, LP, ABPdN is an assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and maintains a private practice where he specializes in assessment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and other learning and behavioral problems in St. Paul, MinnesotaAlso, check out the two TED talks given by Sir Kenneth Robinson and animated by RSA Animate on Youtube.   Both of the following help us understand why the current production line environment is an out-of-date system that DOES NOT SERVE the best interests of 2/3 of our students.  Keith in Oregon www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkPvSCq5ZXk and www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U 

  • Vfrphome

    Absolutly agree!!! My friends and I are all watching our daughters going on to college and succeeding today but, our sons are struggling. I wonder if we have forgotten that our boys need encouragement too and respect for their natural interests.
    Having taught in school, I observed that sitting at a desk was torture to most boys. Teachers waste so much time on classroom management as a result. The tragedy is that we are destroying their natural love of learning and their potential to be successful in life.

  • LyndseyK

    I am someone who has always dispised stereotypes. I do not beleives boys are this way and girls are that way. However, I am a believer in the positive effect gaming can have on both children and adults. I am a 24 year female gamer and I am happy to finally hear someone in the media that veiws gaming in a positive light.  Over and over again there have been studies done that show violent games do not make children do violent things. I think it’s more about parents needing to put limits on the amount of time video games can be played by their kids, as well as parents needing to be more  involved with their kids in picking out games. Most video game stores reqire IDs for people 17 and older, and parental consult for children who want to buy rated M (mature) games. Realistic, violent war, and crime games should not be played  by 7 year olds. Also there are tons of learning games out there now for preschoolers to adults that range from math to languages to memorization to reading and spelling. As long as kids develop healthy habits, I think gaming are a great option for learning for boys and girls of all ages. 

    • Lyndseyk

      Correction: “I think gaming *is a great option for learning for boys and girls of all ages.”  :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

    No doubt…why should there be any “contract”? Do the schools believe that we, as parents, wish to sabotage our childrens learning? Good for you!!

  • Bia

    ADHD occurs more commonly in boys than girls. Maybe it’s just boys being boys. Quit diagnosing being a boy as a disorder that needs to be medicated.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DPKS3HUGQBPILPIU7IVZSHGXLI Robert_N

    I’m not against using certain types of games as teaching tools, but otherwise I’m not quite convinced. This seems like another tenuous stab at something that’s probably tied more with the quality of the school environment, teaching style, and the amount of distraction than anything else. Particularly considering that the problem has apparently worsened relative to when video games weren’t so ubiquitous. My brother and I did okay in school as long as we had engaging curricula, attentive adults, and opportunity for some physical activity during the day. We didn’t have video games that catered to “boy culture” (which, some common tendencies aside, does smack of stereotyping).

  • WhitneyK

    My younger brother, now 22, was diagnosed with A.D.D. and was a smart kid, but always struggled to make it through school. He was incredibly talented at video games, but this was never thought to be useful. Having slim options after high school, he eventually found his way to the Air Force.  He graduated at the top of his class and is now an air traffic controller.  His success in this field has been credited to his skills with video games.
    My husband, also a gamer, and I have decided not to introduce video games to our four year old son until he is much older.  We decided that we would like him to develop his social skills before he starts using video games as entertainment.  As much as I am not a fan of video games, I know that they are an inevitable part of most boys’ lives.  Having seen my brother’s success, I also know that video games can also be a teaching tool to some.

  • Bia

    All kids need more mentoring from adults, not more electronic baby sitters but it’s easier and cheaper to give them electronic baby sitters. I don’t think things for kids have improved with the advent of video games. Boredom is taken care of with video games rather. The natural drives for pondering and exploring get stunted.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OUCXRUNEHQKG25WL3URLXSQRQU MMS

    No doubt…why should there be any “contract”? Do the schools believe
    that we, as parents, wish to sabotage our childrens learning? Good for

  • Keith B

    About the comments below:
    A common phrase is “when I was in school,_______”.   Based on the state of political and civil discourse inthe USA today, how well do you feel the current pusblic school educatin has performed in facilitating the development of an articulate, considerate citizenry that is capable of creating and supporting wise government leaders who do the right things for the country?   I would argue the traditional system has failed. Watch  www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U    to understand why our current pubic education is not serving our country. I don’t blame our hard-working, dedicated techers–they just have a horrible system to work within. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DPKS3HUGQBPILPIU7IVZSHGXLI Robert_N

    I guess it depends on how you define violence. An aggressive approach can sometimes be appropriate, but we should be moving beyond the stage of violent conquest in the more traditional sense.

  • Jessica H

    I would just like to add that I think boys are very capable of learning in a traditional classroom and can meet high expectations as long as teachers/parents keep in mind that they need to move as well.  I think the guest on today’s show really over-generalized, devalued, and underestimated what boys are made of and capable of.

    • Jessica H

      Clarification: by “move” I mean actually get out of the chair and burn some energy.

  • Bia

    Seems to me, girls are getting robbed of a good education for success in real life. Grades and success in school is all about conformity. Boys have more trouble conforming but those traits are, maybe, part of the reason more men succeed in business than women, whether they get that degree or not.

  • maa0507

    Thanks for bringing this topic to light. As a mother of 3 boys I have noticed that schools have changed to become so strict with no tolerance that natural tendencies of boys have now become punishable so much so that my boys feel beaten down by the end of the day. I am the first to admit when my children have done wrong and hold them to high expectations with their behavior so this is not about letting boys get away with behaviors that hurt others or show disrespect. It’s about the need to appreciate (as much as people love to say we are all equal) that boys and girls are different and thus have different needs. I believe we can teach boys without crushing their spirits.

    • maa0507

      I should add that I don’t believe video games as they exist today be a part of school. I am much more supportive of getting the boys involved in sports and playing outdoors. I do believe there is an untouched market to create more educational video games for Xbox, Wii and Playstation. I would then allow my children more time with video games. Rock Band is a great tool for music and a great de-stressing tool for them!

    • Jessica H

      I totally agree.  I too have 3 young boys and it is hard but so important to teach and guide without crushing spirits.

  • Christy

    What are the kids going to do when they are bored in the real world? As adults we have to navigate jobs where we don’t always want to do the work we have to do. Philosophies such as these, give our kids an unrealistic expectation of real work.

  • S Roskam

    I appreciated your guest’s interesting comments and views.  As a family therapist who has worked with kids, mother of girls, and grandmother of boys,  I agree that boys and girls not only development at different rates and in different ways, but actually live in different cultures. 

    I kept waiting for the professor to suggest that boys and girls should be educated separately.  There is much evidence to show that they do better with separate schools.
    S. Roskam, IL

  • Jim Bugg

    I am a retired high school biology teacher. I had the
    freedom to set up a C.E.T.A. youth program for the city of Southfield, Michigan
    one summer. We were to assist the maintenance crews with landscaping the city’s
    public areas. I knew the students were having trouble in school because of
    their reading skills, so I incorporated reading in the program. I hired a
    reading teacher for four hours a day and I selected the books he was to use. I
    selected books from the local home and garden stores that were designed for the
    average home owner. I taught 20-25 students for two hours (8 – 10am) in the
    classroom about the biology of landscaping while the other half of the group was
    in the reading class. At 10 we switched and repeated the process. At noon we had
    lunch and then went to work on the city projects. The city was pleased with our
    work and said we got more accomplished working only in the afternoon that other
    groups did working all day. I believe that was because the students understood
    why they were doing what they were doing and were proud of the results.

    At the end of the season we were audited by the federal
    government. I was worried that I had violated some rule and was surprised by
    the response when I asked what was wrong. The agent, whose behavior was so cold
    when he arrived, kindly explained that a child’s improvement of one year during
    a school year was acceptable, but our students improved one to three years in
    ten weeks. They were very pleased with our work and in the id they would use
    this program as a model of excellence in their report to the Congress.

    I agree with your guest about the need for relevance when teaching
    reading and the need for activity in the classroom, but I think games are an
    easy way out for a good concept. I know it is more work to incorporate the real
    world into your classroom (I recently retired
    after 37 years and tried to use real world examples in my classes) than
    to use games, but the benefits & rewards are much greater. As for me, games
    as a basis of learning opens you up to criticism and ridicule from general
    public and makes education somehow less important.

    p.s. This program became the foundation for my MS in Applied

    • Lbasmajian

      Very well written Mr. Bugg!!! I see you’re still keeping busy =). So many teachers had retired and didn’t know what happened to them. I came across this site and saw your name and since I had no way of contacting you, I thought I’d post a message. Hope all is well.

  • guest

    The observation that boys do not take to elementary and high school school as well as girls rang very true.  However, I don’t think the solution is introducing video games into the classroom to help boys feel like they belong.  Looking back on my high school years, the main obstacle to boys excelling in school was bullying by other boys.  Boys who demonstrated their intellectual skills in class were labeled “losers,” “geeks,” and “nerds” by other, generally athletic, boys.  Studious boys who were also athletic were more accepted.  If you want all boys to feel like they belong in school and excel intellectually, spend the resources addressing the long-standing issue of bullying – how to prevent it, and how to help those on the receiving end deal with it effectively.   This approach might be more affective for helping boys achieve social and intellectual balance than isolating, artificial video games.  Everyone – girls included – would be better off. 

    C. Frazier
    Chicago, IL

  • George V.

    Oh, absurdity of absurdities!  What Prof. Carr-Chellman proposes is nothing less than reinforcing all the negative stereotypes about “boy culture,” as she puts it.  So, let’s appeal to their “violent nature” as a way of attacking their “unmotivated, unfocused, immature, school-phobic” tendencies.  Right.

    Why doesn’t she, instead, examine how society (including “professors of education,” as well as feminists like her and her husband) force young males into emotional and intellectual straitjackets, essentially programming them for stunted academic growth?

    Ms. Carr-Chellman, and your listeners, would do better to turn to far more objective research by William Pollack, Dan Kindlon, Michael Thompson, and Eli Newberger, among others.  Their work explodes old testosterone myths and confronts both the subtle and obvious ways in which our so-called culture discourages the full range of emotional and intellectual development of boys, in and out of school.

  • Bburns

    What specific games is she talking about? I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she doesn’t mean realistically violent games that include graphic killing, rape and so on such as Grand Theft Auto.  But neither does she seem to be talking about the types of games that are specifically designed for educational content.  She mentioned somehow “discovering” that multi-player games help young people develop leadership and empathy skills…has she ever actually played any of these games?  Has she noticed the extremely crass name calling and sadism inherent to games where players compete with one another and once one has won they will continue to insult their opponent with insults to–among other things–their sexuality all the while having their on screen character simulate raping the corpse of the fallen opponent?  In some games this is known as “tea bagging.”  How does this encourage empathy?  Does she not recognize the racism and misogyny built into the core of main stream gaming?  Almost every hero is white (non-white characters are almost always two-dimensional stereotypes) and male, and when the main character does happen to be female she is almost always hypersexualized and performs for the male gaze as either dominatrix or victim where the male player can enjoy ogling her body as she either uses her sexuality to combat males–all the while with the understanding that the male player character is the exceptional man who is the only one who could control her–or the player can enjoy ogling the female character’s body as he watches her suffer at the hands of males.  Either way, again not really something that seems to encourage empathy or the type of leadership I would want to see in men.  Yes there are many exceptions to this trend but again the problem here is that she doesn’t specify which specific games she thinks are valid and how one would incorporate them into the classroom.  This seems to be someone trying to be the “cool” teacher without actually doing much research into games or gaming culture.  And ironically her ideas of “boy culture” as a static, hardwired set of behaviors for boys are laughably out of date.

  • ebw343

    Video games are a medium. Never, ever confuse a medium with how it’s currently being used.

  • BKW

    I am not anti-video game nor am I conservative on my views on how education could be changed by any means. However, this guest has obviously never studied ANY anthropology or sociology. If she had, she would know that culture is “man-made”, learned, and dynamic, it is not a given. Therefore, “boy culture” does not have to be violent, hyper-competitive, nor individualistic. In fact in some cultures it just the opposite or more of what Americans would consider to be feminine. Many of the aspects of what she calls “boy culture” that she would like integrated into classrooms would not be beneficial to the society as a whole nor any individual boy in the long term. As your guest mentioned, boys might find ways to pretend to play with guns even if they do not have a real fake gun; indeed, this may be true, but that does not mean violence and aggression are genetically engrained into male children. Instead, this behavior would be more of a reflection on what the American culture at large deems appropriate for boys – they see this kind of behavior in TV shows, commercials, other children, and within their families for instance. Consider this: if a child has no concept of what a gun is, how could they even pretend to play with one. Guns, or more generally the phenomenon of violence, are not something children are born knowing about. Even if one argues boys are predisposed, naturally, to be more energetic and physical, these traits can be utilized in many other ways than just aggression. Embracing one’s energy is one thing, pretending to take a life is quite another. Instead of reinforcing the idea that boys ought to be aggressive, competitive or individualistic, why not shape their culture to be more peaceful and group oriented. In other words, fit the culture to education, not the method of education to culture. This can only enhance their lives, the lives of those around them.

    • BKW

      Not to mention, who is assuming that girls are wired to sit still and quiet and do as they are told – is this not a very anti-feminist perspective as well?

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the data regarding boys as being unusually violent due to video game play is inconclusive.

    According to a 2003 study in which researchers recorded brain waves of boys as they played violent video games, the findings were that boys brains “believed” that they were engaged in life and death violence, but only for as long as the game was being played.

    That might lend some credence that if boys brains can be tricked into believing that they are in a life and death struggle via violence that they could have as much a reaction something less severe, like writing? http://michaelmaczesty.blogspot.com/2011/06/your-brain-on-violent-video-games.html

  • guest

    The video game studies that so many people cite to claiming that gaming enhances cognitive performance are seriously flawed, as highlighted by a recent review in Frontiers in Psychology.   It seems their may be little benefit to using video games to help boys learn better in school.


  • Jmgeritz

    I agree that our schools are NOT set up for young boys, but video games are not the answer.  I have watched several marriages die because of video game addiction.  As a retired elementary school teacher, I believe that boys need more hands on type learning and a good amount of time running/rough play outside.  jmg

  • Matthew Karlsson

    I can’t help but think that we aren’t doing our youth any favors by trying to make them like education.

    The biggest problem today is that people young AND old have no discipline.   That’s why we have poor education outcomes, why we – as a nation – are overweight, and why we as a nation are up to our eyeballs in debt.
    The kids need to learn – and learn well – that a lot of them time in life you have to do things you don’t like, and by trying to make school more like video games we are delaying this important life lesson and probably doing them more harm than good.What they need – instead – are hardass half drill-sergeant half teachers that put the fear in god of failing in the students and is not afraid of using social humiliation as a tool.  I’m willing to bet that if a teacher would yell at a student for performing poorly in math, like a football coach may yell at a student for dropping the ball on the field, the fear of more public humiliation would make sure they pay more attention next time.  After all, the fear of humiliation in front of their peers seems to drive everything children do.The problem with our schools is that they have become too soft, not that we haven’t appeased the kids enough.

    And more importantly, the problem with our schools is that parents aren’t holding their kids accountable for their in school performance.

    When I was a kid I was scared crap-less of coming home with anything lower than a B, because my parents would kill me.  (not literally, but you get the point).  Without this type of parental involvement kids just go home and ignore school instead of trying to do better at it.

    School simply needs to be more like boot camp, because if we sit around and wait for students to WANT to do well regardless of the ploy du jour (videogames in the classroom, etc.), we are going to fail, and fail miserably.

  • 19jarodbeldon

    I love this

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