Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Grasshopper Boys

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“Come with me and dance and sing instead of working so hard”
Grasshopper to the Ant from Aesop’s fable

At the end of last school year I took my stepson aside to explain to him his GPA.

“What are you getting in language arts?” I asked. 


“What about pre-algebra?”

“A “B” “.  After going over his five other classes I showed him the numerical value to each grade and calculated the average.  His GPA was about a 1.02.  He was shocked.

I was shocked he was shocked.

“If you had worked on your vocab grade and gotten a C instead of a “D”  and the math an A instead of a B you could have been a solid C student,” I told him.  “But is that all you want?”

We talked about his dream of playing pro-football which could only be achieved if he gets into college which can only happen if he has the grades (or is just so outstanding that people switch things around for him.  Oh, don’t look at me sideways, you know it happens). 

As it stands now he behaves as if school is just the place to pass time in between lunch and football/wrestling practice.  He does his homework but can’t be bothered to turn it in.  He falls asleep sometimes while reading homework assignments.  The sports that he is good at my husband has to bully him into practicing.  (And actually, he is a born athlete.) He’s a smart kid; he could do the work if he wanted to but he doesn’t want to.  I’m still waiting for that magic moment to happen that a love of learning something-anything!- propels him being an avid learner.

J says it will happen for J2 like it happened for him.  J didn’t attend college until his late 20s and now devour books in a way that makes me seem like a lightweight reader.  He’s willing to wait and bet money on J2 becoming a scholar later in life.  He has patience… sometimes.

Other times he’s in a tirade over bad grades.  J2 brings home a bad grade and goes on punishment, they work together on a subject, J2’s grades come up and then J believes he’s turned the corner, J2 implies he’s doing better and he does, for a while. 

Then J2 brings home a bad grade and the cycle starts all over again.

“Just look at yourself, look at your grades,” my husband shouts at him.  “Is this what you want?  If we were living back in Korea your grades would bring shame on the family!”

“No, not shame?” my daughter says when I recount the story to her.  We laugh together at the absurdity of J evoking this racial tradition because, when taken into account, the fact that J2 is also half African American would cause his biological family to hang their heads in shame back in his homeland. 

“Boys are just stupid,” my friend Grace tells me when I call her up to get her opinion on what to do about J2 and school.  Her son has just turned 12 and has become a full fledged nerd so she’s not having any problems with him academically.  But her recently her teen nephew moved in with her because her his parents threw him out.  A few months ago the parents were surprised to discover their son was on the verge of not graduating.  Since starting high school the solid A student began to flounder, beginning with the breakup of the parents marriage.  They went to family counseling for a while which seemed to help until that day in the counselors office when the parents discovered that he had been showing up for school, his homework just hadn’t made it with him.

“Where’s your homework?” the father asked. 

“In my locker.”

“What is it with boys and homework?” Grace asks, perplexed as I was.  “Why can’t they just turn the homework in?”

“Because they are dumb,” I said, going back to our previous answer.  “There can’t be any other reason.  It’s something on the Y-chromosome that does it.”

Thinking I might be wrong on the male stupidity answer I search around the internet on forums to see what other parents have to say.  A lot of other parents, mostly mothers, are in the same quandry as I am.  The main complaint is their sons won’t turn their homework in or they won’t do the homework at all.  And no one can seem to pinpoint what seems to “afflict” these boys.  It’s not depression, they seem to be jovial with the voracious appetites that come with growing boys.  It’s more like a non-chalance, with 21st century boys becoming a restylized Binx Bollings but instead of heading to the movies to arrest their ennui they just play hours and hours of video games. 

The catch, to me, is that I don’t recall any of this in the boys I knew while growing up.  Maybe they were but I don’t remember seeing it.  Or maybe we called it something else, but it wasn’t on such a wide scale as I see it today with boys.

Dr. Leonard Sax thinks the same thing and has written two books on the subject.  A psychologist, family physician and author of two books (Boys Adrift and Why Gender Matters), Dr. Sax thinks that the problems stems from the proliferation of video games, endocrine disruptors like plastic bottles and the feminization of education where boys are expected to sit for hours on end.

“The gender issue is relevant to classroom learning in more ways than one,” Sax said in article he wrote in the School Library Journal. “Increasingly in the United States, young boys are saying that school is stupid and they don’t like to read. This phenomenon cuts across all demographic groups: it affects affluent white boys in the suburbs no less than it affects black boys in low-income neighborhoods. ” School Library Journal September 2007.

Even if this cuts across racial and class lines, black boys are still feeling the brunt of it.  The Foundation for Public Education released their report a few weeks ago that state black boys across the U.S. were graduating from high school at almost half the rate as their white and Asian counterparts.  In Michigan there was a 41% gap with only 1/3 of African American students graduating compared to over 70% of their white counterparts.  The group is trying to find ways to get improve black education success and hope to have an answer in the next few years.

I don’t have that long.  I hope to see J2 graduate with his class in 2012 so I need to get him from A-B in four years.  At the beginning of the summer I searched for things that he would like to read and tried not to sweat him too much about it.  First it was two articles I found in KoreAm; one about Hines Ward and the other was about Will Demps.  I hoped that he would not only see that these two blasian football players maintained good grades in school but they didn’t always get on the team of their choice.  I then gave him a teen book on Barack Obama and, not to show bias, I handed him one on John McCain (which I found last night under the couch).  I also gave him a couple of sports magazines that were easy to read.

School starts this week so this past weekend J and I went shopping for pencils, pens, notebooks, a calculators and folders; everything that can help him start off his school year on the right foot.  We want to give him the best and give him an edge for a good future. 

But then, what if he doesn’t really want it?


Written by rentec

19 August, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Posted in education, family

Tagged with , , ,

One Response

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  1. […] I know that there is a problem around the country with educating boys anyway (I spoke about it here).  In today’s Newsweek online magazine author Peg Tyre writes about the struggle a lot of […]

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