Does Classical Education Work for Boys?

As a teacher in a classical classroom, I hope that my teaching will be effective for all my students. But recently, I heard another educator claim that the education we offer doesn’t work for boys. It is too still, too boring, and too structured. Being in a very full classroom with more boys than girls this year, I would like to speak to this critique.

Is it too still? While it is true that our students sit relatively still during class discussions, they have numerous opportunities for movement. Our students have P.E. every day as well as two recesses throughout the day. In our classrooms, we include movement through choral responses and stretch breaks. We write, we chant, and we recite, but we also refine our impulses by raising our hands, trying to listen to our peers, and writing neatly. There is a time for movement and a time for stillness, but they are balanced and neither for too long.

Is it too boring? Our K-12 curriculum is full of adventures and the boys in my class delight in the journeys we take. We fly with Peter Pan to imaginary worlds, we feel the betrayal and victory in the death of Julius Caesar, we backpack with a rock through three stages of the rock cycle, we grow flowers and play with dirt reading the Secret Garden, and we smell the factories and feel the plight of workers of the American Industrial Age. We take those moments and write about them in composition, diagram them in grammar, spell them in spelling, and make lively word problems in math.

Is it too structured? From the perspective of a 4th grade teacher, I see that my students thrive within consistent expectations and clear boundaries. William was a new student this year and he spent the first week testing my limits to see what I would allow. After he saw that I was consistent in my classroom rules, he settled into a comfortable place where he could learn and thrive. William didn’t need to keep pushing boundaries, he knew what to expect and any potential behavior issues disappeared. He achieved strong grades and thrived in the consistency.

Our schools exist to serve students and my experience with the K-12 curriculum has made it clear that our education can reach all students regardless of their gender!