Monday 22 July 2019

Comment: As a rule, school is no lesson in life for the modern miss

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Fiona Ness

Fiona Ness

This year's Leaving Cert results might have presented an all-male line-up of eight H1 achievers, but the fact still remains: girls generally do better than boys at school. What isn't so clear is why?

As a female, I've always known this. How could it be otherwise? Didn't the boys sit up the back of the physics class, twanging rulers off the desk while we girls sat studiously, grappling with Brownian motion and sharing the textbook, one-between-two.

Against my better nature - I was interested in poems and PE, not trolleys and ticker tape - I was a 16-year-old expert on the inner workings of a nuclear reactor.

But the boys… what was with them? Was it stupidity, bravado, laziness or were they simply too cool for school? Didn't they get it that the Leaving Cert would live with them longer than uranium's half-life?

"Pick a window, you're leaving," Mr Campbell would roar. Twanggggggg…

Perhaps it was the need to segue with the crowd, to not appear too studious for fear of being branded a nerd.

But the results were telling: in school exams, girls do better than boys.

Can we really divide ourselves so simply along gender lines? Do males have a different work ethic? Are they less worried about pleasing people in authority, about being a "good boy"? Perhaps boys are more individual in their approach to learning. Perhaps the school system is not really set up to serve males well. Perhaps it's single-sex schools; perhaps it isn't.

And then, university, and the boys start to pull ahead. Something switches in their brains, maybe. Or the increased autonomy of college life suits their maleness, or they are more focused on learning, that is… more focused. And it turns out girls aren't really better than boys after all.

Four years later and you are a woman in the workplace and hearing about the gender pay gap and the glass ceiling, and force equals mass times acceleration doesn't matter any more.

Girls are hearing about how they are now ill-equipped to compete with the patriarchal structure of the workplace and nothing matters a jot if they can't twang a ruler with the best of them. Is any of this really true? Boys and girls of class of 2018, good luck figuring it out.

Irish Independent

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