Review of Educational Research The "Boy Turn" in Research on Gender and Education
Marcus Weaver-Hightower REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH 2003; 73; 471 DOI: 10.3102/00346543073004471 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Review of Educational Research Winter 2003, Vol. 73, No. 4, pp. 471–498

The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education
Marcus Weaver-Hightower University of Wisconsin, Madison
Although the majority of research in gender and education has rightly focused on girls, recent research in the United States and elsewhere has focused much more on the learning, social outcomes, and schooling experiences of boys. This “boy turn” has produced a large corpus of theoretically oriented and practice-oriented research alongside popular and rhetorical works and feminist and pro-feminist responses, each of which this article reviews. To answer why boys have become such a concern at this time, this article explores the origins and motivations of the boy turn, examines major critiques of the distress about boys, and suggests possible directions for debates and research.

KEYWORDS: boys, education research, gender, masculinity, theory–practice relationship. Until recently, most policy, practice, and research on gender and education focused on girls and girls’ issues. This is as it should be, for in every society women as a group relative to men are disadvantaged socially, culturally, politically, and economically. All of these realms, of course, are integral to the study of schooling. In early interventions in education, particularly by liberal feminists and some radical feminists, schools were seen as significant causes of inequality for women and, more important, as a key institution through which such inequalities could be dismantled (see Arnot, David, & Weiner, 1999, chap. 5; Weiner, 1994, chap. 4). In the United States, such discussions of gender arguably hit their zenith in the early 1990s with the publication of a number of reports and popular books about girls and their educational disadvantages. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) garnered the largest media splash with the publication of How Schools Shortchange Girls (1992). In the report, the AAUW argues that math and science curriculum and pedagogy, biased standardized tests, and environments that do not account for girls’ special concerns are educationally depriving girls. Other books of the period, such as Sadker and Sadker’s Failing at Fairness (1994), Peggy Orenstein’s School Girls (1994), and Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia (1994), presented girls as suffering tremendous psychological damage and educational neglect. According to these authors, girls, as compared with boys, evince more eating disorders, depression, self-esteem drops, and even self-mutilation; girls are called on less often by teachers, show score and enrollment gaps in math and science, and receive fewer and lower-quality comments from teachers. Widespread 471
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1998. and some education researchers. as well as those that are representative of their particular categories (see below).” The phrase is a convenient double entendre. 2009 . masculinity. Department of Education Gender Equity Expert Panel. to the international context of gender and education (e. is that boys are finally having a “turn. 2000). 1999).1 From this perspective. From one perspective.S. and equity work that have emerged from it. A Note on Method The art of reviewing research literature is always potentially problematic because each analysis constructs the reviewed field in certain political ways (e. 1998. parental pressure. and pedagogy efforts. at CAPES on September 29. Eisenhart & Finkel. theoretically oriented work and practice-oriented work on boys’ issues. more accurate term for the research corpus outlined in this article than expressions such as the oft-heard “What about the boys?” because I include research that simultaneously focuses on boys and rejects the backlash implied by “What about the boys?” What has caused this “turn” to boys? How might we define its relative positives and negatives? In this article. and technology (e. Fennema. Then. Carpenter. to pedagogical interventions that mediate the effects of gender (AAUW. practitioner efforts. I cannot claim to have included every article or book on boys’ education issues. Bloch. education. I conclude with a number of possibilities for further research in theory and practice. I then present a number of critiques of the boy turn. 2001. this was the situation “until recently. antifeminist groups. 1983). I describe some of the major contributions to the understanding of gender. Franke. As I stated at the outset. The second perspective. Correll. an endgame in. Anderson-Levitt.aera. U. one more often embraced by advocates for boys. I point out many of the disconnections between academic. policy attention. a paradigmatic shift akin to other turns in academia (such as the “social turn” in literacy documented by Gee. the boy turn is unwelcome. 2001). the “turn” to boys is a turn away from. & Levi. tracing both academic and practitioner literature on boys. and a great deal of research all have come to focus on the state of boys in schools.. policy. however. Readers familiar 472 Downloaded from http://rer. Lather. a distinct and growing shift toward examining boys’ education has occurred internationally in research on gender and schooling. after a brief explanation of my methodology.g. but I have tried to include all works that have made a significant impact on the field. 2003. the boys’ “turn” is overdue. and education. Jacobs. 1998). As a prelude to suggesting future directions for research.” a share of research and policy attention. & Soumaré. 2000..g. the needed focus on girls (Ailwood. encapsulating two opinions—perhaps falsely dichotomous—about the shift to boys. I present some of the underlying causes of the research shift. media furor. particularly England and Australia. “Boy turn” is a better. 2003). from the processes that affect female entry into and success in math. The current review certainly will not transcend such considerations. I call this shift in gender and education research the “boy turn. which provide significant qualifications on and mediations of existing research. science.” Beginning roughly in the mid-1990s..Weaver-Hightower attention to these issues has led to great strides in understanding the function of gender in educational contexts. Stambach. although I have endeavored to provide a broad range of works representative of the rather young field of research on boys.g. In many industrialized countries. Bloch & Vavrus. Lingard. From this point of view. and the “interpretive turn” discussed by Geertz. With these criticisms and cautions in mind. 1998.

is a vast field. The four categories are (a) popular–rhetorical literature. and diagnoses of attention deficit disorder. I concentrate on the practice.” William Pollack’s 1998 book Real Boys. which Mills (2003) calls “backlash blockbusters. however. Steve Biddulph (1998). in press). and trade books. (c) practice-oriented literature. which usually appear in newspapers. “engagement” in school. or social crisis.The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education with the field should find the reference list thorough. These are robust research findings. special education placements. 473 Downloaded from http://rer. magazines. Table 1 summarizes the four categories and forecasts the analysis of each as elaborated in the at CAPES on September 29. although the other two are also necessary for understanding the full complexity of the boy turn and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the practice and theory categories. have differing educational needs and that schools are not meeting boys’ needs. Research on gender and education. however. (b) theoretically oriented literature. academic failure. Dividing the research in this way provides a heuristic to illuminate potential problems for researchers and educators. such as transgender issues. and violence—all findings supported by research—is to reinforce boys’ emotional connections with parents and other adults. in her book The War Against Boys. Christina Hoff Sommers (2000). because of differences in brain construction. though grounded (Strauss & Corbin. Weaver-Hightower. and (d) feminist and pro-feminist responses. Bear in mind that the categories are fluid and overlapping (individual works may fit into more than one tradition) and that they. Similarly. No works have been intentionally excluded for reasons of methodology or political orientation. categories that I see as key divisions in the research on boys in education. have not garnered more attention is a weakness of the field in general. I refer to works in this category. offer only one possible approach to sorting the literature. teen sex. for example. about boy’s issues can most easily be seen in a group of recent bestsellers. 2009 . dropout rates. and college enrollment. He contends that boys and girls. Etiologies Many assume that the turn to boys has its roots primarily in pop psychology or media-driven moral panic (see Kimmel.aera. as “popular–rhetorical” literature. such as transgender theory. That other issues. warns of increasing psychological harm to boys in modern society. Sommers attributes such difficulties to distortions of fact by educational advocates for girls and attempts by feminists to “pathologize” the manly “nature” of boys. also makes claims for the “nature” behind boys’ issues. caused controversy with her contention that boys are being systematically disadvantaged: They are increasingly behind girls in literacy measures. 2000. I base the synthesis presented here on an informal process of grouping works according to four artificial. 1990). Problematically. those new to boys’ education might regard this as a suitable place to begin. and they outnumber girls in suspensions and expulsions. as I discuss later. Topics that are certainly relevant to issues of boys.and theoretically oriented traditions here. Michael Gurian. are only glossed here in an effort to focus on the lines of debate that have captured the majority of attention in both public and academic debate. His solution to boys’ increasing depression. much like the media attention for girls that emerged in the early 1990s. of course. in Boys and Girls Learn Differently! (2001). The sense of moral panic. drug use. suicide. Though only one of many etiologies. the popular–rhetorical literature can easily be construed as the source of the boy turn because that literature offers the loudest voices and the most visible headlines.

• Nuanced understanding of gender • Uncovers subtle processes • Accessible language • Widely available • Responsive to public concern Strengths Biddulph (1998). Willis (1977) Weaknesses Bleach (1998b). (1999).” Concerned with cataloging types of masculinity and their origins and effects. moral panics over boys. Browne & Fletcher (1995).” and popular–rhetorical at CAPES on September 29. Sommers (2000) Connell (1995). Critiques the boy turn. Largely uses the tools of qualitative research. Lingard & Douglas (1999) TABLE 1 Major categories of boy turn research literature Category Popular–rhetorical literature • Frequently essentialist • Prone to antifeminism and conservative politics • Prone to biological determinism • Often ignores public concern and practitioner needs • Less accessible language and less availability • Often focuses on most visible masculinities • Tends to neglect academic side of schooling • Prone to “quick fixes” • Often atheoretical or undertheorized • Fails to address feminist concerns about funding and the question “Which boys?” • Prone to economistic arguments • Prone to overlooking “good sense” of boys’ reforms Theoretically oriented literature Downloaded from http://rer. Head (1999) • Responsive to practitioner and public concerns • More accessible language • Addresses academic side of schooling • Tempers heated debates • Maintains a focus on social justice Epstein et. al. Pollack (1998).474 Representative examples Characteristics Generally argues that boys are disadvantaged or harmed by schools and society and that schools are “feminized. notions of “underachievement. 2009 Practice-oriented literature Feminist and pro-feminist responses . Mac an Ghaill (1994). Crotty (2001). Concerned with developing and evaluating school. Examines how schools and society produce and modify masculinities.and classroom-based interventions in boys’ academic and social problems.

g. the media have made similar claims for the educational disadvantages of boys. The practical response to all of these popular concerns has been uneven at best. 2000). economic. 49) assert.g. 22) because they “are smarter. and Scandinavia (Connell. Sommers. has been feminist theory. 1997c. quoted in Alloway & Gilbert. while Australian headlines proclaim women the “Superior Sex” (Bulletin with Newsweek. disproportionate numbers in special education. and violence at the center of public attention. healthier. Keen. 1980s. makes similar biological claims about boys’ testosterone and about the “natural” development of boys.g. 1990). & Schroeder. Gurian. The second major impetus for the boy turn. D. 2000). Kimmel. p. and administrators aware of the issue. at CAPES on September 29.” self-harming gender role to perform. 2009 . based mainly on various national standardized test scores in literacy. Sadker. In general.. 1977). health concerns. p.The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education a bestselling author in Australia. headlines offer to explain “Why Girls Are Beating ‘Lads’ ” (BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation]. however. the controversies surrounding the entrance of women to the Citadel military college and the Virginia Military Institute (see Diamond. Instead. 1993). Those who examined the male role. classroom-based interventions in the United States to federal policy formation attempts in Australia. and questions of power. and the notion that boys have a “toxic.” as Kenway and Willis (1998. 2000). In England. Popular psychology books and media calls for attention to boys. and physical aspects of men’s lives in connection with labor. Internationally.aera. and a series of school shootings epitomized by the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School all have placed boys.. body image. emotional disconnection. Japan. their socialization. Such concerns led almost seamlessly 475 Downloaded from http://rer. These include the familial. whether educationalists (e. and interventions have grown out of targeting such high-profile events. In the United States alone. the “Spur Posse” incidents in the mid-1990s (as described by Faludi.. Several news events have also contributed to this popular focus. Bly. or even antifeminist writers (e. 2000). 1999) in which a group of boys scored “points” for having sex with underage girls. in establishing the effects of gender on women’s lives. teachers. a constellation of other. Moore & Gillette. Although such exposure certainly makes parents. somewhat ironically. the boy turn arose from numerous identifiable factors. 1991. mythopoetic writers of the late 1980s and early 1990s (e. and early 1990s. each making a contribution. Work by feminists (particularly sex role theories) throughout the 1970s. as well as indicators such as high dropout rates and disciplinary rates.” Similar headlines and concerns have appeared in Germany. more honest and live longer. identified a number of vital social issues needing examination and intervention. social. this alone does not explain the tremendous resources now devoted research and policymaking on boys. and falling college enrollment. are not the only catalyst of the boy turn that I will examine. among other things. and Biddulph rely heavily on arguments rooted in a “battle of the sexes” (note martial terms such as “war” against boys). privilege. for example. interrelated factors has also contributed to the boy turn (see Table 2). along with men’s movement theorizing built on feminist theory. claims from bestseller psychologists such as Pollack. biological determinism. ranging from solely informal. and violence. These events have aided the moral panic over boys. Farrell. also opened the door for questioning of the male role (Connell. Rather than coming “out of the blue. divorce and custody disputes.

indicators now being used to make a case for the disadvantage of males. Such analyses present feminist reforms with a significant challenge. for. 96). and by Kindlon and Thompson (2000) and Gurian (1998). or at least “out of touch” in an international context of high-stakes testing and accountability. feminists unintentionally laid the groundwork for boy advocates to claim disadvantage at the first sign of access or test score advantage for girls. A third contributor to the boy turn is feminists’ original formulation of indicators of gender equity in education. say. however. Many point out the New Right’s explicit aims of backlash against women (Christian-Smith. and enrollment patterns that caused the gaps. it also left open the identification of boys’ disadvantages in test scores in reading and writing as a reason to be concerned for boys. the more recent reverse trend whereby women now outnumber men in undergraduate and graduate degree programs has been taken to mean that males are now at an educational (and soon. particularly the interconnected processes of privatization and accountability. where neoliberal reforms produced an educational choice structure in which schools compete with one another for students. although identifying girls’ disadvantages in math and science scores led to productive targeting of the pedagogy. outcomes) disadvantage. Similarly. such as those by Pollack and by Biddulph. Such reformulations are seen in the current climate as “denial” or self-preservation (House of Representatives. just as men’s numerical advantage in college enrollment before the 1980s was taken as a sign of patriarchal privilege.TABLE 2 Etiologies of the boy turn in gender and education research • • • • • • • • Media panic. the structure of its educational reforms. A fourth major prompt for the boy turn has been increasing neoliberal education reforms and the rise of the New Right—the conservative restoration since the 1980s’ ascendance of Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Reagan in the United States.aera. 2009 . sociology. Faludi. may seem to the general public to be self-serving and cynical. as I have argued elsewhere (Weaver-Hightower. For example. by feminist critiques of the gender order that preceded them. 2003). discussed earlier. By setting up equality as a matter of enrollment and test score gaps rather than. This is particularly true in England. 1999. 2002) rather than as an evolving realization of the nuances of gender’s effects. to change equity indicators now. have accomplished more than its antifeminist rhetoric ever could. Kenway and Willis (1998) term these initial indicators a “strategic mistake” on the part of feminists (see also Lingard & Douglas. in part. at CAPES on September 29. 1991). The general point is that literature on boys has been made possible. thus excluding boys. the economic and social outcomes of education. particularly in the recent spate of tomes dedicated to boys’ upbringing. and news events Feminist examinations of gender roles Narrow initial indicators of gender equity New Right and neoliberal reforms in education Explicit backlash politics Economic and work force changes (the “crisis of masculinity”) Parental concerns and pressure The “thrill of the new” for researchers and educators to similar theorizing about the lives of boys. Parents’ 476 Downloaded from http://rer. psychology. 1990. popular–rhetorical books.

1999. we suggest. particularly in language arts. consequently. not by the work of schools challenging and transforming masculinity. Maynard. funding will go disproportionately to them. has been significantly tied to such gender politics. advances in equalizing the curriculum.. overlook explicit backlash politics. 1996) increasingly value “feminine” modes of interaction. and where Kenway and Willis (1998) have explored backlashes within schools—among teachers and gender equity coordinators and between students. may be rolled back to better suit boys. as Arnot et al. policy. 1999) that operates to challenge feminist victories without having to engage in explicit antifeminist rhetoric. educational reforms championed by the New Right have created a “structural backlash” (Lingard & Douglas. 13–14). and media backlashes spurred on by the “What about the boys?” debate. masculinity. where Lingard and Douglas (1999) have examined the structural. Change in the economy and work force. the sixth cause of the boy turn. pp. Thus administrators and teachers are forced to overvalue test performance lest they lose students and. with high visibility in an identity politics. 2002.. in jobs traditionally held largely by women. (pp. Arnot et al. 2009 . In general. such as working in interactive teams rather than as atomistic competitors. New sets of values. husbands and fathers. & Lankshear. 8. from explicit.aera. Perhaps the best scholarly work on this trend has come from Australia. the workplace cultures of the “new capitalism” (Gee. (1999) argue. backlashes feed on anxieties. In this formulation. schools have failed to help boys make the transition: Young men have been expected to adapt to an increasingly unstable set of circumstances in the work sphere. particularly in relation to changing work identities and challenges to the patriarchal dominance of the male breadwinner. have been a major source of such feelings in the last 40 years. and. In addition. but those are not my focus here). The result is a method of “educational triage” (Gillborn & Youdell. The tenor of such claims can vary widely. The failure in the last two decades of government. industrialized economies are increasing mainly in the service sector. virulent attacks on feminism to more “reasoned” debate about needing to modify the “feminine” nature of schooling. 2000) in which the limited resources of a school are funneled to students “on the bubble” of passing the at CAPES on September 29. aspirations and skills were being asked of men as workers. threatening the conventional basis both of masculinity and its associated ideal of the male as breadwinner. society and schools to address the prevailing forms of. their schools or their jobs. In general. but rather by their failure to do so. 6. Because boys outnumber girls in the lower test score ranks.g. This backlash takes the form of constant claims that girls have made great strides and in many ways have surpassed boys. however. Triage of this sort has clear gender consequences (and racial consequences as well.The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education main tools for choosing schools are league tables. the fifth catalyst of the boy turn. the economies of “developed” nations have made dramatic shifts toward “feminization” of the work force (e. Gender issues. in which the standardized test scores of each school are published in the newspaper and on the Internet. men have been largely unequipped for these changes. has had negative repercussions for boys. and ideas about. and self-interest. threatened beliefs. We should not. chaps. young men were not offered similar possibilities to adapt to social and economic change. Such instability has been deepened. In summary. 125–126) 477 Downloaded from http://rer. Hull. As many have argued. While schools challenged girls to adapt to new circumstances. moreover. even though the restructuring of the workplace and the family called for men with modern and more flexible approaches to their role in society.

2000). and neo-imperialism. and outcomes of their sons’ (and daughters’) educations toward rightist positions (Apple & Oliver. Similarly. Although economics has an important role. Although the uses of the term have varied. is the seventh mainspring of the boy turn. however. waged citizenship in the nation-state”. In fact. or politics that prevent them from fulfilling a culturally specific “traditional” hegemonic masculine role. many of the processes involved are the same.Weaver-Hightower What the authors index here is the worldwide “crisis of masculinity” that drives. “crisis of masculinity” commonly refers to perceptions that men in a society are acting in harmful ways toward themselves or others because of conditions in the culture. To ignore the good sense of some arguments for intervening on behalf of boys is to risk “pushing” parents who have valid concerns for the quality. 2000. We should not overlook the fact that parental concern (at least its public face) has come largely from middle-class White parents. particularly as manifested in military and cultural incursions by the United States and other countries through processes of globalization. Rightist groups are willing to take parents seriously on this matter. one could argue. indeed. In such unstable times. One should not. construe rightists’ willingness to take up advocacy for boys as a sign that the issue is somehow “tainted.aera. 1995). The crisis of masculinity and the resulting panic over boys causes concern not only among boys themselves but also among their parents. concerned about their children’s futures. Although the cultural and economic contexts in countries that produce crisis masculinity are diverse. Michael Kimmel (2002) suggests that large-scale male violence such as terrorism stems from perceptions of economic disenfranchisement and threats to masculine “birth rights. there are elements of good sense in any political project). 1996). For example. 307). 1996). economy. and is driven by. resulting in a rise in both domestic and public violence. feel threatened by the loss of dominance for their sons (Yates. because they compete for hegemony against femininities and other masculinities. who. moral panics at CAPES on September 29. but crisis masculinity across the globe has emerged among (mostly young) men who are excluded from local economies. the moral panic over the schooling and rearing of boys. much of the impetus behind reform for boys comes from parents who are. however. Undeniably. 2009 . and civic roles have created a masculine culture of lashing out. not to lose sight of the elements of “good sense” that lie behind some of the concern for boys (as Apple. war. indeed. perhaps denied “full. Susan Faludi (1999) in her recent book Stiffed describes a crisis of masculinity in the United States in which “broken promises” of patriarchal dividends. cultural and political conditions have also contributed to the global production of crisis masculinity. with good reason. all masculinities. We should take care.” or inherently a rightist position unavailable to more progressive groups. many progressive groups—particularly good 478 Downloaded from http://rer. always tend toward crisis (Connell. There are progressive ends in working with boys. 2002). faced with “doing worse” than previous generations. suggests. and that is yet another catalyst for the turn toward research and policy on boys’ education (see also Mac an Ghaill.” particularly in extremist groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan and White supremacy groups in the United States (see also WeaverHightower. 2001. Each context may involve different configurations of this process. and deskilled and displaced by the feminization of post-Fordist labor (Comaroff & Comaroff. Parental concern. safety. p. secure futures. such as the diminution of violence or expansion of the emotional and cultural repertoire of boys.

masculinity. Although at first glance seemingly an example of the frivolous self-involvement of the “ivory tower.3 In the sections that follow. With these origins of and catalysts for the boy turn in at CAPES on September 29. Those contributions have come from two major streams of research on boys. from those in Connell. . . Publisher demands for marketable products. For. .aera. finding a niche within a “new” topic or the opportunity to extend a hot debate is a powerful draw. 2003): theoretically oriented (concerned with the philosophical or sociological understanding of educational contexts) and practice oriented (concerned with the practices and procedures of teaching and learning). 1986–1987) influences which knowledge is ultimately attained. in turn. For scholars desiring to establish themselves (myself included). (The major themes discussed below are adapted. for one. we can now turn to an examination of the major contributions of the research on boys and masculinities in education. 2000). 1977) have shown this concretely. [W]e became aware that much of the feminist literature on schools with which we were familiar . as we have seen with the boy turn.g. assess their relative strengths and weaknesses. funding. I outline the major findings of each stream of research. The Scholarly Turn: Theoretically Oriented Literature Rather than provide a detailed chronicle of major studies of sociocultural processes in this limited space. shows a typology of masculinities for both 479 Downloaded from http://rer. which I have discussed elsewhere (Weaver-Hightower. the political economy of publishing powerfully shapes or limits research.The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education examples come from African-American communities—are already working with boys.” whereas . did treat girls in sensitive detail. 1994. should be of grave concern to social justice movements in education. 2009 . we could find little [new] to say about the girls. while leaving boys as a more shadowy “other.” (p.2 The final spur to the boy turn that I will discuss is the “thrill of the new” for researchers and educators. Mac an Ghaill. Willis. and therefore which issues are promoted or targeted in schools. . I would like to offer a brief outline of the significant contributions of the theoretically oriented literature on boys and masculinity to the understanding of gender and how to research it. support this impulse. Lynn Yates (2000) describes the attraction nicely: What we found when we were looking at and attempting to interpret the tapes from our first round of interviews was that the boys in our study seemed interesting and our findings there “unexpected. and schooling. One should not ignore the political economy of such research decisions. a fact not lost on those who must “publish or perish. universal. identify the disconnections and connections among them. and policymaking. 317) This “shadowy other” has great power over the academic imagination.” the allure of a “hot” field that is wide open for new and “sexy” research is strong. making a nearly infinite number of masculinities possible. . Multiple Masculinities There is no single. in part. and suggest future directions for the boy turn. . however. .” That this circuit of production (Johnson. Rather. Ethnographic studies (e.. ideals of masculinity are historically and contextually dependent. Mac an Ghaill. ahistorical version of masculinity to which all cultures subscribe or aspire. seeking to mollify their disadvantages.

Willis (1977). Race. Ethnicity. in terms of distribution of social goods and social status. experiences some amount of powerlessness in the face of age oppression (Alloway & Gilbert. Many African-American males. W. to cope with the realities of a racist.aera. than those who do not. 1997). working-class men. Those that do not—typically but not always men of color. in opposition to middle-class conceptions of power and prestige. too.” as an example of classed masculinity.4 Certain masculinities always “win out” and gain dominance. with extra surveillance by dominant groups as the result of either perception. draw on elements of troublemaking and shop floor culture.Weaver-Hightower teachers and students. and other men. Mills. delineating who has and does not have an advantage. labor. 1995) suggests that the multiple versions of masculinity constantly struggle for dominance and that some groups actually achieve dominance. experiences societal relations of power in the same way. Hegemony R. shows that the masculinity performed by the working-class “lads” eventually serves to ensure that they gain credentials for working-class jobs only. Active Construction Masculinities. because the middle class has established the criteria for middle-class jobs based on a different masculinity. each with distinct characteristics and relations to women. 208). the “lads. those who adopt the masculinities that achieve hegemony are much better off. create unique masculinities. “come into existence as people act” (p. Not every boy. Connell (1996) asserts. therefore. but also that all boys are advantaged because some are. shows that the masculinity created by and for African-American boys puts them in the double bind of being treated as either dangerous or endangered. Thus agency accompanies the construction of masculinity. for instance. They occasionally develop a “cool pose” (Majors & Billson. Connell suggests that 480 Downloaded from http://rer. and feminine men—are subject to varying degrees of oppression from the hegemonic group. Class. such as the gangster persona adapted from Italian-American masculinities (Katz & Jhally. Denborough. individuals and social groups create and adapt versions of masculinity for their own uses within their own cultural frames. Still. The idea of multiple masculinities offers an important affirmation that masculinities are changeable. schooling. Every boy. 2003) serves to remind us that research should always disaggregate the stakeholders. Sewell. 2000).net at CAPES on September 29. Ferguson (2000). Thus the concern about boys in the theoretically oriented tradition is not about all boys but primarily about those who suffer oppressions based on subjectivities other than gender alone. in fact. 2009 . gay men. Thus we need to avoid assuming not only that all boys are disadvantaged because some are. and Sexuality Inflect Masculinity The notion of multiple masculinities suggests that masculinities coalesce around various subject positions. 1997a. Connell’s connection of masculinity with Gramscian notions of hegemony (see especially Connell. The theory that masculinities are distinct in different groups (Martino & Pallotta-Chiarolli. 1993) to create and retain what power they can (see also Dance. 1999). 1996. To phrase it more actively. to stake out masculine identities in school. Willis’s (1977) participants. including the reverence for manual as opposed to intellectual labor. 2002. classist society. for example.

such as Connell’s “life histories” (1995). 1999). Willis (1977). Evans & Davies. tracking. masculinity asserts itself in nearly every aspect of school life.. Katz & Jhally. Lesko. The very fact that the boy turn is an international phenomenon suggests the need for analyses of globalized circulations. 1995.g. 2009 . 2000). and many others have relied on traditional ethnography to tease out the complex relations of masculinity within school settings. Dance (2002). Foley (1990). Mac an Ghaill ( at CAPES on September 29. primarily at the level of symbol and structure.aera. 2000. conversation (e. researchers have widely applied the tools of ethnography to the study of gender in schools. Foley (1990). The curriculum. may ultimately limit our ability to look beyond the local. often presenting a challenge for the researcher to tease from the context. 1993). boys. similarly. 2000. S. Connell suggests that researchers begin to explore the global creation and circulation of masculinity. Gallas (1998). despite its ability to uncover the complexities of gender in schools. Symbolization and Gender Regimes Masculinity resides in and is produced by institutions (Connell. Typically.. Thorne (1993). but one must remember that institutions and other factors restrict their choices. Macrolevel Formation of Masculinities As Connell notes. Some schools have more explicit gender regimes than others. 3.. Haywood & Mac an Ghaill. 1994). 2000. Johnson & Meinhof. 2000. Newkirk. Connell.g. Mac an Ghaill. classroom and playground interactions (e.The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education boys freely choose between masculinities. has shown that patterns of masculinity form around larger social processes as well. 4). the “ethnographic moment. Other studies. 1996. division of labor. 1996. and schooling. shows that certain masculinities form in the crucible of race relations along the 481 Downloaded from http://rer. much of the research on masculinity concerns itself with micro-level socialization: contact with media (e. 2000).. posits that economic changes in England have produced particular masculinities around vocationalism and the need for new credentials in an era of deindustrialization. though not ethnographies per se. Lesko)—affect gender relations in subtle ways. have used particular tools of qualitative research to good ends. 1996. Mac an Ghaill (1994). Nevertheless. for example. in the all-male military colleges in the United States that weathered controversies in the mid-1990s (Diamond et al. This subtlety reminds the researcher to look at multiple locations and levels of power and discourse in an institution as complex as a school. 1996. The near-total shift away from quantitative techniques is partly the result and partly the cause of the abandoning of biological and sex-difference theories of masculinity formation. 2000a.g. Skelton (2001). however. 1987). Efficacy of Ethnography The much-discussed “qualitative turn” in research has played a large part in furthering the study of masculinity. uses of texts (e. as is the case in the vast majority of the studies mentioned here.. Thorne. In particular. Ferguson (2000). Young. particularly “transnational business masculinity” (chaps. 2000).” as Connell (2000) calls it. Sewell (1997). However. the ability to make even restricted choices means that boys can and do choose nonoppressive forms. or parent-child interaction (Gleason. disciplinary schemes. 1997). Recent work. and other school structures—all elements of the school’s “gender regime” (Browne.g. masculinity takes more understated forms. Best (1983). however.

is Salisbury and Jackson’s Challenging Macho Values (1996).net at CAPES on September 29. the practice-oriented literature comes in many forms and from many traditions (see Gilbert & Gilbert. covering in one volume the wide array of boys’ issues studied by boyswork scholars. Antisexism work. 2002). Bullying. the boyswork literature covers two broad. sports. The Australian collection. Davies et al. & Safer.and classroom-based interventions in sexism and the academic “underachievement” of boys. (1999). not just individuals in interaction. Davison. particularly. the theoretically oriented literature has focused mainly on the genesis and coherence of forms of masculinity. Katz & Jhally. counseling 482 Downloaded from http://rer. Denborough. 1999.g. classroom organization advice. detail some of the activities that they used in English single-sex schools to explore sexism and the male role. Mills. for a description of these). 1996. Jackson & Salisbury. 9). violence and bullying. including sexuality. 2000. however. similarly. however. C. Also. Such attention to macro-level formation of masculinities has pushed research to attend to large-scale processes that affect masses. research into social and psychological consequence. Griffiths. Katz. sexual harassment. particularly in the post–Columbine High School era of school shootings in the United States and moral panics over the safety of children in schools (see Mills. 1996. Practiceoriented research.Weaver-Hightower Texas–Mexico border. This so-called “boyswork” merges many issues that cover nearly every aspect of schooling. Boys in Schools (Browne & Fletcher. Other types of antioppressive education have a somewhat longer history within the literature. because these issues have garnered more attention. For example. explores a number of concerns about boys.aera. male body image. has been a significant interest. 2001) and on “therapeutic” approaches to working with men (see Lingard & Douglas. 1994. much more than on the impact of particular forms on individuals. The School-Based Turn: Practice-Oriented Literature Like theoretically oriented literature.. has received a great deal of attention in practice-oriented work (e. Askew and Ross (1988).g. similarly covers a variety of social issues that boys experience (sexuality. 1999. The latter category. bullying. giving teaching strategies. and peer relations among them). finally. a substantial amount of work focuses on antiviolence education targeting males (e. 1995. groups. has had much more success in addressing classroom-level interventions in gender relations. on the other hand. While drawing somewhat on these traditions. media education. Generally. chap. Thompson (1985). for example. Violence. Rigby. and (b) social and psychological consequences. particularly Thatcher-era conservative and neoliberal reforms. Overall. and emotional and physical well-being. this section focuses on examining school. demonstrate how policies and reforms. 1995).. 1994.. David Sadker (1977) and D. language. Davies. or interactions. as mentioned above. 2001). theorists have yet to develop ways to interrupt disruptive or limiting masculinities where they occur. Perhaps one of the best examples of the social-psychological tradition. sometimes overlapping categories: (a) learning and outcomes. has been the focus of curricular and programmatic interventions with boys since the 1970s. 1998. Arnot et al. wrote curriculum packages that suggest specific activities for examining the sex roles of boys (and girls) and ways to “overcome” the stereotyping of those roles. 2009 . have dramatically changed gender relations and masculinities in English schools. identified as a primary cause of much violence and retaliation in schools.

and pedagogical explanations and solutions.g. among other indicators.. 2000). 1997a). 2000). practice-oriented research must give the issue of funding serious consideration. (e) creating respectful. Hey. each using its own jargon (with which denizens of the other may not be familiar). 2002. Martino & Berrill. Theoretically oriented research focuses largely on the creation of subject positions. A number of differences are apparent. to Australia (e. Although mostly pedagogical and organizational in its suggestions. is concern about boys’ academic “underachievement. 1998b. nonblaming approaches to working with boys. More prevalent than such social and psychological literature.g. 1998b) to the United States (e. practice literature looks for individual. Second. Stated simply. (c) training teachers to teach boys. some practiceoriented work relies heavily on a “tips for teachers” style ( at CAPES on September 29. Sommers. from England (e. These include (a) suggesting whole-school approaches rather than isolated programs. Each literature also has unique problems. has shifted attention to boys. This highstakes testing problem has been of great concern in many countries.and macro-institutional explanations.. the difference is the unit of analysis. 1999. & Bahr. & Maw. 2001. particularly in the wake of neoliberal educational reforms in England (Arnot et al. practice-oriented works have largely failed to address the fears of feminists and pro-feminists that focusing on boys will harm the gains made for and by girls. on the other hand. First. practice-oriented literature relies heavily on governmental reports and test scores for its claims and is therefore vulnerable to political influence (in the case of reports) and validity questions (in the case of test scores).” As I argued earlier. Epstein. with differing vocabularies. and so not expensive to implement. the situation of “educational triage” (Gillborn & Youdell).aera. practice-oriented literature has rarely spoken to concerns about funding. (d) providing reasons for boys to change. Gurian. 2000). 2003) that provides simplistic strategies for 483 Downloaded from http://rer.The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education programs. the two speak in different registers. Theory literature looks for meso.5 Although the influence of the theoretically oriented literature and its findings is apparent in the abovementioned concerns of practice-oriented literature. and (g) using critical literacy to teach boys about gender and its construction through texts. in both their bibliographies and their concerns. Third. To provide a comprehensive list of the suggestions made in the practice literature is not possible here. a number of scholars and teachers have published strategies for raising the academic achievement of boys (Bleach. Gillborn & Youdell. (b) considering carefully the gender of the teachers conducting programs. Arnot et al. Practiceoriented research.g.. in which pedagogical attention shifts to the students who bring examination scores down and thereby make the entire school look bad. Fourth. Second. 1999. seeks to ameliorate the academic and social problems of boys at the classroom level.. Mills. In response to these concerns about test scores. despite obstacles and discouragement. 2009 . the two bodies of literature exist separately for the most part. Elwood. Alloway & Gilbert. (f) attending to the gendering of textbooks and materials. and activities for teachers and administrators to use in interrupting gender problems in their schools and classrooms. with a constant emphasis on masculinity typologies. Martino. Noble & Bradford. First. especially the degree to which funds might be taken from girls’ programs to fund boys’ programs.. Head. each literature asks different questions. interactional. but in general the practice-oriented literature deals with a number of core pedagogical and programmatic issues and questions worth summarizing.

g. Although a significant amount of feminist theoretical work has sought to rupture masculine/feminine. the theoretically oriented tradition has failed to meaningfully address the concerns of parents. pp. 1995. or in addition to. & Maw. 1996. The “ordinary” kids. To fail to do so is to make research complicit in the oft-noted silencing of nonheterosexuality and multiple gendering that involves severe oppression for many students and teachers (see Epstein & Johnson. 178) to suggest practices implied by its theories. the theoretically oriented and practice-oriented traditions share a major omission: Both lack general awareness of the binaries and dualisms on which they are built. Loutzenheiser. Elwood. Despite their differences. 1992). and boy/girl dualisms (e. much theoretically oriented work suffers from what Barrie Thorne (1993. Owens.Weaver-Hightower extremely complex problems. Friend. 2003. Reuniting these traditions would serve their common aims of increased equality by producing “better” masculinities. 2003). As I argued earlier. reduced status differences between theory and practice in the academy. Regardless of their unique and shared failings and disconnections. this tradition focuses on social processes external to the curriculum and cognition: how students relate or dominate rather than how they learn. and perhaps most consequentially. Jennings. First. Butler. gender—such as race. just as practiceoriented literature has failed to adequately theorize the practices it advocates. theoretically oriented research focuses myopically on the most visible males—the “bad boys” or the most wildly successful—as if they were representative of all males. Mandel & Shakeshaft. Lee. and sexual orientation—are the ones most in need of study and intervention. Finally. the practice and theory traditions have much to offer to one another and much to offer to the study of gender. Pallotta-Chiarolli. the theoretically oriented literature has largely neglected the academic aspects of schooling. for not all boys are at a disadvantage in schools. in part. English or art.. religion. 1995). the “Big Man bias.” That is. 2000. 1990). but transgender issues. Ferguson. Rather than examining the impact of differing masculinities on learning. and boys at CAPES on September 29.. 2000. those who are not scholastic or athletic stars. As mentioned earlier. Third. have so far received little attention. pp.. and increased readership for both 484 Downloaded from http://rer. Finally. teachers. 1993. 1996. 234–235) or unable (e. 1996). theoretically oriented literature seems unwilling (e. say. and multiple sexualities have received scant attention within boy turn works (see Martino & Pallotta-Chiarolli. a result of the politically conservative nature of much of the boy turn (Martino & Berrill.. 1998. Hey. The conceptualization of multiple masculinities challenges these binaries to some extent. 1998a.aera. 14. 2009 . see Epstein. such as dimming the lights as a solution to helping boys read better. including those within the field of education (e. those who are not disruptive or destructive.g. This is.g. boys who inhabit subjectivities of disadvantage other than. p. Redman. practice-oriented literature has failed to address “Which boys?” (a coinage often heard in response to “What about the boys?”). Second. p. heterosexual/homosexual. intersexuality (FaustoSterling. ignoring these stakeholders has potentially negative implications for social justice movements in other areas because stakeholders may then feel pushed into antifeminist positions. The theoretically oriented tradition has problems as well. 1994. in a critique of anthropology. for an exception). for the most part both the practiceoriented and theoretically oriented traditions of the boy turn still rely quite heavily on these binary categories. 1998. masculinity/femininity.g. Sellars. but it is nevertheless a key area to be improved upon. class. 97–99) calls.

Collins.. scarce funding must go to the students with the greatest need. & McLeod. although more boys are at the very bottom. complex factors of race. based not only on test scores but also on social outcomes. 1999). Jackson & Salisbury. 1998a. these scholars assert. To argue that the disadvantages in boys’ education pertain to the majority of White. however. critics use the flaws of testing itself to indicate flaws in any argument for boys’ disadvantages based on tests. 1998.. particularly in high-prestige subjects such as computer science and advanced math and sciences. 1998b.” Another group of scholars challenges the indicators commonly used to establish boys’ educational needs. on most tests the gender gaps are small or insignificant. Third. boys are also better represented in the top scores. Maynard. and programmatic interventions that further social at CAPES on September 29. and each of the following criticisms must be answered to construct research. Cole. Lingard & Douglas. Authors in each of the two traditions need to formulate research questions relevant to the other. Because much of the argument for the disadvantages of boys relies on test score gaps (particularly in literacy). This is an important question.g. Perhaps the most consistent criticism leveled at advocates for boys’ education is that they fail to identify “which boys” are at stake (see Arnot et al. A number of scholars have criticized the need to focus on boys at all and have challenged the foundations of calls for attention to boys. upper-class. some argue that test scores can be manipulated or misconstrued in ways that indicate false disadvantages (Yates. for. First. 1995). In general. 2002). Many scholars have argued that other measures of educational equality should be formulated in place of test scores. and socioeconomic status make simple boy-versus-girl comparisons insufficient (Arnot & Gubb. 2000. 2009 . Kenway & Willis. policy. testing is a flawed measure of gender equity because the tests are not nuanced enough to reflect the complexities involved. 1996. 2000). and such work should be valued for tenure and promotion. Teacher education would need to change to make better use of research. the theorization of practice and the practical application of theory. researcher education would need to expand to include a better understanding of practice. heterosexual boys is suspect at best. in an era of fiscal crisis in education and society (Apple. Second. urbanity as opposed to rurality. as I have argued in more depth elsewhere (Weaver-Hightower. Critiques of the boy turn.. It would be necessary to synthesize and meta-analyze the two traditions.aera. Epstein et al. 1999. 2003). do not focus exclusively on the limitations of theory and practice or their inability to work symbiotically. and I can only abstract them here. The Feminist and Pro-Feminist Response: Critiques of the Boy Turn Critiques of the boy turn (referred to in Table 1 as “feminist and pro-feminist responses”) are numerous. 1997) point out that the apparently lower scores of boys simply reflect the larger spread of boys’ scores. Much of this criticism takes an economistic 485 Downloaded from http://rer. To reconnect these corpuses would require. 2001. Epstein et al. Kenway. Advocates for boys’ programs must work harder to disaggregate what they mean by “boys.The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education bodies of literature. These critiques are key to our understanding of the concerns surrounding the “What about the boys?” debate.. Thus the academically weakest students shift scores in ways that disguise male privilege in the top echelons. I turn to these important criticisms of the boy turn in the following section. Some scholars (e.

1998b. 2000. Connell (1996. Frater. 2002. showing that girls receive less attention in classrooms and that the attention they do receive is qualitatively poor compared to that received by boys. 1997. chap. 1998.. for a comprehensive overview). 1998. despite any “underachievement” that boys demonstrate. This. Likewise. Cohen. indeed. 2000. and many of the themes are masculine or sexist and the protagonists male. & Lankshear. Bigum. 1998. Smith & Wilhelm. but they usually do so in favor of more “rational” and higher-prestige subjects such as those in technological fields. Penny. If we accept this argument. Michael Kimmel (2000) argues along the same lines that boys’ general expectation of “expert” status. Newkirk. for at CAPES on September 29. Gritsavage. 2001. Millard. Collins et al. Higher literacy scores have not translated into superior social or economic status for girls. 1990). a number of scholars have valid concerns that programs and policies for boys will hurt girls and their gains. 2002. and overconfidence contributes to their taking courses and examinations for which they are ill-prepared. the “feminine” nature of the English curriculum is debatable at best. 2002. Knobel. 2002. 1990) are still from the “dead White men” camp. makes them overconfident. 41. such as reading vast amounts of fiction. Some critics charge that boys’ seeming disadvantages are really the consequences of having certain other advantages. Maynard. Such a policy could hurt many girls. Boys may devalue literacy. Browne & Fletcher. research attention. (2000). Smith & Wilhelm. numerous disadvantages can be seen for girls if we consider more than test scores (see Guzzetti. 2002. Rowan. Sadker and Sadker (1994) provide one of the more common examples of alternative equity indicators. 2000. whose preferences may be in conflict with the traditional. in turn. 1997. Fyfe. This fear has largely come true in terms of research and policy attention. Millard. 41–42). Brozo. Gurian. 8. and. Moreover. 1997a. Brozo & Schmelzer.aera. certain extant practices that may help girls in school. Even in literacy. they continue to surpass girls in jobs after schooling is completed. boys’ privileged access to sports may take time away from academic pursuits. 2002. 9). 1998.Weaver-Hightower view of equity. Also. Gilbert & Gilbert. 2002. 2002). Maynard. pp. Young. pulls down the scores of boys as a group. Sanderson. for instance. 1998b. however slight. a field that is often cited as a subject area of disadvantage for boys (Alloway & Gilbert. a number of practice researchers have advocated aligning the curriculum and pedagogy of the language arts classroom with the interests and preferences of boys as a way to increase boys’ literacy skills and scores (Brozo. and funding from girls and their advocates is an often-mentioned fear (Epstein et al. Kenway & Willis. makes the argument that boys’ disadvantages are simply the short-term costs of long-term privileges. Newkirk. R. for example. & Hardenbrook. W. inculcating an ideology of romance that subordinates girls to men (see Christian-Smith. p. for example. chap. a masculine privilege. show that.7 For example. 2009 . as some argue (Gilbert & Gilbert. Beyond taking issue with the empirical question of whether boys are disadvantaged or in need. 1998). 1998. can ultimately be self-defeating by. Taking policy attention.6 Even so. 1995. and funding is likely to follow. there is concern that the “new” attention to boys will actually roll back the gains. 2002). 2002. stereotypical preferences of boys. 1995. made for girls. Bleach. 1997. for many of the authors covered in contemporary schooling (Applebee. test scores and enrollment data do not adequately capture the full range of inequalities that occur in schools. Pirie. then increasing the “fit” of the curriculum to 486 Downloaded from http://rer.

the argument goes. Yates. fall short because all-boys arrangements can be breeding grounds for virulent sexism (Askew & Ross. Kenway & Willis. Answering such critiques and. pp. 313–314). however. 1998. 2002. the solutions proposed for boys are too close to those proposed for girls in the 1970s and 1980s. e. Taube. even cross-nationally (Wagemaker. 2002). to improve the research on and practice with boys. for little has been done in a systematic way to change the schooling of boys. say. has more to do than simply fend off criticism. beliefs about. policy. 1998. Newkirk. but the causes are complex and the interconnections of the causes are poorly understood. Thus. particularly. the theoretically oriented research paradigm outlined earlier must move 487 Downloaded from http://rer. and research because of them are key steps in the future of work on boys’ education. Kenway & Willis. Brozo. which will not work because boys’ and girls’ difficulties are qualitatively and quantitatively different and historically contingent (Gilbert & Gilbert. 1994. although a small number of studies examine the literacy practices of boys (Brown. Lingard & Douglas. and social context of literacy for boys—beyond research just on preferences and habits—is required so that pedagogical and curricular interventions can be constructed in ways that suit more boys without harming most girls. 2000). Such research.8 Would boys’ reforms really hurt girls? What are the effects on learning for the uptake of certain masculinities? Does changing.The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education boys’ concerns will only exacerbate existing inequality. As recounted above. Stanchfield. Future Directions Thus far. 20–24. articles in Bleach.. In general. & Martin. I now shift to the future of the turn. Yates. 1996). Other critics charge that the solutions proposed so far by boy advocates are inadequate. however. 1988) or can become dumping grounds for boys with discipline problems (Kenway & Willis. 1998). 50. Munck. a greater grasp of the uses of. The suggestions that follow are just a few of the ways in which educationalists might progress on these and other key questions. 1999. Similarly. Holbrook. the literacy curriculum to include the stereotypical interests and preferences of boys affect achievement in significant ways? How might we ensure that feminism has a central role to play in checking and balancing the boy turn? These and many other questions remain open as the research on boys moves forward. too. pp. 2002. much of the debate on boys has been limited to abstract supposition and rhetoric.aera. To conclude my review of the history of the boy turn in gender and education research.g. take care to avoid a kind of “zero-sum” thinking in this matter.g. Literacy. First. 1988. some practiceoriented researchers have been careful to state their aims explicitly to avoid harming the achievement of girls (see. The claim that girls generally achieve more in reading and writing is well established ( at CAPES on September 29. attending to boys’ concerns does not necessarily mean taking from girls. more important. In fact. 2002). 1973). 1999. 1998b). 2000. 2009 . We should. Kontogiannopoulou-Polydorides. Smith & Wilhelm. changing practice. p. for just as feminist scholars argue that girls have not benefited in education at the expense of boys (e.. is often identified as an area of disadvantage for boys (Rowan et al. many worry that changing curriculum and pedagogy may hurt girls. Proposals for single-sex classrooms and schools. 2001. researchers and educators must gain a better understanding of boys’ many literacies and the effects of masculinities on learning..

A prime example of what I advocate is the current effort by the Australian Commonwealth Department of Education. 2001) have yet to be implemented on a scale large enough for testing. might help to uncover significant but little-studied implications for learning. Sometimes. in Australia.” peeking through only to react to or witness the acts of disruptive boys and then fading away again. teachers may themselves cause masculinity-based problems (e. 6. and so on. and other proposed programs (e. make for a “chilly climate” or “reinforce the larger gender order” in society.. such well-rehearsed interpretations.Weaver-Hightower beyond simple typologies of masculinity to show concretely the “so what” of all of the masculinities identified. but moving beyond. Teacher training is also an important avenue for future research. The small number of publications that describe boys’ programs (e. Gurian. Many studies conclude with the rather standard. sexuality. schooling. within much of the theoretically oriented research tradition. Bleach. impartial analyses are needed.boyslighthouse.g.9 Publicizing and analyzing such programs for boys has the potential to give teachers. university teacher education in the United States rarely incorporates boys and their issues into formal curricula. chaps. and policymakers options beyond the current. Also.. or they can follow a more traditional “best programs” format. but little attention has been given to how teachers temper masculinities. particularly their masculinities. teachers are.g. 7). administrators. 2003). Some international universities have done so. 2009 . Another way to approach the “how” of educating boys is to conduct research on best practices and best programs. though important. 2000b. currently offers a graduate certificate 488 Downloaded from http://rer. In its first phase. more “boyfriendly” practices. such as the 2001 report by the U. for example. such as Murtadha-Watts’s (2000) examination of an Afrocentric boys’ program. Placing teachers front and center would allow researchers to deconstruct the ways in which teachers and their training create. 1998b. 1995) have been written mostly by insiders from those programs. Building on.S. finding that the gender regimes of schools. for emotional and physical development. Science and Training to produce “best practices” research through the Boys’ Education Lighthouse Schools Programme (see http://www. or race. this program funded pilot projects in schools across Australia with the eventual goal of writing a synthesis of effective school-based interventions for boys. mediate. or eliminate specific masculinities and their implications. however. after As I have commented elsewhere ( and for the economic contexts that produce. Skelton. 2001. what drives the concerns and panics over boys in the first place. so care must be taken with such programs. Lesko. A better understanding of the implications of the various types of masculinity taken up by boys (and girls!) in school will more definitively delineate whether and how we should construct reforms in the education of boys. Department of Education Gender Equity Expert Panel on ten exemplary gender equity programs for girls. as boys used to be. These issues are.g. the potential is also there to simply further propagate the too-simplistic “tips for teachers” solutions discussed above.aera. conservative calls for more male teachers. More systematic. These can take the form of scholarly analysis of theoretical implications. however. violence. the University of Newcastle. Browne & Fletcher. Particularly important will be publicizing programs that can be shown to help both boys and girls while maintaining funding and attention to programs that seek to mollify more profound disadvantages such as poverty.. and are produced at CAPES on September 29. a kind of “shadowy other.

Without institutional support. Kimmel. Finally. for a deconstruction of this phenomenon) as harmful to boys. Salisbury & Jackson. It also frequently makes questionable assumptions about male teachers’ efficacy—for not all male teachers provide “positive” role models (Bleach. but institutions should reward it for tenure. that would negatively affect the schooling of both boys and girls. Not only should scholars and educators conduct such research. if the number of male teachers is to grow. and analysts will lack the foundations and incentives to monitor the impact of any policies and practices that may emerge. indicates that educationalists have thus far been unable to envision gender in its relational 489 Downloaded from http://rer. 2002. retention. 137–138. others that the materials favor girls and their interests. What masculinities and femininities are “on offer” within the curriculum? Are materials still as highly gendered as they once were. 2000). 1996. and other subjectivities. some claiming that curriculum materials are weighted toward masculinity (e. Connell. 1997). Careful thought should also be given to constructing curriculum and materials that simultaneously meet the needs of girls and of children of differing races. Millard. 1996. finally. Like Kenway and Willis (1998). the need for simultaneity mentioned above. we must constantly monitor the progress and consequences of work on gender in schools. More thought should be given to this issue. or the efficacy of. researchers. so that students could deconstruct and interrogate it as a way to accomplish goals of social justice. and support of men in teacher education. Whatever curriculums. particularly for countries that have large numbers of all-male schools. Such an approach would include making masculinity a subject in the curriculum (Brozo. The literature that advocates increasing the number of male teachers often relies heavily on a notion of the “feminization” of primary schools (see at CAPES on September 29. Evans & Davies. An examination and rethinking of curriculum and materials may also be in order. religions. 2000). policies. Finding ways to create curriculum and pedagogy that suit many different students is partly a pragmatic concern. altering the curriculum to meet the expressed interests and habits of boys. 2009 . 2000. Mills. and more programmatic evidence is needed before a definitive claim can be made about the need for. are examinations of the recruitment.g. Examining programs such as these may provide guidance (positive or negative) for effective ways to conduct teacher training on boys’ issues. Left unchecked. sexualities. 1986. Greatly needed. 2001. programs. particularly in literacy (Brozo. 1996a. The very fact that I can speak of a “turn” in the literature. a great number of boy advocates have called for increasing the number of male teachers to provide “role models” of appropriate masculinity. I want to emphasize.The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education in the education of boys. however. as well as their working conditions once they are employed in schools. Martino. and pay.. such programs and policies could create tensions and backlashes. especially for boys who have no male role models at home. Kuzmic.10 Having an accurate gauge of these indicators may provide needed insight into how to attract and keep males in teaching and other “caring” roles. 2002. 2000). or practices develop from the continuing advance of the boy turn in research. the most imperative need is for independent research “on the ground” in schools and other educational environments. even racial hostilities (Gillborn & Kirton. Yet to say that hiring more male teachers may not help is not to say that they should be kept out. pp. promotion. treatment. because boys and girls are most commonly schooled together. teachers.aera. 1998a. Maynard. Young. 2000). and in what ways? Scholars have argued both sides.

particularly feminist and pro-feminist researchers who have seen an alarming trend away from concern about girls. see Sewell (1997).” How might we research and write about boys and girls within the same article or book? Concluding Remarks Although distressing to many people. “theoretically oriented” and “practice-oriented. especially chaps. also observes a sharp divide between what she calls “masculinities and schooling” literature and “boys’ underachievement” literature (corresponding to my categories. Ferguson (2000). see Murtadha-Watts (2000). It should be noted. Such work has produced the necessary complement to the research on girls.A. Because the boy turn shows no sign of running out of steam. and now it is boys. still has many other contributions to make. Although Skelton and I make a number of similar points.S. pedagogy. in her ethnography of an urban area in the northeast of England. 2. increasing our recognition that gender inequity is not a deficiency in girls but rather is caused by problematic masculinities and femininities.” respectively).M. and Dance. What is needed. whereas attending to them potentially creates allies. however.” A great many people fall between these poles. grossly simplify some very complex and overlapping positions in the debate on boys’ education. especially those whose goal is a more equitable society in terms of gender. This is not to cede the floor entirely to boys’ issues. is to gauge the true impact of such disadvantages and then. it is to recognize that failing to take those issues seriously merely strengthens the backlash. The boy turn can indeed have progressive ends. 2 I personally have worked with one such at CAPES on September 29. find ways to fix them without hurting people who have other problems. To use the term “boy advocates. The boy turn. including sometimes identifying problems that might place boys at a disadvantage—not overall. and “other”) in complexly interrelated ways and that avoid “girls then. the D. Notes Both interpretations. rather. is not to imply that people who oppose the boy turn are not advocates for boys. my view of the practice-oriented tradition is somewhat less pessimistic. but it requires vigilant steering. structures. however. first it was girls. and research programs that understand and explore gender (male. rather than weighing them against a hierarchy of disadvantage. 1. recreational and educational activities. but in particular ways. For good discussions of such disadvantages. such piloting is even more necessary now. Part of the responsibility of researchers. mentoring. nor do I wish to suggest that boy advocates and other educationalists who favor of the shift of attention toward boys necessarily share an ideological outlook with “antifeminists. This group and others like it around the country (for another example see Dance. For an example.” Even those with progressive intent can exhibit regressive tendencies. 2009 . of course. 2002.R. Wisconsin. is curriculum. female. Skelton credits boys’ 1 490 Downloaded from http://rer. on the Paul Robeson Institute in Boston) provide African-American and other ethnic minority boys with tutoring.E. that not all programs of this kind can be termed “progressive. instead. boys now. 8). 3 Christine Skelton (2001. and sometimes spiritual guidance to help them overcome the severe disadvantages that they face in schools and other aspects of life.Weaver-Hightower interdependencies. program in Madison. the boy turn in research has had some positive impact on our understanding of gender and schooling.” for example.

the “cult of femininity. 5 A number of representative works discuss these core issues of boyswork. Browne and Fletcher (1995). Sewell (1997). who urged teachers to let boys act like savages in the classroom. whereas I see the practice-oriented literature as offering a great deal to researchers and policymakers as well. (1994). Australia’s federal government. The committee report. Noble and Bradford (2000). Evans and Davies (2000).au/house/committee/edt/Eofb/. 1996b) and indeed in the middle part of that century (Connell. Smith and Wilhelm (2002). 8 Concentrated effort is not absent everywhere. 12) rightly point out that those jobs are often more dangerous (therefore restricted for females) and less secure than the white. p. which complains of boys’ failure to learn both Latin and their mother tongue. Pirie (2002). Mills (2000). McLean (1996). 1997c). organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America were embraced as a way to protect the manly socialization of boys from women both at home and at school. Head (1999) at CAPES on September 29. Katz and Jhally (1999).gov. Bleach (1998b). Gilbert and Gilbert (1998. 1994). Gard (2003). Denborough (1996). As Kimmel shows. Brozo and Schmelzer (1997). Browne and Fletcher (1995). such as concern about the feminization of boys under female teachers at the turn of the 20th century (Kimmel. although no large-scale projects have been conducted. for example. get higherpaying jobs out of school. The popular resurgence of the debate in the United States today carries vestiges of these past concerns. and Maynard (2002) for representative examples of local projects. See also Skelton (2001) for an overview of the history of boys’ place in educational policy in England. To date most educational interventions for boys have been limited to individual schools or local educational authorities. Stein and Sjostrom (1994). Gurian (2001). 7 In actuality. for a discussion of Australia’s similar history). 6 Although true that boys. however. this approach would ward off the physically debilitating effects of civilization through “feminized” schooling. and see Lingard (2003) on the same subject in Australia. have led not only to rhetoric about boys’ being imperiled but also to programs to manufacture manhood (see Crotty. Analyzing 491 Downloaded from http://rer. Maynard (2002). Gail Bederman (1995) describes a similarly motivated effort at the turn of the 20th century by G. concerns about boys have a long history. the famed professor of pedagogy and psychology.” although useful for resisting school authority. Connell (1996). the date of Locke’s treatise Some Thoughts Concerning Education.and pink-collar jobs available to females and males with better literacy and numeracy skills. Michèle Cohen (1998). 1996. found that boys’ underachievement had been remarked upon in education circles as far back as 1693. 2009 . According to Hall.The “Boy Turn” in Research on Gender and Education underachievement literature only with offering “practical strategies for teachers to try out with their pupils” (p. working-class jobs or the duties of wife and mother. and Young (2000). Gilbert and Gilbert (1998). Askew and Ross (1988). As McRobbie (1978) argues. See Alloway and Gilbert (1997b. is available online at http://www. 2001. Other crisis theories. Jackson and Salisbury (1996). Boys: Getting It Right (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training. 79). Davies et al. English. See the articles in Bleach (1998b). despite lower literacy and numeracy levels. ultimately leaves working-class girls with skills and attitudes suitable only for accepting low-status.aera. 4 A similar process holds for girls from the working class. Stanley Hall. which has spawned a number of federal interventions on the issue of boys’ education. Martino (2001). has recently completed a parliamentary Inquiry into the Education of Boys. 2002). Brozo (2002). Millard (1997). Salisbury and Jackson (1996). Sadker & Sadker.

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