Thursday, 15 November 2007

Under achievers will be poor, male and white

(Ed: And compare here.)

[...] There is a pattern to these conversations. Parents who are themselves poorly educated and low achievers seem unable to provide structure or boundaries. Admittedly, this is not an easy thing to do, but the prevailing culture seems to be a moral vacuum in which responsibility lies elsewhere. Neither do these parents understand how to negotiate the school system, or have experience of making progress. Their own negative experiences have left them feeling unmotivated, their children pick up on that and, once they start to fail, they become accustomed to failure, says Steve Belcher, an outreach development worker at the Birmingham branch of Fairbridge, the charity that has helped Adam and Lee to understand that they have a future.

[...] The other thread that runs through this debate is the use of words such as excitement and fun. School is failing them because it isn’t exciting. Naughty stuff – many lads use these coy words to refer to crime – may be a matter of economic necessity, but sometimes it is done for a thrill. Where does that come from? Neil Ezard, assistant head in education at Aycliffe, is one of many professionals who note that these boys learn language from screens rather than from people, and that accustoms them to instant gratification.

“The role model in their own homes is usually grandma or mum or auntie. The male role model – the key element in forming a young boy’s impression of who they’re supposed to be – can come from a hero in a video game or an action adventure, which tends to be violent and which tends not to include good relationships with women. So the only thing that they value is fun and excitement associated with their role model. Some of the things they do are because of a lack of understanding that what they do to other people is real and has a devastating effect on their lives. You do despair.” Over the past decade Camila Batmanghelidjh has offered support to vulnerable children and young people through the charity she founded, Kids Company. “The biggest barrier to learning is the emotional state in which you come to the classroom, and that depends on whether you have had a robust attachment figure in your life,” she says. “If you don’t have that, a great deal of energy goes on just piecing yourself together every day, let alone navigating a learning task.”

Batmanghelidjh refers to all failing children. Yet we know that girls consistently do better at school than boys. Why? It is generally accepted that girls are more likely to have female role models within their families, and that they are more suited than edgy rumbustious boys to an education system that rewards diligence. But what about specific ethnic groups? For all the white boys’ lack of education they have acute antennae about perceptions of racism, which makes them uneasy discussing this, though Dom observes that “the majority of white people will be alcoholics and there won’t be many black or Asian alcoholics.”

Lee suspects that the respect for adults that has evaporated from many white families is alive in their black counterparts. “I think black people have more respect for their parents because they have to, their parents are probably stricter. Asian communities are strong because of religion.” Read more

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