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Chris McGovern: BBC should realise boys are the losers in the gender war

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No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? is the BBC’s latest contribution to ‘identity theft’. BBC-2 aired the first of two programmes on Wednesday evening. Its basic premise was that boys dominate girls from an early age because of gender stereotyping and that girls suffer as a result.

The primary school chosen was on the Isle of Wight – a low performing education authority. There was no obvious presence in the Year 3 class chosen of any of our most hardworking and successful pupils – recent immigrants and those from ethnic minorities.

The programme makers found a 7-year-old girl to say the only way girls beat the boys was in being prettier and wearing dresses. A small selection of her classmates, both boys and girls, thought boys were stronger, “better at being in charge” and “cleverer…because they get into president easily.”

Having taught this age group (Year 3) for some years, I was rather of the opinion that it was girls who tended to dominate. The precocious Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame is a common enough figure in primary school classrooms. Indeed, on her website, JK Rowling admits that Hermione “is an exaggeration of how I was when I was younger”, a “little know-it-all”.

Dr Javid Abdelmonein, who presented the programme, appears to take it as a ‘given’ that girls underperform because of the boys. He failed to mention that in SATs tests at 7 and 11, at GCSE age 16, at A-Level aged 18, and at university degree level, girls consistently outperform boys.

Nor did he seem to realise that many 7-year-olds are inclined to provide the answers that an authoritative adult, like himself, is seeking. They wish to please. Equally, he demonstrated a lack of awareness that young children tend not to share his anxiety and angst about gender and related issues of political correctness. When such matters are foisted on them by adults it can cause genuine distress, even trauma.

Viewers caught a glimpse of this when Lexi, clearly a sensitive 7-year-old girl, became upset and tearful after she successfully completed the ‘strength test’. She was told that she must agree that her tears were tears of joy. Her distress, however, was obvious and worrying.  Advancing the cause of political correctness is no excuse for child cruelty. A little boy named Riley suffered an even more obvious emotional collapse when he failed to register any score at all on the same ‘strength test’.

Should 7-year olds be subjected to such socio-psychological experimentation? Next week we find out how they respond to non-gender toilets.

There is a significant gender issue in our education system but it is not the one dealt with in this programme. It is that the attainment of boys does not match the attainment of girls. Above all, it is the under-achievement of white working class boys that should worry us.

Bottom of the attainment heap on every measure, they pass through our school system as the condemned prisoner walks the ‘green line’ to oblivion. They are the group most likely to leave school lacking basic literacy and numeracy, destined for a life of no job, no hope and no future.

Quite a number of their US equivalents were seen on TV a few days ago marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia carrying torches. Social breakdown and disorder is an inevitable consequence of ignoring the very real problem of alienated and underachieving boys.

Blinkered, irresponsible and feminist in a dangerous way, the BBC’s new programme creates a sense of grievance on behalf of girls when the real casualties of the current ‘gender war’ are boys.

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Chris McGovernhttp://www.cre.org.uk
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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