The Gender Agenda
by Ali McClure | 14 November 2017 | Education & Parenting
When a new baby is born one the very first things we ask is
"Is it a boy or a girl?"
When we ask that question what is in our minds? Do we really want to know the biological details of how this child will physically reproduce when it is older? I suggest not. I don't think the question is to do with the inny-outy bits that nature has provided. I don't think it is to do with nurture as in the early stages the food, warmth, love and attachment we offer them is much the same whether they are male or female. In my humble opinion the reason we ask that question is to do with culture:
Like it or not, every culture treats its children differently and we all have certain long held expectations of boys and girls , what they are likely to be interested in and what they may be good at.
I don't think this habit is going to change overnight and should it? It may feel controversial to some but evidence proves that there are common characteristics, certainly in learning and behaviour that males are more likely to share than females. However , the pitfall with this culture -based approach to raising children is it overlooks the most important factor in parenting and education...
Every single child is an individual.
We know this, we talk about this but how good are we at 'walking the talk'?
Do we spend dedicated time getting to know each child, their passions and strengths, their anxieties and fears or do we use their gender to jump to conclusions about what they will like, what career path they will take, how they will behave? Do we paint a pathway for a child based on whether their babygro is pink or blue?
As the woman who is best known for her work on 'MAKING IT BETTER FOR BOYS' it might seem like I am shooting myself in the foot. The truth is that there are biological differences, other than the pants-based obvious ones, that can really help us make our practice better both for boys and for girls . We need to refine our thinking and hone our teaching especially for boys when deciding how to provide for our child's needs.
Hormones, both testosterone and oestrogen, play a huge part in how we grow and develop both physically and cognitively . Research shows that there are stark differences between how neurotypical males' brains and females' brain most readily make connections. It is almost like a factory setting on your computer. A male's brain is more likely to make connections within each distinct hemisphere and a female's brain between the hemispheres.
As well as the impact of hormones, these connections can also be triggered by external factors; the nurture a child receives and the influences the culture they are born into has on them.
Think of the adult world: only 50 years ago the expectation of women was to be home -makers and mothers. Few went out to work full time and still fewer followed paths such as engineering or STEM subjects. Now, approaching the 2020s women are expected to work, care for the family and to follow wide career paths with no discipline exempt.
Men used to be expected to get a 'job for life' in an appropriately manly profession and leave the childcare to the women. Today's men are expected to be able to hold down a job, make 3 different kinds of pasta and change nappies ( hopefully not at the same time) !
Joking aside, the world has changed, the expectations have changed but many still have ingrained expectations of what we would expect of boys and girls and these can hold us back.
Understanding the neuroscience behind how our brains are wired and how nature, nurture and culture work hand in hand gives us the insight . Our job is to use this to make childhood, parenting and learning better for every boy, every girl, for every unique individual .
You can do just this at
'With Boys In Mind' Conference on Friday 9th March at Epsom Downs Racecourse, Surrey KT18 5LQ
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The Gender Agenda - How boys, girls and every unique individual learns best
2nd March 2018 - Childcare Expo, Olympia
With Boys in Mind - The Gender Agenda & Making it Better for Boys
9th March 2018 - Early Years Conference - Surrey
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Ali’s extraordinary training has been proven to make a dramatic difference for the outcomes, success and happiness of thousands of settings, their children and their families in the UK and abroad. She is best known for her widely acclaimed book ‘Making it Better for Boys’ but the messages which run throughout, work equally well for girls - after all we are all individuals, whatever our gender. Ali’s distinctive writing and inspiring,quirky training ‘leave a lasting legacy’ and make her the UK’s leading authority on behaviour, learning and boys. Ali’s work is simply unforgettable.