Schools are Not Designed For Boys

Schools are Not Designed For Boys

Jordan Peterson makes the claim that “Schools are not well adapted to boys” and this wasn't a hard concept for me to agree with or jump on board with because I felt that way for years based on my knowledge of child development, my experience in the classroom, and me being the mom of a boy. 

Below are my notes from this video. 


There is a difference between saying that the characteristics of a school are not developmentally appropriate for boys or girls versus saying schools are not well adapted for boys.  While the school system is not developmentally appropriate for boys or girls, in general girls have an easier time adapting to the requirements of a classroom.

Many of these characteristics that we're going to talk about with boys are also found in girls however in general girls are more capable of fitting the mold and adapting to what the school wants from them.

Boys are not designed to sit still bored out of their skulls for 7 hours a day

Particular temperaments are more commonly found in boys and are even less inclined to be successful in this environment

  • Extroverted boys will be seen as hyperactive
  • Creative boys often have fragmented attention spans due to their variety of interests
  • Boys who are both creative and extroverted have those characteristics working "against" them in their ability to perform in the school environment
  • Boys who are disagreeable will push back on stupid and arbitrary rules (larger schools and larger class sizes require us to put in place more arbitrary rules in order to maintain structure in order on campus, aka classroom management)

Often in boys ADD overlaps with childhood conduct disorder and antisocial behavior 

More aggressive boys tend to develop symptoms that can either lead to juvenile criminality or ADD and ADHD - > part of their rebellious temperament

So if you're disagreeable and extroverted and creative you're seen as hyperactive

We are overusing amphetamines and have wrongly associated the idea that if the amphetamines are working then it is because we correctly diagnosed the child with ADD or ADHD.  That's not the case, these amphetamines will work for any child.  It will allow them to focus on a particular task but it's important that we don't allow the  “positive” result to dictate a correct diagnosis.  There are certainly true forms of ADD and ADHD,  however that is a rare diagnosis

We are using amphetamines to get a “positive result” out of bored boys because we have an education system that doesn't engage our students enough for them to actually willingly participate.  Our education system bores our children and in order to get them to focus and complete the task at hand we medicate them instead of changing our system to be more engaging.

 Boys should play.  Way more. To the point of exhaustion.

My Thought on this Topic, ie I am no longer paraphrasing Dr. Peterson

This is a generality. Obviously, there will always be some girls who are outliers and also struggle and there will be some boys who are outliers and thrive in the structure that school offers.   


  • not a doctor
  • not even child development expert; there are people out there with Ph.Ds in this field. I have a BA.
  • I am former teacher
  • A mom who has spent a lot of time in the classroom and these are my observations 

Parents have more power than they realize

  • Parents have so much power
  • Know who to take concerns to
    • More often than not it is not the classroom teacher 
    • Addressed at a school and district level  (principals, superintendent, school boards)
  • Teachers are not the problem. Often the teachers agree with us parents. They would love to see things be put in place to make things more developmentally appropriate, especially older teachers who started their career one way, and have had to really transition to the current models. 

So if you take this information and you choose to advocate, please go to the principals and the superintendent. Please do not complain to teachers.  

Play is where our students learn the most

Research proves over and over and over again that kids learn through play and they learn faster through play. The retention is higher when they’re learning through play. 

The problem with learning through play, when we have a large group of students or really any group of students, is that we as adults who have learning objectives that we need to teach cannot control the play to make sure that those objectives are met. 

As a society, students should be taught a basic level of knowledge, and when we are handed a diploma from high school, it should signify that everybody who has this piece of paper has achieved the same basic level of knowledge. 

The only way to do that is to control the input of information that our kids are getting. Meaning organically learning through play won’t work for the masses. 

Where I think things go wrong is in the way things are taught. We go from one extreme, learn everything through play, to the other extreme of everything’s gonna be a worksheet. 

There is an in between. Learning through play is the most organic form of learning, but there is also play based learning or learning by doing.  

Play Based Learning

Give students the opportunity and time to explore new topics using manipulatives and play-like materials. 

Add guidance by selecting what materials we are going to use and asking some questions that we want them to explore. 

We are picking the objectives that we want our students to learn and giving them the materials to learn those objectives

One of my favorite examples of this is when I was student teaching I was teaching a lesson on equivalent fractions. 

I got up there and I gave all of my students fraction tiles. I asked them some guided questions of how to create one whole, using any fraction tile except 1 whole.  I continued to ask questions like this and my students were doing great. But we didn’t get to the part where they had the equation yet. 

My master teacher was watching and she was panicking because she wanted them to have that equation. She told me later that she was about to step into my lesson and take over and she was amazed by the results.

I asked my students, "Do you notice any patterns between all these tiles?"  We gave the kids a few minutes, we let them continue to play with manipulatives, and then they came up with it. The students, on their own came up with the equivalent fraction equation. 

That was so much more meaningful to them than had I just written the equation on the board and said memorize it; plug and chug baby. 

Schools Expectations for Kids

  • Sit and work for 6 to 7 hours 
  • Minimal breaks
  • Minimal movement
  • Minimal communication

That’s just not developmentally appropriate. That’s hard for most adults.  

How Do We Improve The System

  • Advocate for more recess

    • Kids who have played are ready to sit and focus
    • Recess has changed over the years
      • As a kid, I had 3 recesses, one in the morning, one at lunch, and one in the afternoon.
      • When I taught in California our students got two breaks; a recess and then a lunch with recess. And honestly, I think the first recess was because the teacher unions fought for the teachers to have an extra 15 minute break which means we had to do something with the students. So we sent them to recess. This was not for the benefit of the kids, that part was an afterthought. 
      • In North Carolina teachers are with their students during lunch and recess. Students only get one recess, and teachers get their break during specials (music, art, etc) which is really a planning period. And in North Carolina, the planning period could be taken from you for a meeting at any time. 
      • Here in Tennessee, students only get one recess around lunch time.
    • Students who are usually behavior problems often have an abundance energy and need to move around. Burning off energy would likely make big impacts on their behavior.
  • Change teaching styles to be more engaging

    • Use play based learning and manipulatives to be more engaging
    • Allow students to learn through guided exploration & project based learning
    • Project based learning should allow students to meet their individual strengths and interests. Giving the whole class the same project doesn’t allow all kids to show their knowledge in a way that meets their skill set. For example - We want a report about the Boston Tea Party. Instead of requiring everyone to create a powerpoint presentation allow them to pick how they share the information. Kids can write a speech, write a rap, write a play or skit, draw a comic, write an essay etc. Give students a topic and give them the freedom to choose how they show their knowledge
    • It is way too common for us to go straight to pen and paper work or computer work. This style of teaching requires kids to sit still and be quiet
  • Make classrooms & schools smaller

    • It is not realistic or reasonable to ask a teacher with 30 students in her classroom to be willing to adapt and adjust project based learning to 30 different kids and the project that suit their needs
    • 16 - 30 kids at once is a huge task, add on giving the kids a bunch of manipulatives or hands-on science projects with materials feels nearly impossible. 
      • Think about how much we redirect our own children at home and we usually have a 1 to 1-4 ratio.  It’s a lot of work in the morning to get all the kids ready on time and what not.  And you have the threat of taking away technology or whatever it is that’s important to them. You have discipline in your back pocket.  Our teachers are at a 1 to 30 ratio or 1 to 20 ratio, and in most schools we have taken away teachers' ability to discipline a child because a lot of parents didn’t want that kid to be left out of the popsicle party. 
  • Give power back to teachers

    • When you have larger schools and classrooms, teachers & admin have to create arbitrary and seemingly pointless rules to maintain order and efficiency
    • When you are at 1 to 30 ratio and you can’t discipline students, you do not have time to create individualized projects for your students and manage 30 kids at once
    • Classroom should be seen as a mini society. 
      • When students who misbehave are rewarded the students who are always doing the correct thing are wondering why they bother. 
      • It tells all the other students that if you want to take a break from class and get a snack all you have to do is misbehave on repeat and show zero respect to your teacher to the point that she has to ask you to leave.
      • All of the kids who are following expectations are missing out on learning while teachers deal with students who are not following expectations

It is really important to note that all four of these items work hand in hand together. 

  • Kids who have played will be able to sit and focus. 
  • Engaging and hands-on lessons will capture your child’s attention
  • Smaller class sizes allow teachers to create & implement more engaging lessons and personalize projects to students needs and interests
  • Smaller schools and classes lead to less arbitrary rules because you have fewer people to manage
  • When teachers have the power to discipline and correct misbehavior they can create a fair and respectful learning environment that students want to be part of.

My Personal Experiences as a Teacher

I was talking to Eric about this and he kind of off-handedly said teachers  have some control over creating more engaging lessons, and to a degree he's right depending on the school and the district.  However, I was that teacher who put everything I had into creating the super engaging lessons and I quit one year later.  The system didn't support me and what I was doing. 

My students couldn't always answer the multiple choice questions about electricity correctly, but if you engage them in a conversation about electricity they could tell you all about protons and electrons. They saw static electricity when they would go down the slide and would come running in from recess to tell me all about it.   They had a conceptual understanding but they may have missed one detail and that was the detail that was asked about on a test. Their test scores didn't reflect their knowledge.

Because of this, my admin wanted me to focus on testing. You have to understand, my principal was being evaluated on the school’s test scores. Her job depended on my kids’ test scores, not on their actual conceptual knowledge.

I also didn't have the support from my staff to buy supplies for science experiments, instead my admin just told me to use the book or watch a video cause they paid for those books already and they paid for the subscription to the website.  But I knew better. I knew that my students would get a real life understanding by actually doing the experiment instead of watching Bill Nye do the experiment.  So I paid out of pocket. I was in a low income area and students would steal from me, so then I stopped paying out of pocket, because I couldn't afford to buy the materials once let alone twice. 

I had so many ideas about project based learning. I wanted students to see how their math, reading, writing, and science knowledge would be applied in real life and in a way that made sense to them and what they were interested in. One student loved baking. I wanted them to put together a project of what it would cost to start up their own bakery, design a bakery, write ads, and multiply recipes. The idea was to learn about adding large numbers, multiplying, area, geometry and equivalent fractions.  Doing that for 30 kids wasn't reasonable.  I could not keep up.  I felt defeated. I felt like I was failing as a wife, a mom and a teacher because I couldn't give all of them what they deserved. 

So yes, teachers have control over how they present knowledge to their students and how they create lessons, but they are still human beings, with families, that are working a poorly paid job. We cannot expect them to give top tier education in mediocre environments. And we have to expect them to prioritize their family over their classroom. 

TL;DR - Tying it all back together:

  • If we give students more recess and time to move their bodies they will be less likely to become behavior problems and more able to focus.
  • If we engage students in more interesting lessons we are able to diminish the behavioral problems because the students want to do the work and learn.
  • If we make those classes and schools smaller,  students feel part of a family and are in a welcoming environment instead of just a number or warm body. 
  • Being part of a family encourages students to behave because they don't want to let the family down.  
  • Smaller class size allows for more individualized lessons and attention and projects which reduce behavior problems. 
  • And based on what Dr. Peterson said, if we make these adjustments to education, we are also likely able to more kids off of amphetamines, which I don't know about you, but when it is called amphetamines and not medication it sounds a whole lot scarier and insane that we are pumping our kids with drugs. 


  • Stephen Murray said:

    I totally agree with this article. Public Schools are generally hostile to boys. There is a celebration of the feminine. This is fine. What is not fine is stripping boys of masculinity, which is a major reason schools schedule and set up everything for girls. Along with the scandal of drugging boys to behave so as to fit in the feminine school model is tragic. Boys learn through movement, especially in elementary school. Often the teachers are not to blame. as administrators, government initiatives and other negative practices from outside the classroom, crush boys and their masculinity. We need strong and masculine boys and men to impact our world. More recess please and quit trying to turn boys into girls. Free our boys to become themselves!

    September 20, 2023

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