Thompson Focuses on Boys

Michael Thompson, Ph.D., a noted expert on boys education, spoke to the faculty and staff August 8 as part of in-service week about the joys and challenges of teaching boys. He also presented to MUS parents the previous evening.
A clinical psychologist and school consultant who serves on the counseling team at the all-boys Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts, Thompson has written nine books focusing on the emotional lives of boys, friendships and social cruelty in childhood, and parent-teacher relationships. His book Raising Cain landed on The New York Times Best Seller List and was the subject of a PBS Documentary of the same name. 

Speaking to the assembled teachers and staff, he examined the ways boys are different from girls in the ways they learn. “Girls zoomed by boys academically in 1982,” he said. A focus on education for girls has contributed to the difference in achievement. 

“Girls are ahead of boys in testing in all 50 states,” he said, adding that two-thirds of high school valedictorians in public schools are female as are 60% of college students. The discrepancy stems from a lack of understanding rather than a lack of effort, according to Thompson. Understanding young men emotionally and physically leads to better learning. 

He encourages teachers and parents to give boys permission to have the full range of human emotions and to talk to them in a way that honors their pride and masculinity. “Be direct with them; use them as consultants and problem solvers.”

Encouraging boys to be themselves is a core tenant in Thompson’s philosophy. Being themselves allows males to become emotionally and physically mature. Thompson wrote, “We have to teach boys that there are many ways to become a man; that there are many ways to be brave, to be a good father - to be loving, strong, and successful. We need to celebrate the natural creativity and risk-taking of boys, their energy, their boldness.”

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