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Published: Friday, 2/8/2013

Boys and girls don’t learn the same way, author insists

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Michael Gurian, a child-psychology expert and author, speaks at St John's Jesuit High School. Michael Gurian, a child-psychology expert and author, speaks at St John's Jesuit High School.
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Even when its owner is bored, a normal female human’s brain is active, with electronic scans showing blips of energy scattered throughout.

A “resting” male brain, by contrast, is virtually inactive except for the part that regulates bodily systems.

So shows one of the images that author and family counselor Michael Gurian showed Thursday to several audiences, including an evening public lecture at St. John’s Jesuit High School, and plans to show again today to local educators as he discusses “The Minds of Boys and Girls” and how their brains’ differences influence how each gender learns and lives.

Research continues to prove that boys’ and girls’ brains function differently, Mr. Gurian said in an interview between his lectures Thursday afternoon, and attempts to teach the two genders as if that weren’t so is potentially harmful for everyone.

“More and more teachers are understanding the point we’re making. ... There are more and more people who see the worthiness of [gender science],” he said.

Mr. Gurian, the author of 26 best-selling books on how children learn, how leadership differs between the sexes among adults, and related subjects, spoke Thursday to high-school age girls at St. Ursula Academy and middle-school age boys at St. John’s Jesuit Academy before his public program at St. John’s.

The most popular exhibits during both presentations, he said afterward, were color brain-scan images showing boys’ and girls’ divergent responses to verbal and spatial stimuli. Confronted with a verbal task, the girls’ brains lit up with electrical activity much brighter than the boys’, while the reverse was true with a task requiring thought about space and motion, according to the exhibit.

“Both the boys and the girls like the science. I show it to them and talk to them about it,” Mr. Gurian said, adding that parents who went to the lecture would “be on the same page.”

A strong proponent of gender-separated education, even at the grade-school level, Mr. Gurian said co-educational learning tends to stifle girls’ progress in scientific and technical areas, where the strongest male learners tend to dominate class discussions and projects.

Weaker male students, meanwhile, tend to tune out and eventually drop out, creating what have become troubling gender gaps: two-thirds of all “D” and “F” grades are given to boys, he said, while three-fifths of all college students now are women.

Mr. Gurian, who first spoke at St. John’s in 2005 and now is making his third Toledo visit, said the consequences are that large numbers of young men are “unprepared to handle the workplace,” while many young women struggle to advance and become leaders, and later have trouble finding mates who are intellectually compatible with them.

“It’s primal for young girls to dumb themselves down in front of the boys” because to embarrass the boys is socially counterproductive, he explained.

Mr. Gurian said the most important audience for his message and that of the Gurian Institute, which he founded in Colorado Springs, is young teachers and the people who teach them.

“The schools of education, they really need to take this ball and run with it. The teachers need the training,“ he said, noting that 90 percent of teachers in kindergarten through sixth grade now are women, and young boys’ behaviors mystify many of them.

“Everything becomes a discipline problem, or a medication problem,” Mr. Gurian said. The fallacy, he said, is that “all kids can sit still, all kids can focus the same way. They’re trying to skew the males toward female [behavior], and they don’t know they’re doing it.”

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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