Masculinity, School Dropouts & Zero Tolerance Policies
Table of Contents
* = at-risk or disadvantaged population
The academic troubles of boys are linked to gender norms (2011)
The academic troubles of boys are more closely linked to masculine gender norms than to discrimination against boys based on race.  Boys' efforts to act masculine through physical action rather than through intellectual activity hampers their educational achievement.  Their attempts to "act like a man" are often manifested as rule-breaking, risk-taking, defiance of adult authority, and disregard of academic endeavors -- practically a perfect recipe for increased school disciplinary action and lower academic achievement.  To effectively increase achievement and decrease the disciplinary problems of young men schools need to find ways to challenge traditional codes of adolescent manhood.

TITLE: "Bridging the Gap: 'Doing Gender', 'Hegemonic Masculinity', and the Educational Troubles of Boys"

AUTHORS: Edward W. Norris

JOURNAL: Sociology Compass YEAR: 2011

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Boys of color learn manhood displays likely to attract punishment at school (2009) *
In a wide-ranging article, this study also discusses how adolescent boys are often initiated into masculinity through "warrior narrative” play of pretending to be soldiers or warriors. This simulated violence and aggression is often rewarded by fathers and other male role models, and later through sports. Boys carry such lessons into school, where they learn to establish hierarchy and display public masculinity through breaking rules, talking back to teachers, and disdaining academics and homework. All of these set them up for harsher punishment and eventual academic failure.

TITLE: "Men, Masculinity, and Manhood Acts."

AUTHORS: Douglas Schrock and Michael Schwalbe.

JOURNAL: The Annual Review of Sociology. YEAR: 2009.

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Low-Income boys use violence to claim status (2008)
Boys from low-income families often use violence to establish public masculinity and create status among their peers. But such groups that use frequent violence for status and masculinity have higher high-school drop-out rates. Reducing school drop-out rates and disciplinary problems among low-income boys will require addressing codes of masculinity among such groups.

TITLE: "Too Cool for School? : Violence, Peer Status and High School Dropout"
AUTHORS: Jeremy Staff and Derek Kreager
JOURNAL:Social Forces YEAR: 2008
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Racial identity affects high-achieving Black boys, girls differently (2007)

Racial and ethnic identity affects the academic achievement of young Black men and women in different ways. Young Black men who identify with their race consider going to school and getting good grades less masculine. This attitude results in lower GPAs and a tendency to devalue academic success compared to young Black women. Young men who do not identify with "being Black” have higher GPAs than those who see race as central to their identity. However, Black college women who see race as being a core part of their identity have higher GPAs than women who do not identify with their race. This stems from the need to be seen as a strong Black woman which entails a desire to achieve highly in academics. However, Black male and female college students have similar GPAs if they do not consider "being Black” as important to their identity.

TITLE: "Moderating and Mediating Effects of Gender and Psychological Disengagement on the Academic Achievement of African American Students.”

AUTHORS: Kevin Cokley and Paula Moore.

JOURNAL: Journal of Black Psychology. YEAR: 2007.

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Teachers attempt to quiet Black girls in classrooms (2007)

African American girls face obstacles in school where they tend to perform well academically, but educators often question their manners and behavior. Black women are raised to be independent from men, so their view of femininity creates a positive view of education, serious attention to schoolwork, and pride in academic achievement. As a result, black girls desire to speak and answer questions in computer, math and science classes which are typically dominated by boys.

Educators feel that assertiveness and attempts to "stand out” by black girls in the classroom may be an attempt to take over the class. As a result, teachers discipline these girls more than their peers in an attempt to quiet them. What these teachers fail to understand is that Black girls are loud not in an attempt to overrule the teacher’s authority, but because they are eager to learn. Disciplining Black girls to not be so "loud” in class may cause more harm than good and take away the desire to learn.

TITLE: "Ladies or Loudies? Perceptions and Experiences of Black Girls in Classrooms.”

AUTHOR: Edward W. Morris.

JOURNAL: Youth and Society. YEAR: 2007.

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Schools reproducing race, class and gender inequalities among youth population (2005)

It has been increasingly found that schools reproduce race, class, and gender inequality through the regulation of the student population. Adults tend to view the behavior of African American girls as not "lady- like” and as a result attempt to discipline them into dress and manners considered more gender appropriate, such as dressing conservatively and sitting in the classroom in silence. School officials tend to view the behaviors of white and Asian American students as nonthreatening and gender appropriate, and as a result are disciplined less strictly by teachers. Latino boys are often viewed as especially threatening due to their tough manners and street-style of dress in the classroom, and members of this group often received very strict and penalizing discipline. This sense of style though does not compromise femininity for Latinas and does not lead adults to view them as resistant.

TITLE: "‘Tuck in That Shirt!’ Race, Class, Gender, and Discipline in an Urban School.”

AUTHOR: Edward W. Morris.

JOURNAL: Sociological Perspectives. YEAR: 2005.

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Black students agree it is cool to be smart and Black (2005)

The pressures of test-taking and the structure of standardized tests are linked to the academic underachievement of black students because there is less time for student questions in class, which often results in confusion. High-achieving black students must overcome daily obstacles such as busy schedules, lack of time; family obligations, household chores, and parental problems. High-achieving students feel stereotypes that assume Black students must act one way or another adds to the pressure of being a high-achieving student. Many accept that teachers view black students as "troublemakers” and as a result, have internalized this stereotype.

Black students considered under-achievers feel they are smart but lazy, believe stereotypes held by their White teachers hinder their success, believe that teachers have prejudiced them before getting to know them as students, and receive little to no encouragement. Interestingly, underachievers look up to high-achievers and respect that they are suceeding in school. These students support the success that their peers are having, and underachievers do not feel that their high-achieving peers are any less "cool" than they are. All of the students agree, whether they are high- or underachievers, that "it is cool” to be Black and smart.

TITLE: "Black Student Achievement and the Oppositional Culture Model."

AUTHOR: Ericka J Fisher.

JOURNAL: Journal of Negro Education. YEAR: 2005.

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High-achieving students face obstacles, regardless of race (2005)
While traditionally it was thought that Black students were driven toward lower school performance because of racialized peer pressure, Black and white high-achieving students actually share similar experiences. It is important to recognize that high-achieving students, regardless of race, are to some degree stigmatized as "nerds” or "geeks” by their peers. Interestingly, in some schools high-achieving white students experience more of a "burden” around high-achievement from lower-achieving peers than their high-achieving Black peers. This is found especially when there are Class differences between students, so low-income whites feel the burden of having to "act high and mighty” through taunting to gain respect from their higher-income peers.

TITLE: "It’s Not ‘A Black Thing’: Understanding the Burden of Acting White and Other Dilemmas of High Achievement.”

AUTHORS: Karolyn Tyson, William Darity, Jr., and Domini R. Castellino.

JOURNAL: American Psychological Review. YEAR: 2005.

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Even with strong aptitude, girls discouraged from math if parents think it's for boys (2005)
Even if they had high math ability, girls were less likely to be interested if their fathers thought girls weren't good at math or math was for boys. Children's interest in math is heavily influenced by their parents' attitudes, and most, and most parents believe the negative stereotype that boys are better at math.
Both boys' and girls' math abilities were strongly influenced by parental attitudes. Girls who had a strong math interests most often had fathers who did not buy into the stereotype and believed girls could excel at math. Sons were more likely to be interested in math if their dads held traditional beliefs that math was for boys (a case in which stereotypes actually helped children's interests).
Parents buy more math- and science-based toys for their sons, spend more time on math and science activities with sons, and believe that their sons have higher math abilities than their daughters.

TITLE: "‘I can, but I don't want to': Impact of Parents, Interests, and Activities on Gender Differences in Math”
AUTHORS: Janis E. Jacobs, et al.
BOOK: Gender Differences in Mathematics: An Integrative Psychological Approach. YEAR: 2005.
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Good grades and masculinity don't mix: boys work to avoid taunts, ridicule (2001)
Boys learn early on that being studious, working to get good grades, and being academically successful are not compatible with being masculine. Boys who are perceived as studious and concerned with good grades are often teased, ridiculed, ostracized by peer groups and publicly labeled "geeks," "nerds," and "dorks." Because being quiet, studious and grade-oriented is also seen as feminine or gay, they're likely to have their sexual orientation publicly questioned and called "sissy" or "fag."

Two-thirds of boys went to great lengths to avoid studious behaviors -- especially high achievers who used a number of different strategies, to hide or downplay their achievement, including being the class "joker," dramatically understating grades, or isolating themselves from potential bullies.

Improving boys' academic achievement includes not only having better teachers and schools, but challenging the culture of masculinity that can hold them back. This culture must be adddressed early on, when they first begin school, when chidlren first begin forming firm ideas about boys' roles.

TITLE: "Learning the 'Hard' Way: boys, hegemonic masculinity and the negotiation of learner identities in the primary school."
AUTHOR: Emma Renold.
JOURNAL: British Journal of Sociology of Education. YEAR: 2001.
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Informa, $30.
Stereotypic beliefs depress academic performance as early as kindergarten (2001)
"Asians are good at math.” "Girls aren't very good at math but boys are.”
Children become aware of gender and ethnic categories around three and begin internalizing other's expectations about them. Once they begin kindergarten, the stereotyped beliefs they've internalized can strong influence their academic performance

For instance, Asian-American girls performed best on math tests when their Asian ethnicity was pointed out by testers beforehand. They performed worse when no self-identity was singled out by the testers and even worse still when their being female was singled out

Similarly, as with girls, Asian-American boys performed the best when their Asian ethnicity was pointed out by testers beforehand. They performed somewhat less well when their being male was singled out, and worst of all when neither their Asian ethnicity nor maleness was singled out.

However, when students were asked "Are boys better at math, girls better at math, or are they the same?” and "Are Asians better at math, white people better at math, or are they the same?” remarkably 75% of girls and 79% of boys said everyone was about the same. Proving that children recognize there is no real biological basis for these stereotypes, and yet even knowing that does not protect them from having stereotypic prejudices depress their performance.

TITLE: "Stereotype Susceptibility in Children: Effects of Identity Activation on Quantitative Performance.”
AUTHORS: Nalini Ambady, Margaret Shih, Amy Kim, and Todd L. Pittinsky.
JOURNAL: Psychological Science. YEAR: 2001.
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Wiley Interscience, $14.
Black masculinity centered around sports, not academics (1998)

Black males typically define their masculinity through sports, physical aggression and sexual conquest of women. Teachers tend to see Black males as overly aggressive, unresponsive to constructive criticism, and more confrontational. However, when Black students do ask for help, teachers often label them as trouble-makers and are not responsive.

Because teachers often expect Black students to not perform academically, they tend to offer them less assistance. In addition, they may be too intimidated to make them do homework or challenge their thinking. Both of these reinforce the academic challenges Black males already face. Young Black male students often respond by asserting masculinity through sports rather than academics.
Young Black male students are more likely to be punished, sent to detention, placed in lower-level classes and referral units. This reinforces the cycle of confrontation and underachievement.

TITLE: "Masculinised Discourses within Education and the Construction of Black Male Identities amongst African Caribbean Youth.”

AUTHORS: Cecile Wright, Debbie Weekes, Alex McGlaughlin and David Webb.

JOURNAL: British Journal of Sociology of Education. YEAR: 1998.

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Negative stereotypes lower performance of high-achieving female minority students (1997)

Negative stereotypes about academic achievement – that girls are bad at math, or black students are academically lazy – can harm students’ performance, as children rise to the level of expectations. Even high-performing students are affected by stereotyped expectations.

Young women ages 18 and 19 with strong math skills performed much worse on a difficult math test than young men after being told that women tended to do badly on it. But when told that the test produced no gender differences, they performed just as well as young men. Similarly, Black students did worse than their White peers on a verbal test when they were exposed to racial stereotypes, but did just as well when the threat was absent.

TITLE: "A Threat in the Air: How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Performance.”

AUTHOR: Claude M. Steele

JOURNAL: American Psychologist. YEAR: 1997.

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Education just as important for both Black, white students (1997)

Black high school students are not particularly alienated from school in that they are just as likely to complete high school and continue through college as their white peers. Black parents spend as much time helping their children with homework as white parents, and importantly Black 10th graders who excel in school are not seen as more unpopular than other kids. As a result, both black and white students are able to join peer groups that are supportive of high-achieving students. Even though Black students are sometimes taunted as "acting white,” even in predominantly Black schools, they are still highly supported by their peers.

TITLE: "Weighing the ‘Burden of "Acting White”’: Are There Race Differences in Attitudes toward Education?”

AUTHORS: Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig

JOURNAL: Journal of Policy Analysis and Management YEAR: 1997

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Boys learn to move beyond 'nerd' label to achieve peer acceptance (1993)

The daily lives of teenagers whose peers label them unpopular "nerds” can be stressful. Adolescents considered unpopular in middle school that become involved in high-school activities, such as sports, and friendships are able to move past the "nerd” label and become self-confident and thus "normal.” Boys are more likely to choose school activities as a way to fit in with their peers, while girls are more likely to focus on developing friendships and their own self-confidence to seem "normal” and fit in with peers.

TITLE: "From Nerds to Normals: The Recovery of Identity among Adolescents from Middle School to High School.”

AUTHOR: David A. Kinney

JOURNAL: Sociology of Education YEAR: 1993

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Fear of "acting white" may hold back boys of color (1991)

Since it was often impossible to advance socially and economically, many Blacks coped by demeaning advancement up the social ladder and the kind of good behavior and general obedience upon which academic excellence depends.In a kind of "cultural inversion” dress, language, and behaviors of the dominant culture were looked down upon.

As a result, some Black students have come to see good schoolwork, good behavior and proper English as "acting white.” Students that do succeed in school are often forced to be aware of their race or hide their success.

African-American parents may consciously or unconsciously pass on the belief that society will not reward Black academic accomplishments, perpetuating the cycle.

TITLE: "Minority coping responses and school experience.”

AUTHOR: John U. Ogbu.

JOURNAL: Journal of Psychohistory. YEAR: 1991.
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Strong belief in traditional sex roles affects students' exam grades (1983)
Young women who believe strongly in traditional femininity are more likely to believe they lack ability to succeed on exams, that good grades are the result of luck and that bad grades are the result of their having a low aptitude. They tend to expect lower grades and thus are more likely to receive lower grades on exams, leaving them stuck in cycles of low expectation and performance.

TITLE: "Exploring Sex Differences in Expectancy, Attribution, and Academic Achievement”
AUTHORS: Sumru Erkut
JOURNAL: Sex Roles. YEAR: 1983.
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