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Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices: 04/15/15

cover art

Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices by Ralph Fletcher is a misguided treatise on teaching writing in the classroom. I read it in conjunction with the older and better When You Are Alone/It Keeps You Capone by Myra Cohn Livingston.

Fletcher's thesis is that the school system is so over run by gentle, nurturing women, that there's no room for the rowdy natured boys. Apparently teachers across the country are actively discouraging boys from truly expressing themselves through their writing which because of their boyish nature leans towards gross out jokes, violence, superheroes and the like. Instead, teachers are encouraging girls and their boring stories about families and domesticity.

Are you mad yet? You should be. I certainly am. This book falls into the frustrating gender trap and is doing its best to further marginalize anyone who isn't someone likely to grow into a well off, privileged, white man. Here in a book about teaching are the seeds of bullying, rape culture, racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Think I'm off my rocker? In a chapter on social media (especially chat), there's a section on why boys love to write, especially when it's anonymously and online. The author includes a sample chat where a boy discusses his break up. The conversation quickly devolves into name calling and slut shaming on the part of the girl who isn't there to defend herself. This is conversation is held as a GOOD example of getting boys excited about writing.

And where is the author's hard evidence that there's such an anti-boy conspiracy? Are there any actual scientific or sociological studies cited? No. Any case studies of actual schools? No.

For better examples of the challenges of teaching writing to children any gender, personality, or background, I recommend the older books: When You Are Alone/It Keeps You Capone, and Teacher by Sylvia Ashton-Warner (who has some interesting theories about fear motivating violent writing, rather than it just being some natural "boyish" thing).

One star

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