Tuesday, March 16, 2010

back to the why chromosome (3)

And, finally, in her article "That's so Gay!" Rethinking Writing Poetry in an All Male Classroom from The International Journal of Learning, Amy Corso has a few very interesting points she highlights (aside from the poetry writing "trick" she played on her all-boy high school English class).

You hear the statement all day long if you walk the halls of junior- and senior high schools in America. Corso points out a study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network about the frequency with which secondary school kids refer to something as "gay" (91% of schoolkids say they use the label frequently).

Corso writes, "The connotation is that if something is gay, then it must be bad, stupid, or unfair... Classifying something as “gay” also means directly challenging to the masculinity rather than the sexuality of the person, thing, or activity..."

Gurian and others also point out that in mixed-gender English classes, boys are more reluctant to participate in reading, writing, and expressing themselves for fear of being labeled by their peers as being "gay" in front of girls.

Citing a study conducted by the University of Tasmania, Corso says that since boys at the secondary level face a tremendous amount of pressure to be socialized in manly ways, they naturally strain to separate themselves from people or pursuits they perceive as being feminine (like reading and writing). "Ultimately, these forces inhibit the student’s ability to participate in the creative process."

As if there weren't already enough in the way of fostering creative processes in our students.

Yesterday, I did an hour-long radio interview on John Boston's show on KHTS AM-1220, and we spent a good bit of time talking about how school saps the creativity from kids. He was interested in hearing about my group of high school student writers, boys, who had recently submitted short stories to a creative writing competition. I won't rehash everything I said here, because John actually read some of what I wrote on this blog (back to the why chromosome) on Sunday, but I would like to leave with a very powerful idea about formula-mill writing (the kind I hate, and what I attacked on Sunday's blog) Corso states at the end of her paper:

"Often assignments do not promote creativity or individual thought from the student. Teachers assess this writing on the basis of a specific rubric. Though rubrics are helpful grading tools, a student may perceive the rubric as the list of hoops he must jump through in order to receive the grade. His perception inhibits the learning process."

Anyway, it was a great interview, and if the radio station podcasts it, I will put a link to it here on the blog.

And... I found out yesterday that the first, still-warm-from-the-presses advance reader copy (we call them ARCs in the book biz) of The Marbury Lens is due to arrive on my doorstep tomorrow (along with an ARC of my dear friend Lewis Buzbee's new novel, The Haunting of Charles Dickens), so I am very excited about that.

In the mean time, you probably want to know what's happened to Nick in the last couple of days, and, never to be one to feel intimidated by manly pressures against self-expression, the kid's got quite a story to tell.