Teachers who understand the differences between boys and girls will be more effective in the classroom, an American educator told homeschooling parents from across the West.
"Almost universally, when you separate boys and girls, you can teach them better, behavioural problems go down, and all sorts of things improve," said Andrew Pudewa, keynote speaker at the annual Western Canadian Catholic Home School Conference.
Atheist psychologists have been promoting the notion that boys and girls learn in the same ways, Pudewa told the March 15-17 conference held at Providence Renewal Centre.
"Modern education has been programming teachers for three decades now in this modernist philosophy that boys and girls are exactly the same in every way, and there are only personal differences that have no connection with gender."
In fact, boys and girls see, hear, handle stress and react to pain differently, he said. Neurophysical differences between them mean that they learn in different ways.
Pudewa is the founder, principal speaker and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing. He is a graduate of the Talent Education Institute in Japan and holds a certificate in child brain development.
On average, Pudewa said, newborn girls respond to sounds five times softer than newborn boys. For toddlers, the girls hear sounds 10 times softer than the boys. As children get older, the difference in hearing persists.
"If you have a little boy in a classroom and he can't hear well, obviously you're going to have an attention problem," he said.
Likewise, vision is different for boys and girls. The retina contains two types of photoreceptors - rods and cones. The rods help focus on direction, speed and motion. The cones help focus on colour and texture.
"Most women will get colour and texture information with greater clarity and greater intensity, whereas men will often see speed and direction information with greater clarity and intensity," said Pudewa.
A study involved placing a spinning metallic mobile on one side of a crib and an image of a young woman with a pretty face on the opposite side. Almost all of the boys watched the spinning mobile, and most of the girls watched the static face. They locked onto what was easiest to see.
These differences come out behaviourally and in artwork. Boys will try drawing verbs (speeding bullets, shooting arrows and explosions). Girls will draw nouns (flowers, faces, rainbows and horses).
The differences also apply to writing. Boys write with "motion" words, and tend to have more verbs and adverbs in their essays. Writing more about things, girls use a lot of nouns and adjectives.
How they handle stress differs too. When faced with stress, boys have a fight-or-flight response, which results in a rapid heart rate and increased blood flow to the brain.
Under stress, a girl's first response is to hide or withdraw. She has a decreased heart rate and blood flow, and she may get dizzy or want to sit down.
Pudewa spoke of a classroom where chairs were optional, and the boys could do their schoolwork and write tests while standing, which was more comfortable for them.
"By creating a boy-friendly environment, that classroom doubled its test score projections from other schools. It was very effective," said Pudewa.