Does Nature Need to be Nurtured?

“Boys will be boys” is a popular refrain in schools. A bit of rough and tumble at break time? That’s natural. Likewise, “girls will be girls” is accepted without question. Some feel justified in assuming that female students will choose to compete only in small peer groups and will do so by criticizing or excluding one another. Again, this is deemed “natural.”

These preconceptions about the behavioral tendencies of the sexes tend – consciously or unconsciously – to influence how teachers react to students’ actions and thus how behavior management in schools is conducted. But would we respond differently if it could be proved that the behaviors we labelled as natural were nothing of the sort? Could it be that we are encouraging behaviors that are nurtured rather than innate?

Classroom dynamics are complicated and teachers are rightly conflicted about how to proceed when certain gender norms seem pervasive. How do we reconcile nature and nurture when conducting our lessons?

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Scientific American, June 2014