The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

The Review

The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

The Review

The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

The Review

Psychologist Michael Thompson speaks to Upper School about academic gender gap

Thompson is the New York Times bestselling author of “Raising Cain” and a school counselor who specializes in the psychology of boys.

Creative Commons

Thompson is the New York Times bestselling author of “Raising Cain” and a school counselor who specializes in the psychology of boys.

Students reacted to the first all-Upper School in-person assembly in a year and a half with a mixture of roaring applause and mild frustration. It was not the full VST that generated this response, but a presentation on the academic gender gap given by psychologist Michael Thompson

“He did an excellent job of speaking up until the point of controversy,” senior Lily Pesikoff said. “If controversy is at the 50-yard-line, he went up to the forty-nine-yard line and nine inches.”

Thompson is the New York Times bestselling author of “Raising Cain” and a school counselor who specializes in the psychology of boys. He has spoken at schools across the world. Yet his presentation on Oct. 27 remains controversial among St. John’s students. 

One topic of discussion among students was the language of the speech. The vocabulary Thompson used stuck to the gender-binary, emphasizing the behavioral differences between genders.

“It was very binary,” senior Lucy Haire said. “It enforced stereotypes of ‘boys do this, and girls do this.’”

During his presentation, Thompson focused primarily on the academic gender gap and how girls make higher grades than boys. Students felt that Thompson over-attributed this gap to neurological differences across genders and failed to address the societal pressure that young women face.

“Girls are pressured to follow the rules exactly,” junior Sophia Denham said. “Boys don’t face that same amount of pressure.”

Students like Denham believe that this stress leads to girls’ success in the classroom. Yet, as senior Remi Clonts said during the question-and-answer portion of the assembly, the accomplishments of girls in school is not translating into success later in life.

A recent study by the Greater Houston Partnership showed that in Houston, men hold 65% of leadership positions in the professional world, despite making up only half of the city’s population.

Many students feel conflicted about Thompson’s proposition to make the educational environments more accommodating to boys.

“School is the only place societally where women are expected to succeed and where people are excited about them succeeding,” junior Maggie Henneman said. “By making the academic playing field even for men, we’re losing the one area where women are allowed to succeed.”

If controversy is at the 50-yard-line, he went up to the forty-nine-yard line and nine inches.”

— Lily Pesikoff

Others agree with Thompson’s main premise, but feel that the school system should be restructured for all students, not just boys.

“We need to rethink school life,” Clonts said. “No child is meant to sit in a classroom for eight hours a day without moving.”

Several students disagreed with Thompson’s interpretations of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Thompson said that ADHD was three times more prevalent in boys than in girls. Many, including Denham, took issue with the statistics.

“In actuality, ADHD is just under-diagnosed in girls,” Denham said, “So it’s three times more diagnosed in boys.”

As part of his talk, Thompson said that doctors are overmedicating young boys for ADHD. He claimed that parents and doctors incorrectly diagnose young men with the disorder, when boys are simply behaving “like boys.”

“That is a very toxic mindset,” Clonts said. “It perpetuates the idea that ‘boys will be boys’ and should not be held accountable for what they are doing.”

Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, psychologist and award-winning author of “The Big Disconnect,” will be speaking to Upper School students and teachers in December about the development of girls, giving the community a chance to look at these issues from multiple perspectives. 

“I look at this as an opportunity to open up some tough conversations,” history teacher Derrick Angemeier said. “What are the young women and young men of St. John’s getting out of the four years that they’re here? Are there things that could be done better? What’s the next step?”

Additional reporting by Chloe West, Lily Feather, David Schaefer and Turner Edwards.

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Photo of Aleena Gilani
Aleena Gilani, Online Section Editor

Aleena Gilani ('25) joined The Review in 2021 as a freshman. She loves putting stickers on things that don't necessarily need stickers, and she strongly...

Navigate Left
  • Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher takes a photo with politically engaged SJS students in the atrium.

    news

    Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher speaks to St. John’s students

  • This year, both Homecoming and Diwali took place on Oct. 24. For students like freshmen Eshna Das, this created a problem.

    news

    Homecoming conflicts with Diwali, creates tension in Hindu families

  • On Nov. 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., students will have their final chance to vote in the 2022 midterm elections.

    news

    Students vote in midterm elections, spread political awareness

  • In October, Caven Fields renovations were completed.

    news

    Caven Field undergoes reconstruction, gets new turf

  • Seniors Austin Fiorito and Maddie Kim flaunt their 20s gear at the Homecoming dance.

    news

    Kinkaid Week: ‘Roaring Mavs’ Homecoming dance sends students back to the ’20s

  • Senior Mia Harris wears a purple boa and a tiara for her Dress like Kinkaid outfit.

    news

    Kinkaid Week: Seniors celebrate Dress like Kinkaid Day

  • Seniors and freshmen cheer on their house teammates during the freshmen retreat relay race.

    news

    Freshmen retreat fosters a sense of community within Class Nine

  • Seniors Oliver Lin, Ananya Das and Harris Lee and Duncan McLaren (22) won the National Economics Challenge on June 6.

    news

    St. John’s wins the National Economics Challenge

  • In her house, Jennifer Bowen, SJS Admission Administrative Assistant, keeps a large collection of British royal family memorabilia. The left side shows coronation cups and plates from King Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1936.

    news

    Queen Elizabeth II passes at 96, SJS collector of royal family memorabilia reacts

  • SAAG members and leadership pose after performing a Bollywood dance to a medley of popular South Asian songs including “Laal Ghaghra” and “Tamma Tamma Again.” The music was compiled by SAAG Vice President Afraaz Malick, and the dance was choreographed by Malick and Sophomore Representative Nadiya Naehr.

    news

    SAAG holds assembly, showcases South Asian culture

Navigate Right
Activate Search
The official student newspaper of St. John's School.
Psychologist Michael Thompson speaks to Upper School about academic gender gap

Comments (0)

All The Review Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *