In the UK it is the school exam results season. First, the Advanced Level exams (A-levels)that give entry into University, then GCSEs that are taken at approximately age 16. Every year record numbers of top grades are obtained but this year has seen even more of an uptick because there have been no examinations and results are purely based on teacher assessments. This is something that works to the disadvantage of boys who do better on the level playing field of examinations compared to assessments by teachers who tend to reward agreeable behaviour as much as academic ability.
Looking at the reporting of A level and GCSE results in newspapers and the BBC online reveals something important and disturbing. Boys in general but particularly white working-class boys are being completely erased from the narrative. The message that is being given out is that education is not for them and they do not matter. Take, for example, the article that appears in BBC bitesize How to Manage Results Day: Six tips for parents. The article is pretty anodyne but the choice of pictures tells a different story. There are five photographs but not one white boy (working class in particular).
The situation no little better elsewhere on the BBC website, out of 28 pictures of successful candidates only four were of boys, and only two were of white boys.
This same pattern was repeated at other outlets such as The Guardian and The Independent.
This matters, a clear message is being sent to boys that education is not for them and they are to be punished for the supposed sins of their fathers. It might be argued that the Guardian and Independent can do what they like. The BBC is a different matter, we all have to pay for it through a form of poll tax on television ownership. For that reason, the BBC should be more representative of the population it serves- a population that is 49% men and boys, not 12.5% as you might think from the choice of photographs.
You might argue, with some justification, that the text of the articles is more balanced. However, pictures do a lot of the heavy lifting and can be carefully chosen to convey a message that would unacceptable if conveyed in print form.
In a previous post I talked about the problem of a dominant young, female and activist workforce in publishing (here). This bias at the BBC is evidence of that problem.