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U.S. No Longer LetsBoys Just Be Boys

Posted Sep 13 2008 6:52pm

As a kid, I loved school. Going every morning was so important to me that I would fight with my mom when I became sick. She would want me to stay home, and I would say no, I can’t miss school “today!”

I took this to such an extreme that I won an award for perfect attendance record – minus Jewish holidays – during my four years of high school. Boys today don’t like school as much, reports Newsweek about how the male gender is struggling educationally in America.

In fact the number of boys who did not like school rose 71 percent from 1980 to 2001, according to a University of Michigan study. Interestingly, I was a junior in 1980. Good thing I wasn’t going to school nowadays.

This dislike of school is showing up in standardized test scores. And the dropout rate, as I’ve previously reported. Consider that men represent only 44 percent of the student body in college today, compared with 58 percent just 30 years ago.

Newsweek discusses a number of factors: the rigid testing structure of No Child Left Behind; the lack of physical activity as recess and gym classes have been cut; and an intolerance for the scattered – read wild – way boys learn and behave compared with girls.

All those reasons are valid, but one struck me the most: the growing shortage of dads. This excerpt practically shouted at me:

One of the most reliable predictors of whether a boy will succeed or fail in high school rests on a single question: does he have a man in his life to look up to? Too often, the answer is no. High rates of divorce and single motherhood have created a generation of fatherless boys. In every kind of neighborhood, rich or poor, an increasing number of boys — now a startling 40 percent — are being raised without their biological dads. …

In neighborhoods where fathers are most scarce, the high-school dropout rates are shocking: more than half of African-American boys who start high school don't finish.

So who do these boys turn to for their role models? The article doesn’t discuss this as much but we all know: misogynist, violence-advocating musicians, vacuous TV movie stars and potty-mouthed, spoiled athletes. Boys look up to these men because good role models are not honored in our society.

Remember the day when astronauts were famous in this country? How about when policemen and firemen were seen as heroes instead of video game targets?

So how do policy makers solve these problems today? Promote role models? The Newsweek article mentions some anecdotal attempts at this, but we never see effective solutions implemented on a larger scale.

But Americans don’t like simple but messy-to-implement solutions. Instead, they require standardized tests or push drugs to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Sometimes drugs are needed, but as the Newsweek article points out: one school principal complained that one of his students was too immature and should be treated for ADHD. Well, of course he was too immature, he is only 6 years old.

The same thing happened to a co-worker of mine. The school administrators humiliated my friend into putting her son on Ritalin by asking her, “so you want you boy to fail in life?” Good grief.

Instead of focusing on tests and drugs, why can’t this society get it through its thick materialistic skull that oftentimes it’s the simple solutions that work. Kids need to exercise. They need to eat right. They need to play. They need to turn off the TV and video games. And they need their dads.

And let’s not forget, boys need to be boys. Give them a school that is stimulating, and they will love it the way I did.

Thanks go to Dr. Adam Cox, author of Boys of Few Words, for tipping me off to the Newsweek article.

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