Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boys Adrift

Boys adrift by Leonard Sax. M.D., Ph.D.

The five Factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men
***** A Must Read for fathers, mothers, teachers, and mentors of boys. Keep in mind that no two people/children are alike.  Don’t worry about if your child fits in a suggested box or not.  Read and ask God what he wants you to take notice of. You may not feel you can relate to anything but you WILL meet others who can and are looking for answers/suggestions.

Chapter 1 – The Riddle

Why boys are disengaging from school, from independence, from life.

Chapter 2 – The First Factor: Changes at School

How changes in school have greatly impacted the interest our young boys have in school and their performance in school.

Chapter 3 – The Second Factor: Video Games

How video games serve as an escape from the real world and cause the player to disengage from day to day activities and relationships.  Losing all interest in the real world, preferring the fantasy world to real life.  Losing all drive and ambition.

Chapter 4 – The Third Factor: Medications for ADHD

How and why boys are diagnosed incorrectly as ADHD, placed on Medicines that cause short term and long term harm to their brains and personalities.

Chapter 5 – The Fourth Factor – Endocrine Disruptors

How the introduction of environmental factors has caused the introduction of female hormones into our boys systems and the effects it has on their drive and ambition.

Chapter 6 – End Result: Failure to Launch

Examples and explanations of men who refuse to become independent as adults.

Chapter 7 – The Fifth Factor: The Revenge of the Forsaken Gods

How our culture has failed in providing older adult male role models and communities to guide our young men and how that failure has caused a break down in the transition of going from being a boy to becoming a man.

Chapter 8 – Detox

Summarizing the Five Factors attributing to the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men and steps we can take for each of the factors to try and direct our boys to becoming productive and independent men.

What I highlighted while I read (just things that interested me, lots of info between all of my highlighting, not a complete comprisal of authors thoughts...don’t judge the contents by my random highlighted topics, read the book to grasp the entirety of its contents and research behind the statements).

Chapter 1 – The Riddle

Why boys are disengaging from school, from independence, from life

Dr. Leonard Sax is a family physician, working in the suburbs of Washington, DC for the past 17 years. He as seen more than seven thousand patients, hundreds of families where the girls are the smart, driven ones, while their brothers are laid back and unmotivated.  The opposite pattern with the boy being the intense, successful child while his sister is relaxed and unconcerned about her future is rare.

The problem is boys disengaging from school and the American dream, affecting every variety of community.  The end result is a young man that has no drive, ends up working part time at the mall or Starbucks and living with his parents, or with his girlfriend’s parent and or another relative.  But the young man is not bothered by his situation, his parents are his girlfriend is, but he is oblivious to their concerns.

The boys I am most concerned about don’t disdain school because they have other real-world activities they care more about.  They disdain school because they disdain everything.  Nothing really excites them.

The end result, are frantic parents wondering shy their son can’t, or won’t, get a life.  He is adrift, floating wherever the currents in the sea of his life may carry him, which may be no place at all.

Even more disturbing is the fact that so many of these boys seem to regard their laid back, couldn’t care less attitude as being somehow quintessentially male.  i.e. “Girls care about getting good grades. Geeks care about grades. Normal guys do not care about grades”.  Not caring about anything has be come the mark of true guy-freedom.

Over the past fifty years, college campuses have undergone a sex change: they’ve changed from majority male to majority female. 

Why does on young man succeed, while another young man from the same neighborhood or even the same household drift along, unconcerned?

The five factors identified:

1.         Changes at School

Children in kindergarten used to could actually draw and paint and sing and dance and play… but that is no longer true.  Today most kids don’t draw and paint and sing and dance and play, in kindergarten.  They learn to read and write.

In 2007 team of 12 neuroscientists scan the brains of young children, following them thru the years.  Ages 3 to 27. Most striking findings in the report are the differences in the developmental trajectories of girls compared with boys. 

It now appears that the language areas of the brain in many five year old boys look like the language areas of the brain of the average 3 ½ girl.  It simply is not developmentally appropriate to teach a five year old boy to read and write.

Asking five year old boys to learn to read—when they’d rather be running around or playing games—may be the worst possible introduction to school, at least for some boys.

Waiting until seven years of age to begin the formal reading and writing curriculum of today’s kindergarten might reduce or ameliorate  a significant fraction of the problems we see with boys and school.

The gift of a year is the best gift you can give a child.

The pace of education has accelerated, but boy’s brains don’t grow any faster now than they did thirty years ago.  That is one part of the first factor leading boys to disengage from school.

The first question we will try to answer is why the acceleration of the early elementary curriculum might affect boys differently from the way it affects most girls.  As we have seen, Reason #1 is different regions of the brain develop in a different sequence and tempo in girls compared with boys.  As a result, most five year old girls are better able to ad apt to the academic character of kindergarten than five year old boys are.

Reason #2 has to do directly with the question of motivation, the huge blind spot of contemporary educational psychology.  Girls and boys differ in terms of their desire to please the teacher.  Most girls are at least somewhat motivated to please the teacher.  Many boys don’t share that motivation.

Girls will do homework because the teacher asked them to.  Boys are more likely to do the homework only if it interests them.  If it bores them, or if they think it is stupid, they are more likely to ignore it.  Most boys don’t care much about pleasing the teacher or about  getting straight A’s and boys who do try to please the teacher and who do care about their grades will lower their status in the eyes of the other boys.

Kenntnis (know by experience) vs Wissenschaft (to know about something) Learning

American Schools have shifted from Kenntnis to Wissenschaft learning.   Research demonstrated that children must have a rich, interactive sensory environment—touching, smelling, seeing, hearing the real world—in order for the child’s brain and mind to develop properly.  Without such real world experiences, the Childs development will be impaired.

Only in the past decade have developmental psychologists come to recognize that a curriculum that emphasizes Wissenschaft at the expense of Kenntnis may produce a syndrome analogous to the neglected child.  “ Nature-deficit disorder”

For boys in particular, emphasizing Wissenschaft while ignoring Kenntnis may seriously impair development – not cognitive development but the development of a lively and passionate curiosity.  The end result of a childhood with more time spent in front of computer screens than outdoors is what we call “cultural autism.  The symptoms are tunneled senses, and feelings of isolation and containment and a wired, now it all state of mind …. That which cannot be “googled” does not count … attitude.

When nature has been replace by computer screens and fancy indoor toys, the result is an increased risk for attention deficit disorder.   Boys are at least 3 times as likely to be treated for ADHD compared with girls.  One wonders to what extent the shift from Kenntnis to Wissenschaft may have contributed to the explosion in the numbers of children being treated for ADHD.

If boys are deprived of that balance between Wissenschaft and Kenntnis, they may simply disengage from school.  If you ask a boy to read about the life cycle of a tadpole metamorphosing into a frog, but that boy has never touched a frog, never had the experience of jumping around in a stream in his bare feet chasing after a tadpole, he may not see the point.  This shift in learning has the unintended consequence of diminishing the motivation of boys to study what they are asked to learn.

The first thing that happens when you ask kids to do stuff they have no interest in, is they stop paying attention. The second thing that happens is they get annoyed, they get irritable, and they withdraw.  “I hate school. It is stupid” Anything associated with school is uncool.  Reading is uncool; Caring about school is uncool, being interested in learning become uncool.  We need a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate, teachers who know how to teach boys.

Think for a movement about boys who thrive on competition (not all boys do). Consider how changes in our schools and in our society over the past thirty years may have disengaged these boys.

--Traditional PE- Eliminated dodge ball and kickball. 
--Zero tolerance for violence (writing stories of war and killing the bad guy)
-- Competitive Sports (School sizes so big, but only one team, therefore elite few can participate in competitive sports. Schools in other countries have one than one team so more can participate. Australian schools have up to 7 teams per school. Teams practice during school as a class, no team practices everyday.

When a teacher or principal tells you that the school has a zero tolerance policy for students writing violent stories, ask them whether the same policy applies to what the students read.  If students are not allowed to read violent fiction then the librarian will have to remove novels by Hemingway, Steinbeck, Tolstoy and many others from the shelves.  But if they are not going to ban Hemingway then on what grounds can they reasonably prohibit boys from trying to write in the same genre that they are allowed to read?   Just a thought……

Boys who are competitive will be competitive in every aspect of their life, and will usually respond well to any challenge so long as:
            There are winners and losers, and
            The outcome is in doubt. Anybody might win or lose   everything depends on how hard you play
            Satisfy both criteria and boys will be on board, if one of those is missing, they won’t see the point and they will disengage, lose interest, and stare out the window.

Team competition has another benefit for boys who are motivated by the will to win.
Team competition socializes boys.  It teachers boys to value something above themselves. It subordinates some of the ego and the egocentricity that these boys often manifest.

A noncompetitive format in which ”everybody’s a winner” is a sure way to disengage a boy from the whole process.

If your son is motivated by competition, then eliminating it from his school, throwing out his toy guns, and forbidding him to write stories with violent themes won’t change him.  Those policies may disengage him from school, however. The end result may be a boy who feels that the only place he is truly understood as he really is, is the world of video games.

2.                  Video Games

Boy world is a weird place.  Many boys and young men are wrestling with drives and motivations that a lot of parents, especially mothers, don’t understand.

Not making a grand statement about all boys.  Focusing only on those boys who seem unmotivated to do their best, boys who don’t seem to care much about getting the best grades or getting into a good college, or capable of doing school work, but not interested in doing it.  Let’s agree that physiologically, boys have not changed much in the past thirty years: genetic makeup can’t be significantly altered in only one generation or even ten.  Society has changed.

Why do some task engage your boy’s motivational engine, while others don’t?   The answer, I think, lies in a concept that most of these boys have never heard of, something that contemporary psychologists refer to as “the will to power”.   (not all boys fit in the will to power category)

Will to Power: those individuals want to be in charge of their environment. If you tell a boy who has a generous dose of this kind of motivation to sit down, he will stand up.  If you tell him to stand up, he will sit down.  He does not care so much whether he is standing or sitting.  But he needs to know, and needs you to know that he is in charge of whether he stands or sits.

The power takes precedence over other drives and other perspectives.  They would rather be in charge than be well-liked.  Many of the boys who seem unmotivated, from our perspective are actually motivated by the will to power.  Secretly, these boys often believe that they are special, that they are unique, that they have a destiny that will be revealed in time.  As a result, they believe that rules that apply to ordinary people don’t apply to them.

Video Games give boys the feelings of power and control they crave:  The real world of homework and textbooks can’t compete—not at least for the boy who is motivated by the will to power. 

I don’t agree that technology is the best way to inspire kids to learn.  I believe that kids are more effectively motivated by interacting with the real world, or by team competition.

Do video games improve kid’s reaction times – yes?  Do video games help kids to better I n school? Help improve their grades or test scores? NO.  Studies clearly demonstrate that the more time your child spends playing video games, the less likely he is to do well in school.  Video game playing = negative correlation.

Kids who play video games often/instead of real sports…find real sports too demanding.  They don’t want to do the work that they would have to do, to train the way they would have to train, to get in shape and play a real sport.  Besides, they believe that because they know something about football, (from playing football video games) that it is the same as knowing how to play football. 

There is actually some disturbing evidence that boys today, on the average, are less intelligent—less able to understand and solve real world problems, compared with boys just fifteen years ago. This due to lack of experiential play, hands on play that allows kids to experience how the world works in practice.

Virtues lost via video games:


            The stereotypical pastimes of boys and men in previous generations were pretty good at teaching skills like patience; going hunting and fishing.  That sort of patience might serve a young father well.  But video games do not teach that kind of patience. 

Do video games disengage boys from the real world? Does playing video games make boys more violent?  Researchers at Yale University reported that playing violent video games such as Doom clearly and unambiguously cause young men to have a more violent self image and to behave more violently; this report has not received any coverage in the media, to the best of my knowledge.  Playing this type of game leads directly to aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect and cardiovascular arousal, and to decreases in helping behavior.  The linage between the violent game and the boy’s antisocial behavior is unequivocally cause and effect these researchers found; the end result is that boys who play these games are more like to engage in “serious, real world types of aggression”.

Moreover, researchers have found that playing violent video games has a substantially more toxic effect than watching equally violent television programs, probably because when a boy is watching a violent TV program he is watching someone else commit the violent act, but when he is playing Doom or Grand Theft Auto or Halo, he is inflicting the death and destruction himself.

Video games also tend to teach the wrong lessons about masculinity.   These games are gratifying to boys, not only because the boys have the satifaction of being the tough guy, but also because they are in charge of the game itself; they can turn it off any time they want to and move on to another game.  In real life, you can’t just walk away from the havoc you create. 

The destructive effects of video games are not on boys’ cognitive abilities or their reaction times, but on their motivation and their connectedness with the real world.  They are highly motivated, but their motivation has been derailed.        

Note: Not all boys who play video games twenty hours a week will disengage from real life, and not all boys who disengage from real life are video game players.  Here are some guidelines provided:

Recommended that you first of all either play the game yourself or watch it being played, and then ask yourself these questions;

            Does the game involve some characters trying to harm others?
            Does this happen frequently more than once or twice in thirty min.?
            Is the harm rewarded in any way?
            Is the harm portrayed as humorous?
            Are nonviolent solutions absent or less “fun” than the violent ones?
            Are realist consequences of violence absent from the game?

Violent games that reward antisocial aggression –games such as grand theft auto and doom should not be permitted in the home.  Period.  Antisocial aggression means aggression such as killing police offices or prostitutes.  On the other hand, games that rewards the player for killing terrorists and penalize for careless injury to innocent bystanders is less harmful, but still not as good of a choice has your son racing his bicycle around a tract.

Another consideration is what activities are displaced by playing video games. If your son is neglecting his friendships, refusing to sit down to dinner with the family then priorities are messed up.

Or maybe there is a more complex dynamic at work.  If family life is miserable, you son may use video games as an excuse to get of family activities, you may have to ask yourself some hard questions about why that might be so.

Surprisingly, especially to those of us over thirty, many boys today seem to prefer playing video games to being with girls. College administrators are reporting that more and more young men don’t want to meet anybody.  They just want to stay in their rooms, talk to no one and play video games into the wee hours.  They miss classes until they withdraw or flunk out.

As you restrict your son’s access to video games you will want to help find a constructive outlet for your sons’ need to conquer.  In some cases, competitive sports and a more competitive academic format might provide such an outlet.  You need to figure out how can he best satisfy his need to be tested and to triumph?

Video games teach boys that if you manipulate things a certain way, you will get an easy win.  These boys have little interaction with people during the years when such interaction is crucial in developing the skills they need to handle themselves as an adult.  They shut themselves off to the real world and get caught up in their fantasy worlds.  After a while, they prefer their fantasies to the real world.  In the real world, things are not so easy to control.  They can’t rule with a joystick.  In the real world they have to talk to people.  They have to work. Bringing up another point.  Laziness. 

I believe if you were to research the growing popularity of video games and compare it to the growing number of young men living at home, you would certainly find a parallel.

3.                  Medications for ADHD

Sound familiar:

He would start running after the truck and just keep going.  He’d forget to come home, and wander, fearlessly and aimlessly, through other people’s backyards and driveways.

He seems hyperactive; just wanted you to be aware that he is having trouble staying in his seat.  He just can’t sit still very long before he starts wiggling.  I tell him to sit still, and he does, and then five minutes later he is wriggling in his chair again and giggling.  It is very distracting to the other children.

We are encouraging you to have him seen by a doctor.

But if my son isn’t ready to do that does that mean my son has a problem?  Maybe the school has a problem; maybe the problem is the school expecting a five year old boy to sit still in a chair all day long.  You know his school has all-day kindergarten?

Doctors reply:  For the boys who aren’t ready to sit still in a chair all day long—their first experience of school is one long frustrating bore.  And once they get off to a bad start, things can snowball in the wrong direction.  One year can make a big difference.  Often a boy will be more willing and able to sit still in class when he is sic than when he was five.  That one year can make all the difference in the world.

Parent’s reply:  But how would I explain to my friends, and my parents, that my son flunked out of kindergarten?  They would think he is retarded.  No I can’t do that. I will just medicate him.

His initial response to the medication reassured her that she had made the right decision.  His behavior in school improved.  She decided not to make him take it over Christmas vacation.  The first two days he was off the medication, she was alarmed by his behavior.  His old impulsivity and energy were back, but with an unfamiliar edge.  During the summer when she stopped the meds again she noticed he did not rebound, he was lazy and everything was boring, except for video games.

The syndrome we call ADHD has probably always been with us.

People have suggested, with good reason, that perhaps the pathology lies not in the boy but in the school.  In Why Gender Matters, I told the story of a boy who needed to be on multiple medications for ADHD when he was in school; but when he was assisting a professional hunter in Zimbabwe, he did not need the medications at all, even when he had to sit motionless in the bush for long periods of time.

Boys in 2007 are thirty times more likely to be taking these medications compared with boys in 1987.

Several factors account for the greater willingness of doctors to medicate young minds today, and the greater willingness of parents to accept and even to seek out such mediation.  One factor is our cultural shift away from individual responsibility towards third-party explanations. (Interesting reading pp 85-87) on this.

You can see how the assignment of responsibility differs in these two cases (in above reading pp 85).  If your son is a disobedient brat, then your son and you have to take responsibility.  You have to own up to the problem.  You will probably have to make some changes.  But if your son has a psychiatric diagnosis, that means he has a chemical imbalance in his brain.  He and you are no more to blame for that imbalance than if your son were diagnosed with leukemia, right?  Many clinicians find it easier to tell parent s their child has a brain based disorder than to suggest parenting changes.

Another factor has to do with the inappropriate acceleration of the early elementary curriculum.  Already discussed in Chapter 2.

One third of American children who are taking psychotropic medications today are actually taking two or three or four medications, not just one.  The diagnosis is first suggested by a teacher in most cases.  I have investigated, and the teacher’s observation was correct; the child is not paying attention.  But does he truly have ADHD or is there some other reason?  Most Pediatricians and family physicians simply do not have the training to perform a sophisticated neurodevelopmental assessment of a five or six or seven year old boy to determine whether that boy’s difficulties are due to ADHD or to some other problem.

 In research medication for ADHD improved the performance of NORMAL kids by the same degree that it improved the performance of kids with ADHD.

If the medication for ADHD helps him to learn better, doesn’t that mean that he probably has ADHD?

As many of us have long suspected, and as Dr. Gabrieli’s study confirms, the answer to that question is no. The medications are likely to improve the performance of a normal child just as much as a child who truly has ADHD.  Just because these medications improve a child’s performance I n class, does not mean that the child has ADHD.

But where’s the harm?

Many boys do look and feel more or less OK while they are taking these medications.  What these parents don’t know... and what the doctor also may not know... is that even relatively short-term use of these drugs, for just a year or perhaps less, can lead to changes in personality.  The boy who used to be agreeable, outgoing, and adventurous becomes lazy and irritable.

Prof Carlezon and colleagues at Harvard reported that giving stimulant medication... such as those used to treat boys with ADHD to juvenile laboratory animals results in those animals displaying a loss of drive when they grow up.  These animals look normal, but they are lazy.  They don’t want to work hard for anything, not even to escape a bad situation.

Children who take these medications may look fine while they are taking them.  They may look fine after they stop taking them.  But as adults when they are no longer taking the medications they won’t have much drive.  They won’t have much get up and go.

The stimulant medications appear to exert their harmful effects by damaging an area in the developing brain called the nucleus accumbens.  The part of the brain that is responsible for translating motivation into action.  If a boy’s nucleus accumbens is damaged, he may still feel hungry, or sexually aroused.  He just won’t feel motivated to do anything about it.

I have seen many cases; boys who were put on medications when they attended a coed school, who were able to stop those medications after switching to a boy’s school, and who blossomed into well rounded students and athletes after making the transition.  Those cases have led me to believe that in many cases, boys are being put on these medications to fit the boy to the school.  I have come to believe that we should not medicate boys so they fit the school; we should change the school to fit the boy.

You have to know your child and then find the school that is the best match for your child.

So far, we have identified three factors:

1.                  Changes in educational format and curricula over the past twenty to thirty years, in particular; the acceleration of the early elementary curriculum; the shift from Kenntnis to Wissenschaft; the abolition of competitive formats.
2.                  The advent of ultra-high-tech video games
3.                  The over prescribing of stimulant medications.

4.                  Endocrine Disruptors

In the fall of 2006, scientists studying fish in the Potomac River reported an unsettling discover.  Collecting fish near the Wilson Bridge, the scientists found that the females were normal, but the males were not.  When the scientists examined the male sex organs, they did not find sperm, they found eggs.

Looked at seven different sites… at least 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass they examined were feminized: the sex organs in the male fish were making eggs instead of sperm.

The overwhelming majority of modern chemicals that mimic the action of human sex hormones, curiously, mimic the action only of the female hormones.  As a result, the average child today is practically awash in synthetic chemicals that have the effect of accelerating a girl’s sexual development.  The effects on boys are more subtle.  The net effect appears to be a slowing and or warping of boys’ sexual development.  There is now substantial evidence that the very same endocrine disrupting chemicals that accelerate puberty in girls may delay or disrupt the process of puberty in boys.

In 2003 scientists discovered that a common pesticide can slow and disrupt the process of puberty in boys…only in boys…apparently because it blocks the action of testosterone and other androgens.

In the past five years, scientists have found that activities that introduce chemicals—bisphenol A or phthalates (from plastics) into the baby’s system may actually damage a boy’s brain.

In boys, testosterone fuels more than just sexual interest; it fuels the drive to achieve, to be the best, to compete.  Successful, high achieving boys have higher testosterone levels than boys who are content to come in last.  For Girls it is not so.  This sex difference may be one reason why the flood of estrogenic chemicals in which today’s children are immersed has not impaired the drive or motivation of girls, but the boys, increasingly, are lazy.

Infants, toddlers, and young children don’t make sex hormones.  Their bodies and brains are not mean to be exposed to them until puberty begins.

They may also be contributing to one of our most serious health problems; childhood obesity.  Estrogens regulate the size of fat cells.

We have seen how exposure to environmental estrogens can lead to overweight, in both girls and boys.  And while exposure to synthetic endocrine disruptors may accelerate puberty in girls, we have see that exposure to the same synthetic substances can disrupt or slow the process of puberty in boys.  We now know that these substance3s may cause ADHD.  Scientists are now reporting that these three conditions—delayed puberty, overweight, and ADHD—occur together much more often than would be expected by chance—but again, only in boys.
Where environmental estrogens may strengthen bones in girls, they have a more complex effect o n boys.  We now know that environmental estrogens appear to cause lower testosterone levels in young men, these lower testosterone levels will likely impair bone mineralization.  In other words, young men will have bones that are more brittle than the bones of young men a generation ago.  Research supports this.

There is growing evidence that the end result of our increasingly toxic environment is girls who are both masculine and feminine, and boys who are neither masculine nor feminine.  We need to consider the possibility that the very hardware that makes a boy a boy may be in jeopardy.

Private Parts:  Your son may be less than half the man your father was.  American boys today are three times more likely to be born with genital abnormalities such as undescended testicle compared with American boys thirty years ago.  Young men today have lower testosterone levels than their grandfathers ha, and there is growing concern that male infertility is on the rise.

The problem may start very early.  I have suggested that is a woman drinks water or soda from a clear plastic bottle while she is pregnant the baby boy growing in her womb may be adversely affected. Tests followed.

The research: Dr. Swan and her colleagues found what they had feared. Mothers who had high levels of phthalates in their system were roughly ten times m ore likely to give birth to boys whose genitals showed subtle anomalies.  The most common malformations in American boys were smaller than normal penises; undescended testicles; and hypospadias, a condition in which the opening at the tip of the penis is not at the tip but is father down the shaft of the penis—leading Dr. Swan to conclude that in these boys, the process of masculinization was incomplete.

Dr. Swan has prepared some suggestions to help you safeguard your children, and yourself, from damaging effects of environmental estrogens:

-         Don’t’ give your son soft vinyl toys or pacifies made with phthalates—look for products labeled “PVC-free”
-         Don’t microwave food  in plastic
-         Heat meals in microwave using bowl vs plate
-         Avoid plastic bottles (for anyone,  for water or baby bottles)
-         Don’t allow your dentist to put sealants on your children’s teeth unless the dentist can assure you that the sealants are phthalate-fee

5.                  The Revenge of the Forsaken Gods

A boy does not naturally become a gentleman—by which I mean a man who is courteous and kind and unselfish.  That behavior is not hardwired.  It has to be taught.

Core values boys should be taught at home and school:
Scholarship     Integrity     Civility   Tolerance     Altruism
Sportsmanship     Responsibility     Self-discipline

It is not enough for a boy to become a man.  We want him to become a gentleman.  A gentleman doesn’t pretend to make farting noises to amuse his buddies.  A gentleman doesn’t harass girls or women.  A gentleman doesn’t interrupt a girl when she is speaking.  At this boy’s school, all these points are explicitly taught to the boys.

Almost every culture of which we have detailed knowledge takes great care in managing this transition to adulthood.

What happens when a culture…like ours…neglects this transition?  For a decade or two, or three, perhaps, the culture can coast along.  But after thirty plus years of neglecting this transition, one might expect problems to begin developing.

We are now seeing a rise in violent crime committed by young men.

If we fail to provide boys with pro-social models of the transition to adulthood, they may construct their own. (Gangs. Etc.)
There is no enduring culture in which cowardly men are esteemed, or in which brave men are held in contempt.  There is no enduring culture in which lazy men are celebrated while hardworking men are despised.

Almost every other enduring culture of which we have detailed knowledge…pass this information from one generation to the next in gender separate communities.  Women teach girls what is expected of adult women in their community.  Men teach boys.

But when it comes to showing boys how a gentleman behaves…how a gentleman interacts with women, how he responds to adversity, how he serves his community, then there is no substitute for having a male role model.

But there is no enduring culture in which parents attempt this task alone.  As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a boy to manhood.

Manhood is not something that simply happens to boys as they get older.  It is an achievement…something a boy accomplishes, something that can easily go awry.

American Culture…Toxic to Boys and to girls?
            Death rates among children and teenagers in the US due to cancer and unintentional injuries have dropped by more than 50 percent over the past fifty years.  But over these same fifty years, homicide rates among us youth have risen by more than 130 percent, while suicide rates have risen by almost 140 percent.  Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among Americans under the age of eighteen.

The Changing American Father—the stature of the father figure in the American Family has taken a considerable tumble in the past forty or fifty years.  The father figures played by Mac Murray and Young (My Three Sons and Father knows Best) were wise, caring, and competent.  Compared to Homer Simpson – who is always an idiot, always a klutz, always the least intelligent character in any episode.

My own assessment is that TV shows reflect our society more than they shape it.

What does it mean to be a man?  The answer is; being a man means using your strength in the service of others.

Note : if the TV role models as head of the house are the butt of the jokes, the unrespected character why would any boy want to grow up to be head of the house?

End Result – Failure to Launch

Owner of Plumbing business approached a public school and asked them whether they would help us set up an apprenticeship program in plumbing.  They said fine, provided that we could recruit 12 students in the county for the program. They would be provided training to become a Master Plumber, and guaranteed a job with a six figure salary upon completion. The county has over forty thousand students.  They only got 10 boys to commit to the program, and after one month, more than half the boys had quit.  At the end of the program only three boys were left.

They had no interested in working.  They just did not care.  Earning lots of money just seems to have no appeal to them.

John has a problem.  He can’t find good help.  It has been more than 10 years since I have been able to hire any young man born in the U. S. A. and keep him for more than a month.  Number one, these young guys nowadays have no idea of craftsmanship.  Number two, they don’t have any interest in learning. None whatsoever.

For Several years, Mr. Donohoe made valiant efforts to recruit young people to enter the trades:  to become an electrician, a plumber, a welder, or other skilled craftsman.  He would begin his talks by asking all the students; “how many of you plan on going to college?  Almost all of the students would raise their hands. Then he would ask, “how many of you can tell me why you are going to college?  What do you want to do that requires a college education?”

Usually only about five or six students raise their hands to answer this questions.

How come nobody want to go into the trades?  I think it starts with the parents, and the teachers.  They look down their noses at what they call “blue collar” work. 

However, we (trade people) require smart people, highly motivated people who totally understand what they are doing. 

Whatever Happed to Money and Sex?  Traditionally, one of the factors driving Western society has been the fact that women prefer successful, affluent men over men who are less successful.  Because men understood that women would be reluctant to marry men who could not comfortably support a wife and children, men were motivated to be successful.  Theat simple mechanism has suffered a double whammy in the past forty years.
            First, sex has been divorced from marriage, Second, sexual satisfaction has been divorced from women altogether.  If you don’t work with todays teenage boys on a regular basis, you may not understand the extent to which pornographic images of women have replaced the real thing.

Traditionally, boys who wanted money and or sex were motivated to be successful in their job or career, because was the surest route to money and sex.

American boys today are unlikely to take a job they find demeaning or boring, or pursue a career that does not interest them.

Lots of real life Failure to Launch stories.

My own belief, based in part on my twenty years of medical practice, is that if parents continue to shelter their adult child after the age of twenty-one years, the parents may make it less likely that the adult child will ever be willing and able to meet the challenges of the real world. (exception for son that has just graduated and is 22-23, if he is looking for job, month okay…. Year not okay….)

Next chapter sums everything up chapter by chapter.