Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Myth about Boys

A nice summary of the article of the same title by David von Drehle appearing in the July 26 issue Time Magazine, sent via Steve Mintz, with my favorite line in bold:
“The Dangerous Book” – a best-selling celebration of boyhood past – has tapped into a larger anxiety about raising young men. Observers of the boy “crisis” contend that families, schools and popular culture are failing boys, leaving them restless bundles of anxiety – misfits in the classroom and video-game junkies at home. They suffer from an epidemic of “anomie,” one psychologist says, adrift in a world of change without the help they need to navigate. There are statistics to back up every point in the sad litany, but also people eager to flay nearly every statistic. For instance: Is it bad that more boys are in special education, or it is better that they are getting extra help from specially trained teachers? And haven’t boys always tended to be more restless than girls under the discipline of high school and more likely to wind up in jail? Ultimately, the subject of boys is a bog of sociology in which a clever researcher can unearth evidence to support almost any point of view. This field, like so many others, has been infiltrated by the left-right political noise machine: Our boys have become cannon fodder in the unresolved culture wars waged by their parents and grandparents. But with fresh eyes on fresh facts, more upbeat conclusions are apparent. Worrying about boys – reading and writing books about them, fretting over dire trends and especially taking more time to parent them – is paying off. The next step is to let boys really blossom.

8 comments:

Kimberly Palmer said...

That article was so interesting! It seemed like in the end, though, the author did think boys faced some deep (and new) challenges... some part of me resists that idea that it's somehow harder to be a boy, and maybe it isn't even a good idea to judge boys' and girls' experiences against each other and compare their graduation rates and grades and test scores -- none of those things really seem to get at a whole life picture.

Deborah Siegel said...

Hi Kimberly - I so agree with you. I'm really interested in exploring this further -- ie that part in me, too, that completely resists. You know, when Christina Hoff Sommers' book, The War Against Boys, came out a while back, I kind of wanted to throw up. The war there partially felt more like a war against feminists who were looking at the lives of girls. It'd be nice to see work that moves past the context of boys vs. girls (or even, for that matter, girls vs. boys) and looks, authentically, at whole life picture - I think you are spot on. I wonder how much of that kind of work exists.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable - if the subject had been a minority group or girls, the conclusion would have been "we have got to organize and get this fixed." Instead the author chose to picture white boys and, even after quoting many statistics showing that boys need help, chose to say it's a myth.

The fact that boys have gone from being the majority of incoming students in college to being outnumbered by girls 4 to 3 is a huge red flag. How many times has the argument been made that the reason girls didn't do well in math was because of boys’ enthusiasm (they raised their hand faster) or putdowns from other girls and boys. Now that the tables have turned no-one wants to say that the gains of girls have been at the expense of boys, but to say there's not a problem is beyond disingenuous.

Deborah Siegel said...

I agree with you, Anonymous, that there are certainly issues. But with Kimberly, I wonder how we might address such issues without turning it all into a girls-vs-boys scenario going forward? Because the oppression olympics gets us no where - no matter what team you're on. -DS

Anonymous said...

The problem is that it an on-going battle. Just 2 weeks ago, I was listening to “All things considered” on NPR and Noah Adams had 2 female guests on who repeated the often-quoted wisdom that has been the ralying cry for pushing girls to the forefront in educational opportunities (girls do better in all-girl classes, boys and girls put smart girls down, etc…). And as the authros own statistrics show, this ralying cry has had an impact - 33% more girls get into college than boys. Education transates into opportunity and income.

What the author should have said was “Enough! It’s time to give boys equal opportunities.”

John.

Anonymous said...

...So, my point is that it's already is and has been a girls-vs-boys scenario for some time. The author should have acknowledged that fact and suggested that it’s time to stop the assault.

Thus the suggestion for a more appropriate title - “Enough! It’s time to give boys equal opportunities.”

Judge Rufus Peckham said...

Good comments, but everyone ought to agree that making boys or girls hostages to the gender wars or the agendas of either "side" is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Deborah Siegel said...

Judge, I couldn't agree with you more. - GWP