Friday, July 14, 2006


What can happen when you leave your little boy alone in the bath room.

I’m not sure about the authenticity of the above picture. After all, another little boy was entered into the Apricot festival’s Little Mr. Apricot contest by his mother. Mothers seem capable of anything! Appropriately, for a boy, the newly-crowned, 4-year old Matthew Burgos raised his middle finger to the crowd! What a man! Little Matthew lost his title of Little Mr. Apricot for making the obscene gesture at the crowd watching the pageant in Patterson, Calif. The town is still abuzz.

Dennis Prager talked about the The War Against Boys, a recent book by Christina Hoff Sommers. He believes, and I believe, that manliness is being squished out of little boys in schools and in society. Sommers is appalled at the educational establishment's efforts to moderate boys' aggressiveness and other elements of their masculine nature. Dennis tells of his little boy tackling his friends when they came into the Prager house. Hi Jimmy, tumble, rumble…. gotcha ….give up? My John did the same thing, it’s what boys do. But grammar school teachers will have none of it. No dodge-ball either.

There are consequences. In a report written for the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, Sara Mead notes that vast numbers of boys are doing poorly in school; more boys than girls drop out; girls have higher aspirations and take more rigorous academic programs; and that the number of boys diagnosed with disabilities has exploded in the past 30 years.

From the time they are young, boys are far more likely than girls to be suspended or expelled, or have a learning disability or emotional problem diagnosed. As teenagers, they are more likely to drop out of high school, commit suicide or be incarcerated.

I believe, with Prager and Sommers, that what is being seen as a boy problem is actually maleness itself, with the noisy, energetic antsiness and high jinks of young boys now redefined as a behavior problem by teachers who do not know how to handle them.

The end results are horrible. Reading scores of 17-year-old boys have gone down in the past decade, hitting an all-time low in 2004. Our colleges are now 57% female. For every 100 women who earn a bachelor's degree, just 73 men get one.

The gender differences are not uniform. In the highest-income families, men attend college as much as women, according to the American Council on Education. But young men from low-income families are the least represented on campus, and the gender gap has been widening, especially among low-income whites and Hispanics.

Judith Kleinfeld, a University of Alaska professor has created the Boys Project (, a coalition of researchers, educators and parents to address boys' troubles.

Hoff Sommers notes that we are strikingly better at educating young women than young men. Boys need our attention.

In a recent book called Manliness, Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government at Harvard University, presents the first comprehensive study of manliness, a quality both good and bad, mostly male, often intolerant, irrational, and ambitious. Our gender-neutral society does not like it but cannot get rid of it.

Manly men in their assertiveness raise issues, bring them to the fore, and make them public and political, they prefer times of war, conflict, and risk, and bring change or restores order at crucial moments.

Manly men are needed in times of danger and at times of business. Let’s be careful not to stomp out manliness.


Blogger gary daily said...

What do those hard wired boys Bill observes do after they tire of tumbling and rolling about? (Hmmm! Isn’t that how my _daughter_ behaved at that age? And can’t I hear her dower Aunt Mary telling her, “Now that’s no way for a young lady to act.”) But I digress. Back to the “boys will be boys and it’s written in concrete” scenario.

After practicing being Manly Men on the floor with each other (Be careful there, not too intimate with those bear hugs and scissors grips, the heteros-rule police are always watching.) these scions of maleness are likely to go looking for danger and ways to assert their budding MANLINESS. Right. It’s off to the TV for sports spectating with the mature male role models in the household. This, rather than the actual playing of a sport that isn’t totally controlled by adults, a pick-up game of touch football, basketball or, heaven forbid, a piggy-move-up baseball game with only five to seven players and no fancy uniforms. But let's slam those darn school marms for cutting off the life-line of dodge-ball in the schools.

And let’s stop a second right at this crucial “no dodge-ball” point. Conservatives would want us to believe that boys are being shoved down some kind of pink hole in schools because of serious cuts in physical education programs. But wait! Don’t these programs cost money? You know, money from tax dollars. Tax dollars that tightwad conservatives are always complaining about.

And, even more importantly, these PE programs require time in the school curriculum. Where is this time out of the school day to come from? Crushing the life and flexibility out of the schools today is something soothingly, but erroneously, called “No Child Left Behind.” Tests and more tests and endless souless drills in preparation for tests are considered to be the answer to every problem on the educational horizon. Leaving aside how this testing regimen stifles the intellectual imagination and curiosity of teachers and their students alike, let me say that we can be certain “Left Behind” leaves many children with obese behinds.

But it’s not all sports on TV for these so deprived, so ignored, stifled proto-manly men. And as Bill puts it, “Manly men are needed in times of danger and at times of business.” So isn’t it a good thing when the tumbling boys move away from the great gray eye and pick up their pricey X-Box or whatever and pop in their real training manual, “Grand Theft Auto”?

Happily for all of us many young women in our society have more to interest them then watching behemoths endlessly giving and taking “hits” on the football field and pituitary cases talking trash with their limited vocabularies on hardwood courts. And statistics indicate girls choose not to choke themselves within the deadening routines of video games. Their choice, not hard wired, just a smart choice given support rather than criticism, is to curl up with a good, mind-expanding, empathy producing, soul enriching book. Gee, I wonder if this helps them in school?

Dennis Prager and Christina Hoff Sommers are concerned about something called “The War Against Boys”? Give me a break. Boys are at war against themselves and adults are regularly supplying them with the arms (gender stereotypes) to continue this self-destructive war.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tell William he is a MANLY MAN!


1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good one - and I agree! I LOVE THIS PICTURE!! It reminds me of when my BIG guys were little! They would do the same kinds of things and it is what little boys do - get into trouble!


1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary, your chick put your balls in a jar. Get an injection of testosterone, dude!

8:32 PM  

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