Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Are School-Age Boys Struggling?

Peg Tyre has written a fascinating article published by newsweek this week on the recurring theme of "Struggling School Age Boys." In her own words,

Every other week it seems a new study comes out that adds to our already-formidable arsenal of parental worries. But even by those escalating standards, the report issued last week by the federal government's National Center for Health Statistics contained a jaw-dropper: the parents of nearly one of every five boys in the United States were concerned enough about what they saw as their sons' emotional or behavioral problems that they consulted a doctor or a health-care professional. By comparison, about one out of 10 parents of girls reported these kinds of problems.

This is startling indeed. By these numbers a full 20 percent of school-age boys are not well. Tyre, goes on to argue, as I have in other places, that the issue at hand may not be an epidemic of ADHD or environmental pollutants, but may actually be problems with the very system of education that labels them as "abnormal." Tyre presses the issue further:

Could some of those changes we have embraced in our families, our communities and our schools be driving our sons crazy?

Instead of unstructured free play, parents now schedule their kids' time from dawn till dusk (and sometimes beyond.) By age 4, an ever-increasing number of children are enrolled in preschool. There, instead of learning to get along with other kids, hold a crayon and play Duck, Duck, Goose, children barely out of diapers are asked to fill out work sheets, learn computation or study Mandarin.

The current structure of education and parenting in the United States is not merely unfavorable toward boys, I would go so far as to say that it is opposed to boys. Boys, who are by nature adventurous, have been robbed of the adventure in their lives. No longer are they allowed to explore, create, and discover. Instead, they live according to the hectic schedules that we impose upon their lives. In our efforts to protect our boys, I fear that we have feminized them.

When John Eldridge wrote Wild At Heart, thousands of men woke up to the masculinity of which they were being robbed and got excited about toting guns into the woods. Some of those men may have overreacted, but many did get the message that masculinity is a male trait that should be celebrated, not frowned upon. Contrary to popular belief, women even admire masculine men. Masculinity, though inherit in males, must be encouraged in our boys so that they can grow up as men who desire to lead, love, and provide for their families as God has intended.

Tyre points out that we continue to educate our little boys in ways that diminish and punish their inherited masculinity and force them into feminine molds of play, learning, and behavior.

Active play is increasingly frowned on—some schools have even banned recess and tag. In the wake of school shootings like the tragedy at Virginia Tech, kids who stretch out a pointer finger, bend their thumb and shout "pow!" are regarded with suspicion and not a little fear.

Active play, finger guns, and tag are generally associated much more with boys, where little girls are more content participating in less vigorous activities and as the education system continues to mold itself to fit the feminine model at the expense of our little boys, little boys will continue to to be negatively affected in a disproportionate way.

Education and child rearing should find balance. Boys and girls are different because God has created it to be so in his infinite wisdom. We celebrate the differences between the sexes as adults, and we must celebrate them in our children as well. We simply cannot raise girls and boys exactly the same way, and for the lone feminist that may read this article, this is not all good news for girls and bad news for boys. If we allow our society to continue to encourage something less than true masculinity in our boys, we will wake up soon to dissatisfied women who can't find a "real man" to love them and lead them in a godly relationship.

Parents, love your girls and love your boys, but let them be little girls and little boys and not merely little children.

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