Every society has to answer a few basic questions in order to succeed and even in order to survive. One of them is, "How do we make good men?"
The reason for the importance of this question is simple: Males untutored about how to control their natures will likely do much harm. Conversely, males who are taught to how to control themselves and to channel their drives in positive directions make the world a much better place. The good man is a glory of civilization; the bad man ruins it.
Throughout American history, American society asked, "How do we make men?" (It was understood that "man" meant a good man.) Anyone who thought about the subject knew that boys who are not transformed into men remain boys. And when too many boys do not grow up into men, women suffer and society suffers.
What is a man (as opposed to a boy)? The traditional understanding was that a man is he who takes responsibility for others -- for his family, his community and his country -- and, of course, for himself. A man stood for ideals and values higher than himself. He conducted himself with dignity. And he was strong.
For much of American history, making boys into men was understood to be of supreme importance, and society was usually successful. When I was a boy in the 1950s, without anyone expressly defining it, I knew what a man was supposed to be. And I knew that society, not to mention my parents, expected me to be one. It went without explicitly saying so that I would have to make a living, support myself as soon as possible and support a family thereafter.
When I acted immaturely, I was told to be or act like a man. I wonder how many boys are told to "be a man" today; and if they were, would they have a clue as to what that meant? It would appear that for millions of American boys, this has not been the reality for decades. Many families and society as a whole seem to have forgotten boys need to be made into men.
There are numerous reasons:
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”
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