After two generations of concern scrupulously focused on girls — their education in all its many manifestations, their alleged victimization by male dominance, their brain development, their sorrows and strengths and even the word employed to describe them (are they not, after all, young women?) — boys are coming in for new attention.
Applause, please. Yet at this late hour, with masculinity so politically incorrect, the task at hand is Augean.
These observations are prompted by data, anecdotal observation, and the summer publication of “The Dangerous Book for Boys” — a tome wildly successful here and, earlier, in England.
The data are devastating: schoolyard murder, emotional shutdown, soaring rates of male suicide, a plummeting male presence in the academy. According to the Department of Education, boys trail girls in literacy skills by one and one-half school years, are less committed to studying, and are less likely to go to college. An indicator: In 1970, precisely 57 percent of those graduating from college were males; today the percentage is 41 — and heading steeply south.
Disproportionately high percentages of boys are designated “discipline problems” parents and teachers can’t handle. So to calm their behavior, the obstreperous get put on Ritalin — the high-tone name for a low street drug called “speed.”
A view of today’s climate of anomie finds too many among our young male cohort tentative, unfocused, bored. Rising divorce and illegitimacy leave more and more solo mothers raising boys — and this in an otherwise feminizing culture too often removing fathers from the daily contact sons especially need, especially in a society so depreciating manliness.
In the words of the always perceptive Midge Decter (author of, for instance, “The Liberated Woman & Other Americans”): Infantilized, deprived (“despite the ease” into which they are born), and “standing at the tail-end of a veritable whirlwind of anti-male sentiment that has been sweeping through the country for decades,” American boys “have been left with scarcely any good way either to be wholly themselves or to be assured they are indeed on the way to becoming men.”
So onto this tortured landscape, as a partial remedy for (Decter’s words) this suppression of “the natural condition of boys,” principal author Conn Iggulden and his brother Hal have dropped “The Dangerous Book for Boys.”
Why that most interesting word in the title — “dangerous”? If girls are task-completers, boys are risk-takers. Conn Iggulden:
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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