In the 1950s, he reminds us, 96 percent of boys and men between 15 and 54 worked at real jobs. That number has dropped to 80 percent today. The New Yorker magazine captured the essence of the "Boomerang Generation" with a cover depicting a young man hanging his Ph.D on the wall of his childhood bedroom, to dismay on the faces of his parents stuck with an unwanted roomer.
There are fewer entry-level jobs in an information-based society, which delays the assumption of responsibility. The result for men from deprived backgrounds is catastrophic. Statistics reflect the woe of young black women who are substantially more educated and economically well-off than young black men, which makes their marriage prospects slim. (In one study, one in five black men born between 1975 and 1979 had been in prison before they reached the age of 34.)
What boys -- and men -- do better than girls and women is playing video games. It's hardly surprising that the most popular first-person shooter games that once drew on heroics from World War II now depict violent fantasies set in the immediate future without an authentic historical context. One of the games appeals to the "soldier in all of us." But the conflicts depicted require neither conceptual nor moral thinking about real conflicts. It's forever playtime.
"Why are there so many boys and men who are irresponsible, unmotivated, unchivalrous, selfish, lazy?" asks Bill Bennett. "Why do so many boys and men spend so much time in pointless and soulless activities inconsiderate of others, absorbed in self or mindless technology?"
He doesn't answer the question, but he gives cause for reflection in one volume with examples of man at work and play, governing, soldiering, praying, demonstrating being responsible for families. The men in the stories are not merely slouching toward technology. Times have changed, he argues, but the need for virtue and character in man has not. That's a tough sell.