"The male population is divided into two massive groups: barbaric rowdies who don’t understand responsibility and wimpy, spineless, sniveling little brats who just want another mommy. You too rarely find men who are in between," Dr. Terrence Moore, professor of history at Hillsdale College, told Townhall.
Aiming to combat this trend, Moore recently authored a novel: "The Perfect Game." Last week, he was in Washington, D.C., speaking about (and signing copies of) his book at Hillsdale’s Kirby Center – an extension of Hillsdale college that aims to bring the institution's valued principles to Capitol Hill through lectures and internships.
Rather than a non-fiction prose argument, Moore said he chose the medium of fiction for reasons that date back to Plato: "Plato was right, the poets control the world. One of the biggest challenges is recovering our politics at the policy level, but also recovering our culture. And you can’t recover a culture without good stories."
The novel is set during Reagan's presidency and through the eyes of a young Texan. This boy – and his baseball prowess – are a metaphor for the path to manhood.
The sport of baseball was an intentional choice: "Baseball requires a lot of heart and a lot of mind, the equivalent of moving chess," said Moore, adding, "I’m also not a soccer man at all, so I’m trying to reclaim the country a little bit for baseball."
Moore has a specific task for this character: to revive the idea of a hero. "Reagan made the point that not only is government not the answer, but also that it’s an era of heroes. Rather than anti-heroes in books like 'Catcher in the Rye,' this is meant to be a book about a real hero. A positive hero. He isn’t perfect and has some growing up to do, but he’s always struggling to do what’s right,” said Moore.
An ingredient to this hero is proper masculinity, which Moore feels begins in boyhood.
Moore argues that America has a "man problem." Male achievement is on the decline and extended adolescence is on the rise. It’s easy to criticize a social problem, it’s harder to diagnose and cure a social ill. But Moore, who has thoroughly pondered this issue of male identity, also puts his ideas into practice. Prior to joining the faculty at Hillsdale, Moore ran a charter school in Colorado. "You could say my daytime job is that of a school reformer," laughed Moore, who sees education as a large component of the problem.
Given the choice, Moore would have schools resemble the one that Winston Churchill attended: one of generous competition. This fits with boys' nature, which he sees as competitive and hierarchical. Consider spelling bees. "Even the kid in the class that’s awful at spelling will be like 'yes!' because they want to see who wins," he said. Opposed to a modern school system that deemphasizes grades and awards for fear of hurting feelings, Moore holds that competition is what will motivate boys to enjoy something they wouldn't otherwise enjoy.
Eliminating war from schools is another flaw in the education system, said Moore. A former Marine, he is ready to admit that war is not pretty and no humane man wants to go to war. "But human excellence is manifested in war," he said. "When there’s a struggle, courageous men have to take the field to defend their countries. Boys recognize that excellence and want to find it in themselves, but they can’t if you strip war out of the curriculum."
Moore sees a war-less curriculum as an incomplete curriculum: "To what extent has American history been shaped by war? How many presidents have been generals? How important were the battles of the civil war?"
Education is not the only culprit, though. Moore contends that political movements have also played a role in what he calls the "unmanning of America."
"The first wave of the unmanning of America was probably in the 60’s. It’s the time when gender roles were first questioned, and a false kind of women’s equality was promoted, not the good kind – but a betrayal of manhood in order to make women happy. But of course, what happened, is that none of the women were happy. They liked real men. And it gave men a license to be scumbags," said Moore.
Far from opposed to female achievement, Moore applauds the increase in high-achieving, educated women – but he is also concerned about men falling behind: "Women outnumber men on campuses. They have higher GPAs, probably are the editors of the school paper, they're involved in more activities and even playing most of the sports. So you wonder what men are doing. The answer is, probably playing video games. Then you look at the long-term questions that are at stake here: how can women possibly be happy in a world of video-game-playing wastrels? Who are these smart, college-educated women going to marry? Their equals? Probably not."
Referencing an article by David Brooks, Moore laments the fact that one fifth of working-age men aren't working. "That's disturbing," he said, "Men are doing everything they can to avoid responsibility, and the sad fact is that's a creation of the progressive state."
But in addition to education and political shifts, Moore identifies a third culprit: culture. "Families don't really exist as an institution anymore, and even when they do they’re not giving boys any responsibility. That’s not the result of a progressive society, it’s the result of a saggy culture. Boys don’t have that inclination to work, and it’s because they haven’t been asked," he said.
Moore has the ideas, the arguments, the first-hand experience and the research. With them he tells a story – a story that paints a positive hero full of heart and drive. He estimates that children in their early teens would be able to comprehend and enjoy "The Perfect Game," but he did note that, "It wasn't written for children any more than 'Tom Sawyer' was – it's for adults too."
This post was authored by Mary Crookston