I’ve been looking forward to reading William Pollack’s Real Boys this summer. I think I’m about one chapter in, and I must admid I find it to be a bit alarmist already. It was quite refreshing to read this article from Time that seems much more objective and makes some good points.
Some high points of the article:
“Only in recent decades have societies seriously begun to unlock the full potential of girls, but the cultivation of boys has been an obsession for thousands of years. “How shall we find a gentle nature which also has a great spirit?” Socrates asked some 2,500 years ago–essentially the same question parents ask today.”
How much of the “boy crisis” is a result of the contrast of women finally getting the opportunities they have always deserved?
Boys overall are holding their own or even improving on standardized tests, she said; they’re just not improving as quickly as girls. And their total numbers in college are rising, albeit not as sharply as the numbers of girls. To Mead, a good-news story about the achievements of girls and young women has been turned into a bad-news story about laggard boys and young men.
When refering to a recent government report…
There’s more to the story, however. That downward slide has leveled off–and in many cases, turned around. Boys today look pretty good compared with their dads and older cousins. By some measures, our boys are doing better than ever.
For all those Paris Hilton culture equating alarmists…
Today’s girls are also doing well by these measures, but their successes in no way diminish the progress of the boys. In fact, together our kids are reversing one of the direst problems of the previous generation: the teen-pregnancy epidemic. According to the new report, fewer than half of all high school boys and girls in 2005 were sexually active. For the boys, that’s a decrease of 10 percentage points from the early 1990s. Boys who are having sex report that they are more responsible about it: 7 in 10 are using condoms, compared with about half in 1993. As a result, teen pregnancy and abortion rates are now at their lowest recorded levels.
And finally, my favorite lines from the article:
But before we go dizzy on cleverness, let’s pull out Occam’s razor and consider a simple possibility: maybe our boys are doing better because we’re paying them more attention. We’re providing for them better; the proportion of children living in poverty is down roughly 2% from a spike in 1993. And we’re giving them more time. Parents–both fathers and mothers–are reordering their priorities to focus on caring for their kids. Several studies confirm this. Sociologists at the University of Michigan have tracked a sharp increase in the amount of time men spend with their children since the 1970s.
What’s your sense on how boys are doing? My sense is that Pollock had a point ten years ago, that to a degree our culture had been emasculated. I also feel that we’ve moved past that, and boys are doing as well as boys have ever done.
Men, young men in particular, as parts of a faith community is a whole new conversation that I think may be an interesting mirror to some of our broader cultural trends.