scouts-l Mail Archive for June of 2000: More fuel on the fire?
Bob Rosebrough GBL B-200 (rosebro@LPSI.BARC.USDA.GOV
Wed Jun 21 2000 - 08:54:00 CDT
>From Bob Rosebrough
ASM Troop 601
It's a bad time to
be a boy in America
"BOYS WILL BE BOYS" used to be accepted wisdom. Now, it's the equivalent
of a four letter word.
So argues Christina Hoff Sommers, American Enterprise Institute scholar
and author of "Who Stole Feminism?" in her provocative new book, "The War
Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men"
"It's a bad time to be a boy in America," opens Sommers in her much
She shows how more and more of our education elites consider traditional
boyishness a sort of social pathology. Competitiveness? Individualism?
Raw, exuberant energy? All Bad. Cooperation, talking about feelings, and
peaceful play -- the traits of the boys' sisters -- are more virtuous.
This, Sommers says, is dangerously coupled with the powerful myth it's
the girls who are suffering in today's society. Sommers shows how
activist groups like the American Association of University Women (AAUW),
and "girl-crisis" advocates like Carol Gilligan (professor of "gender
studies" at Harvard) and writers like psychologist Mary Pipher, author of
the best-selling girl-crisis book extraordinaire, "Reviving Ophelia,"
have successfully force-fed the American public the notion that it's
girls who are being overlooked and shortchanged in the schools and who
suffer from "low self-esteem."
As Gilligan says, "As the river of a girl's life flows into the sea of
Western culture, she is in danger of drowning or disappearing."
What baloney, argues Sommers, noting that a range of scholarly research
shows no such thing. In fact, as a group girls get better grades in
school than boys. They have higher educational aspirations and follow a
more rigorous academic program, including prestigious advanced placement
courses. Nationwide, those shy overlooked girls outnumber boys on school
newspapers, student government, and even in debating clubs, and for years
have made up a significant majority of America's college freshman class.
Conversely, "Boys are three times as likely as girls to be enrolled in
special education programs and four times as likely to be diagnosed with
attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder," finds Sommers. They are more
likely to be involved in drugs and crime, to kill themselves and to
drop-out of school or be expelled.
Meanwhile, the "gender gap" by which girls trail boys in math and science
is closing, but the far greater "gender gap" by which boys trail girls by
1.5 years in reading and math and science is closing, but the far greater
"gender gap" by which boys trail girls by 1.5 years in reading and 3
years in writing isn't getting any narrower.
But focusing on the needs of boys doesn't help the cause of feminist
victimhood much. Yet, Sommers says, while it's not a crisis, the
legitimate problems facing many boys are finally becoming more obvious to
parents and communities, if not educators and our elite. So, Sommers
shows, the "girl-advocates" have come up with an answer to that - "boys
need to be more like girls" you see.
These folks want boys to play "nicely" (no crashing noises or
competition, please) to sit still, and for heavens sake to stop running
around with those pretend guns. So one teacher's guide sponsored by the
Education Department suggested a game of tag where "no one is ever out."
Typical of such "experts," says Sommers, is William Pollack, codirector
of the Center for Men at McLean Hospital at Harvard, who made a big
splash in the popular culture with his best-selling "Real Boys." Pollack,
Sommers says, attributes pathology to even all those normal boys out
there. So it's no surprise he calls for nothing short of changing "the
way boys are raised - in our homes, in our schools and in society."
All of this would be laughable, of course, if this dogma didn't so infuse
our schools and elite culture. And if there weren't a volatile, dangerous
situation that does face many American boys. But there, Sommers says,
it's not about their inherent "maleness." It's about a dearth of moral
guidance, which for boys in particular can have tragic consequences. She
notes that for years our culture has abdicated its task of recognizing
the unique characteristics of boys and of properly and ethically
training, disciplining, directing, and channeling them so that they can
safely navigate from a healthy and normal boyhood into a moral and
(Optimistically, she notes that Great Britain has in recent years
responded to the learning and developmental differences between boys and
girls, with great success.)
As a mother of daughters and a son I agree with Sommers. It would be
better for boys and girls everywhere if we again recognize the simple
wisdom of the ages, that boys need to be civilized -- not feminized.