Thursday, December 17, 2009

Will America Lose A Generation Of Boys?

While recently reading an article on the purpose of boys in the November/December issue of Scouting magazine by author Sean Mitchell one paragraph caught my attention. Now several weeks later I have continued a struggle to not only understand it's underlying meaning but even more I have become increasingly concerned about the consequences of a future that is clearly neglecting the unique needs of boys. Mr. Mitchell stated, “Obama has started a President’s council on girls and women,” Gurian points out. “So did Bush and so did Clinton. There’s no President’s council on boys and men. We’re still fighting the fight to get people to talk about boys. It’s not an either-or.”

While I don't intend for this blog to become political at first I was surprised to learn that presidents in both major political parties seem to be letting down a generation of boys. After a couple of weeks of thought I realized that this neglect has perhaps been due to an over-reaction from politicians to appear politically correct while innocently attempting to correct generations of injustice. Whatever the reason I would have to stand by the late Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, "that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

With that said it seems apparent to me that both boys and girls should be receiving equal attention to their own unique needs. As for boys, yes they are different and yes they have different needs than those of girls. From a total of 28 years of working with at-risk kids it is clearly apparent to me that boys are first and foremost "action" oriented. It is a fact that boys process what troubles them best when they are busy doing something with their hands or engaged in an action based activity. Whether it's in a school woodshop class building a birdhouse, paddling a canoe, or casting his rod & reel on the lake... boys brains are at their best whenever they are engaged in movement or activity.

Mitchell goes on to say that, "The urgency for boys is that they don’t ruminate and reflect as much as girls do. They don’t set up coherent bonding systems as much as girls do." Although both boys and girls equally need to open up and reflect their experiences with a trusted adult, from my experiences a boy opens up best when they are first engaged in some form of action activity as I mentioned in the last paragraph. While a girl can perhaps reflect best in a quiet, settled environment, a boys mind is at its best when they are busy doing something with their hands.

During this age of information our educational system seems to be much more focused on the maths & sciences when presenting their curriculum for both boys and girls with little or no offerings to the unique needs of boys. In the article Mitchell also mentioned that Gurian, author of The Minds of Boys, which examines why boys are not doing as well as girls in school and how to change that.Without even reading the book I can tell you that what boys need in our current school curriculum is more hands-on learning and school woodshop programs can meet those needs. We're now asking our boys to sit still and listen in a classroom all day long then wonder why they are falling behind. Fortunately there are a few great leaders in a few great schools that clearly understand the action based needs of boys and those administrators are going the extra mile to ensure that students are receiving a well-rounded curriculum but these days that is the exception, not the rule.

At one point in the history of this country a much greater importance was placed upon a hands-on education. If we are going to save the next generation of boys then it is time for the leaders in both political parties to once again understand that both girls and boys have different ways of learning, reflecting, and processing information. Hopefully too there will be more school principals who are willing to make the sacrifices to provide our children with a more "complete" education because only then will no child be left behind.


  1. well said! It is true that boys seem to hate being in class ( I know I did!) And a hands on approach is much more desireable. It's unfortunate that teachers scold boys for misbehaving when they really want to learn just as badly as the girls. I could vent for a while, but I agree that boys seem to get left out in the cold and girls are pampered more because boys ususally are a handful at an early age more so than girls. Everyone's preception is tempered with their own personal experience. S that is just my 2 cents.

  2. Shoot Dave, get with it! You're just supposed to medicate em.....ADS or somethin!?

    This "no child left behind" thing is achieving just the opposite..

    Oh! "spot on" posting!

  3. Ethan: School was tough for me too and almost "nightmarish" at times because it was such a struggle. But of course I never had the benefit of a woodshop program for 12 years either. I guess that's where good parents come in because my dad had a sawmill and a makeshift workshop so perhaps my "hands-on" needs were somehow met.

    That was 40-something years ago when our families were more of the rule rather than the exception. The majority of kids today must deal with broken or single parent homes and more than 70% of black kids don't even have a father in their lives. In my opinion all of those statistics spell nothing less than a national tragedy for our kids and especially boys. Personally I had the benefit of a father who met my needs but today's boys are more on their own... even more the case for school woodshop programs.

    Tom: Yeah I don't think that the "no child left behind" thing is making much of a difference either and it certainly hasn't addressed the natural needs of boys. Seems like we just do more and more "testing" and less and less teaching. While President Bush and Senator Kennedy had the best of intentions I think that we just need to get back to the basics and if the "basics" reflect more of the one-room shcool house then that should be our goal. Of course back in the one-room school house days a boy could bring his pocket knife to school and carve on a stick during those boring lectures. :)

  4. Sorry Dave..I am just getting around to reading your blog. I read the same article and and whole-heartily agreed with the article and your comments. I had the same argument with the local elementary school telling them that what they were doing is detrimental to boys. Have you seen the reading lists for 5th graders?? BORING! I feel in the ATTEMPT to "catch up" girls, boys are being left behind.

    Don't get me started on "No Child Left Behind"...