This week we’re back with Law & Liberty, for Brenda M. Hafera’s article Our Lost Boys. This is an issue that has prompted a lot of thought with me lately; as a man with three (so far) grandsons, I’ve been more than a little concerned about the culture they’re growing up in. Read the whole article. A few excerpts, with my thoughts, follow.
Identity politics leftists tend to portray all masculinity as toxic. They do not have a vision of what healthy masculinity looks like, and are likely incapable of providing one, given that they deny there are differences between men and women and reject a conception of virtue grounded in an unchangeable human nature.
On the other hand, male advocacy often devolves into the discordant. Conservatives can sometimes fall into the trap of delivering sweeping generalizations about rigid gender roles that make constructive conversation impossible. Some writers even stoop to bombastic so-called “solutions” like an author in Crisis magazine who wrote: “We should do one really sound and sensible thing: take away women’s right to vote.”
Neither of these (as Ms. Hafera points out) are tenable strategies. The fact is, both sides fall into their own ridiculous sweeping generalizations, and both sides are generally wrong when they do so.
According to The Boy Crisis, written by political scientist Warren Farrell and counselor John Gray, the primary driver of the boy crisis is the absence of strong fathers and male role models in the community (single-sex spaces can help offset the missing example of a parent). Almost every school shooter is a dad-deprived boy, and such boys “are more likely to be addicted to drugs, video games, opioids, and online porn, more likely to be depressed, withdrawn and to commit suicide, they are even more likely to have their life expectancy shortened.”
Personally I think this is a big part of the problem facing American boys today. I was indeed fortunate to have a strong and strong-willed father, who taught me the meaning of masculinity, respect, integrity, honor and the value of a good work ethic. The Old Man was a hell of a great role model. He’s been gone for five years this month, and I am still am and always will be trying to live up to him.
Boys need this. All children need fathers, of course; they need good role models in both parents. But boys in particular do better when they have strong, honest fathers in their lives.
In Men Without Work, American Enterprise Institute political economist Nicholas Eberstadt details how men of prime working age are willingly unemployed and spending a great deal of time looking at screens.
I think this is more a symptom than a cause. See my comments above; a strong father, imbuing in his sons a strong work ethic and sense of familial honor (a man, first and foremost, provides for his family) would reduce this.
In The War Against Boys, Christina Hoff Sommers, a senior fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute, raised the alarm over 20 years ago about our education system. She wrote, “Boys today bear the burden of several powerful cultural trends: a therapeutic approach to education that valorizes feelings and denigrates competition and risk, zero-tolerance policies that punish normal antics of young males, and a gender equity movement that views masculinity as predatory.”
In this Ms. Sommers makes a good point: Education in the United States has been deteriorating for some time. There have always been problems; I went to a small-town Eastern Iowa high school that focused primarily on preparing young men to be either good farmers or to hold jobs on the assembly line at John Deere on one of the other large local manufacturers. My high school experience yielded me very little, with a couple of rare exceptions, one being an American Literature teacher who got me interested in reading great books and my time as the opinion editor of our high school newspaper, which at the time seemed a lot like giving a maniac a loaded gun (boy howdy did I start a lot of yelling matches) but it seemed to have prepared me well for doing, well, this.
As I said, read the whole article. But I can sum up things like this:
Raise your sons to be men. Teach them the value of liberty, honor, integrity, fortitude, courage, knowledge, and work. Teach them that nobody owes them anything, and that if they want something, they had best be ready to work for it. Teach them that money in and of itself is nothing, but the manner in which you earn money – through honest work, production and trade – is everything. Teach them to care for and provide for their families when the time comes.
Those are the lessons that matter. And they are the ones that too many boys aren’t getting.
As I mentioned, I have three (so far) grandsons. I’m glad that their parents are raising them to be men. I’m glad that I still have a part to play in that as well. I’m glad that, in looking back at the Old Man and his life, that he would have approved.