They say there’s a boy crisis in America. Worldwide really. And I wasn’t sure I believed it. How could I? I mean, I raise two boys, I take them to school, I cook all the meals in the house, I am college educated, I have a successful job as a mechanical engineer. I’m aware to lead by example, I show up, I listen, I try to laugh.
But as so often is the case, we can’t see past our own noses. And if you research gender issues for a living, you rely on this thing called data. And that needs to be important in shaping both public policy and our personal opinions.
And Dr. Warren Farrell has written many books on these kinds of things. And I’m not advocating agreeing or disagreeing with him. I don’t know enough, but I know that his data says, worldwide, “boys are 50 percent less likely than girls to meet basic proficiency in reading, math, and science.”
And it’s a crisis of education. It’s a crisis of mental health. It’s a crisis of fathering. It’s a crisis of purpose.
And I want to latch onto that last one. A crisis of purpose.
Even for the most open-minded among us, we don’t exist in a vacuum, we take our childhood and our schooling and it shapes us to this day. And even if I understand that men don’t have to be breadwinners, most every story read in my youth was of men being a warrior, a leader, a detective, an athlete, but otherwise a winner.
It’s another case of environment creating reality. I’ve talked about environment before. It’s so important. If your environment is pizza and cookies – you’ll eat pizza and cookies. If your environment is Harry Potter stories (and you’re a young boy), you’ll expect yourself to be a hero who saves the world. People complain that there’s too much political correctness in the world, but a world where “Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History” –that’s a book on lesser known history making women. A world where that’s required reading will actually do some good in the world. For all of political correctness problems – we must acknowledge that there are benefits too.
So over the next weeks, months or years, don’t let others define your boy’s future. Reject the heroes of the past and show them the heroes of the present – whoever you think those are. Think female heroes.
Another extremely simple step is to read some of the very popular stories by Ezra Jack Keats. Read the story of Peter and you’ll begin to see where the author’s life and commitment to anti-Semitism as the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York – shines through.