As I look at my 5-year old son, I hope that I am helping to mold a young man who lives his life with integrity and self-reliance, understanding the value of hard work and good manners and the true self-esteem that only these things can create within a productive life.
I think my wife and I are doing well, being conscious of these things, but as I look around us, what is happening -- what has happened -- to a generation of boys and young men in America is saddening and frightening.
About a month ago, my wife handed me a book and said "you really have to read this." She sounded like she meant it, so I did. She was right.
The book is Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men, by Dr. Leonard Sax.
If you are the parent of a boy under the age of 18 or so, this book is a must read. Really… must read.
Dr. Sax describes and explains how changes in our educational system, such as removing competition and "zero tolerance" policies for even pretending to use fake guns, along with over-prescription of ADHD drugs and -- a particularly damaging aspect of modern life -- over-playing of video games are creating a generation of unmotivated, unaccomplished slackers.
American society, perhaps as an unintended consequence of our 1960s-1980s frenzy of "women's rights," is leaving boys behind.
I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Sax on my radio show recently. Again, if you’re a parent of a boy, it is well worth 40 minutes of your time to listen.
Have you ever had an experience, such as with a new word or new concept, when after the first time you hear it, you then run across it again two or three more times within just a few days?
Although reading Boys Adrift was not the first time I’ve thought about being a good parent, it was the first time I thought deeply about how our current culture is impacting millions of American males soon to reach what should be their most enjoyable and productive years.
But over the following week, I ran into multiple reminders of the lessons of the book, of the longer-term consequences of an anti-boy culture on America’s future men and on our nation itself.
First, at a recent event, I heard Andrea Tantaros of Fox News' The Five speak. She touched briefly on this topic and mentioned how hard it has been for her -- a smart, accomplished, and attractive 34-year-old woman -- to find a quality guy to date. I suppose that's good news for high-quality men, but as we see males becoming smaller and smaller percentages of college students, and larger and large percentages of college drop-outs, as we see 20-somethings sitting in parents' basements playing video games, the situation inspires fear for our nation's future, both economically and culturally.
These changes in higher education can turn into a self-reinforcing problem if women’s perception of American men leads them to believe that career is a better opportunity than family. With the plunging odds of finding a quality man, a man who can adequately support a family and also be an excellent husband and role model for children, the single, career-minded life becomes a better bet for American women. And intentional single motherhood becomes a more rational choice, although I wonder if most single moms know just how important it is for their sons to have exposure to good male role models -- something a woman, by definition, simply can't be.
A decline in birth rate, especially among the most educated and most wealthy sector of American society, bodes ill for our nation's prospects of remaining the envy of the world.
I was reminded again of the idea of men acting like "real men," rather than like spoiled children or sitcom characters, by a column by Steven Crowder. Steven is best-known for his hilarious-while-insightful videos, but he recently penned a piece entitled "Be a Real Man, and Honor Your Wife!" which I encourage you all to read.
I have to admit: I have very rarely bad-mouthed my wife to a friend, but Steven's column made me feel quite bad about the count-on-one-hand number of times I've done it -- because I know he's absolutely right. And while even his serious work is funny, Crowder's article should be widely shared and its admonition appreciated by women and men alike.
But perhaps the most dramatic illustration of the relative decline in the strength of men versus women came in visiting the Colorado State Capitol to report on testimony before State Senate committees regarding a raft of anti-gun legislation being foisted on Colorado by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his useful Democrat tools in my state's legislature.
Sure, there were a lot of men (and women) around wearing “I’m pro-gun and I vote” stickers. Most of them were over 40 years old, and many were over sixty. And the state sheriffs, who were uniformly (if you'll pardon the pun) excellent witnesses against the various bills, were all men -- men whose planned pay increases are now being threatened by Democrats.
(Mark Kelly, the astronaut husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), was sadly not a great role model as he testified for the Democrats' radical gun restrictions while claiming to be a supporter of the Second Amendment. When questioned, he did not know the details of the bill he was testifying for. Astonishingly, Capt. Kelly’s testimony in Denver was given the day after he reportedly purchased an AR-15 rifle with "high-capacity" (liberal-speak for standard capacity) magazines and a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. Does anybody believe Kelly when he suggests he bought the “assault rifle” just to prove how easy it was to buy? When American astronauts can’t be counted on as role models, you know something is wrong with the country. But I digress...)
The most effective and bravest testimony that day in Denver came from young women, including two rape victims (Amanda Collins testimony here, radio interviews with Amanda and with Kim Weeks here) and the daughter of a woman who was murdered by the last person to be executed in Colorado (more than 15 years ago).
The courage and strength shown in their testimony was not only remarkable in its own right, but highlighted for me the absence of similarly strong, principled, and articulate young men.
Our nation's future depends on men acting as men should act. Women are great, and women are equal to or better than men in many aspects, but not in every aspect. There are things that (in most cases) only men can do and, more importantly, there are things men should do.
Men should be strong yet well-mannered, courageous without being boastful, protective without making a woman feeling incapable. This is of course far from a complete list, and each person will have his or her own priorities and values. But men should be what good men by nature are, not what a radical-feminist gender-neutral zero-tolerance ADHD-overdiagnosing Xbox-addled society is turning the next generation of American males into.
Through an overzealous feminism which abandoned boys in a supposed effort to boost girls, through political correctness, a leftist educational establishment, and a horribly damaging-to-boys psychology-pharmacology complex, America has created a functional analog to China’s demographic problem.
The “one child” policy in China resulted in the murder or abandonment of millions, perhaps tens of millions, of female Chinese infants and children over several decades, leaving a country with far more men than women and a tremendous challenge for their future. There are not enough women for the men to marry in order to sustain adequate population growth (and there is almost zero immigration into China). As I heard someone once say, China may grow old before it grows rich.
American society has not caused the preferential murder of boys, but the factors mentioned above have created a generation of young men who are less productive, less ambitious, less marriage-worthy, less interested in doing anything that is of more than the smallest benefit to themselves or to society.
To be clear, I am not talking about doing something with the specific purpose of benefiting society, but rather having a job or a family or anything else that would tend to benefit the nation indirectly. Indeed, to the extent that more young adult Americans are spending their weekdays in volunteer work or "community service" I would suggest that is a sign of cultural decay (and lack of economic opportunity) rather than progress, of irresponsiblity rather than the hard work and psychological and economic risk of being judged by the brutally honest free market. Rather than a symbiotic relationship with the country, we have a large cohort of young men who should be the foundation of our nation's future but are instead little more than parasites.
So whereas men can’t find women in China, young adult women struggle to find young adult men, at least men worth finding, in the United States.
But the primary blame for these boys not living up to their potential does not lie with the boys themselves. It takes a truly unusual person to escape by his own efforts the educational and cultural quicksand into which so many American boys are being casually tossed.
The only solution to the disaster that is befalling our nation's boys is good parenting. The same forces which are, even if mostly unintentionally, causing the intellectual and emotional atrophy of these boys have purposefully endeavored to replace parents with teachers, school counselors, coaches, psychologists, and every other poor substitute from the "it takes a village" faction of the American left.
Just as liberals believe Americans are too stupid to make our own economic or health or soda size decisions, they also believe we are too stupid to properly parent our children. And just as with everything else in life, if something is everybody's responsibility, it is nobody's responsibility -- despite the concern of many truly caring teachers, principals, and others who are not our children's parents.
While those who incessantly beat the "it takes a village drum" are partly responsible for causing many parents to shirk their most important duty, American adults must also look in the mirror when seeking someone to blame for the rude, slothful slacker playing Xbox in the basement who feels that stealing a virtual car and murdering a virtual prostitute or policeman is the greatest satisfaction life can offer.
Parents, especially of boys, take control! Be a parent, not your kid's best friend. Create and enforce boundaries. Limit video games, both in time and content. Don't look in a pill bottle for answers. Don't fear competition, even aggressive competition, or the use of plastic or imaginary guns. And perhaps most importantly, recognize that words are cheap, and that your children will internalize what you do, not what you say.
Having an unmotivated, unproductive, fundamentally unhappy son is a difficult and sad situation for a family. Having a generation of them is a disaster for a nation.