Boys aren't doing well.
“The majority of our African American and Hispanic boys drop out of high school.”
Boys don't read well. In fact, girls outperform boys in reading in every state and at every level -- elementary, middle, and high school.
This is how Swagger by Lisa Bloom begins. With the shocking reality that boys are in trouble. Bloom, author of Think, mother of two, lawyer, and legal analyst for Avvo.com, suggests 10 rules to guide us but also warns us that boys are struggling -- in many areas.
Dads Called Out
As far as reading goes, Bloom writes that boys commonly think "that reading is for girls – only girls.” Do boys ever see their dads reading? Probably not. If they see an adult reading, it is usually a mom, a female teacher, or a female librarian.
Dads -- what's up with that?
Oh, and while you're getting called out, here's another concerning fact -- American men spend a weekly average of 3 hours watching sports on TV. How many hours a week do these dads play sports with their sons? (It's not 3 hours, I can tell you that!) And, no, watching sports on the couch doesn't count as either bonding or exercise.
No way, you protest?
Funny you should say that because another problem Bloom writes about is how both boys and men in our country rate themselves way over their actual abilities and intelligence levels. Bloom calls this swagger – and says it’s giving boys a “false sense of security” when they are not “all that.” Boys need parents to help them see reality, recognize the work to be done, the self-esteem that must be earned, and teach them to be humble. And yes, it probably is you.
Popular Music Teaches What?
Have you listened to your son's music lately? "Today's artists are selling brutality, misogyny, and homophobia on an audacious scale. . . . To be clear: the ugly messages are coming not from fringe . . . The top-selling artists of our day peddle this," writes Bloom. Plus, she gets very specific with the artists' names and their lyrics. I suggest you read her lists and check it against your kids' iTunes playlists. Here's a few lines from a popular Jay-Z and Kanye West song called "Monster":
"Everybody knows I'm a m-f#*ing monster
Conquer, stop ya, stop your silly nonsense . . .
Rape and pillage a village, women and children."
Did he just glorify rape? Is your child singing about raping women and children?
These are the values, writes Bloom, that music is spewing -- teaching all the wrong lessons to our boys.
But, There's More
Swagger,10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug Culture doesn't leave us hopeless. Bloom gives us ten rules, each rule with it's own chapter, to help raise boys. It's a book dense with thought-provoking content; topics like media literacy, teaching respect for women and girls, traveling, expecting college, drugs and jail, and jobs in a bad economy.
Reading this horrified me yet also made me encouraged. It doesn't have to stay this bad. We can make a difference. Each of us.
How fast will you be racing to buy this book?
Tell me in the comments -- what do you think is the most pressing concern for boys right now in the United States?