Boys most definitely should be allowed to be boys…and they could grow up more mentally and emotionally healthy…if government schools would stop trying to force boys — whether by the use of drugs, or the use of punishments — to act like girls. To better understand the destructive treatment of boys in today’s society, I highly recommend The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers. Our culture is greatly harming our boys and creating problems that will germinate and grow to proportions unseen since Jack and the Beanstalk.
Jack. Remember him? Sent on an important errand to sell the family cow….which he did do…but for a handful of beans. Boys are sometimes like that, but fewer and fewer teachers appreciate boy-like behaviors, thoughts, perceptions and ways of approaching the world. What a shame, for boys are such fun. Boys are so refreshing. Boys, when allowed to be boys, are so unlike girls, and that is right and as it should be. Boys tend to be more loyal — less into tattling; more transparent — less into emotional game playing; more outspoken — less into pouting; more honest — less into manipulating.
One is never sure what a boy will pull out of a pocket, and I have been surprised, shocked or repulsed on many occasions. The latest pocket treasures are pretty safe, being these ‘hacky-sacks’ that the boys use to develop physical dexterity and eye/hand coordination. Those who believe that the boys are purposefully trying to antagonize teachers have it all wrong. Look beyond the fact that the boys are blocking the halls as they kick those little bags of sand (?), endangering any nearby glass — doors, trophy cases, eyewear — and realize that boys need to be physically and mentally active.
When the culture was healthier and more trusting of individuals, the boys carried their jackknives to school and tossed them in games such as “Mumbly-Peg”; dug circles in the sand for a game of marbles; carried shotguns to school and stored them in their lockers, eagerly anticipating an after school hunting expedition.
The current schooling culture, in conjunction with the Homeland Detention Act, has put an end to boys being allowed to be boys. This nation will someday reel under the full impact of the problems the society and the schools are currently creating.
Our boys need to have their ‘boy’ needs met. They certainly do not need to be drugged into a stupor so they will sit quietly, whisper, and stay out of the teacher’s hair. They need to be kept away from the TV and taught to read early so that their imaginations and interests can be stimulated by a variety of books. They need to be challenged in school and life, and to be given fine male role models to emulate.
To really understand what boys need, I recommend books by Michael Gurian: A Fine Young Man: What Parents, Mentors and Educators Can Do to Shape Adolescent Boys into Exceptional Men and The Good Son: Shaping the Moral Development of Our Boys and Young Men.
Boys need competition! They need competitive academics, as well as competitive sports. Not every boy wishes to be part of organized athletic programs, but may haul a baseball mitt to school if encouraged to participate in ‘sandlot’ competition after school. Classroom lessons have become completely boring for boys. Lots of worksheets. No spelling bees. No geography competition. No races or challenge towards learning math facts. No difficult oral questioning. There is little chance for our boys ‘to excel’ at much of anything in schools that are hell bent on ‘being fair’ to everyone. Blah. Boring. Defeating.
SPIRITUAL DEATH BY DEFAULT
Special education classes generally have more boys than girls, and often by a rather large ratio. Of the five classes that I teach, two are made up entirely of boys! I believe that too often our boys end up in special education classrooms because schools are absolutely failing to meet the needs — especially the early needs — of our boys. If we are not going to nourish boyish minds, spirits and need for competition, how can we expect boys to grow up and become strong, confident, capable men?
Some of my favorite memories are of interactions with unique boys. Long ago and far away I taught a teen who would become so involved in class discussions that he would thrust his chair forward, then backward, bodily and theatrically stressing his points or confirming comprehension. Our dedicated custodian grew weary of repeatedly waxing that portion of the floor and voiced complaint. I resolved the issue by having the boy switch chairs with me. Remaining seated in my rolling chair, he would roll over and open a window; roll back to his table; even roll out into the hall, lean against the wall and — through the doorway — observe my hands as I taught in American Sign Language. I would ask unexpected questions, but never caught him being inattentive. So, I let him roll through my literature classes and he had the highest score on every test. Had I ordered that boy to “sit still!” or begged his parents to put him on drugs, I would have destroyed the essence of a very intelligent and unique human being. Yet teachers do exactly that to boys every day; often beginning with the boy’s entry into kindergarten.
That is not to say that I never ask my boys to sit still and pay attention, for I do have those expectations. I hate fidgeting, tapping, and ‘repetitive noises.’ The boys know that, and try hard to not distract my teaching. However, I only demand bodies-at-rest when I am teaching stimulating lessons that actively engage minds so that the boys can have busyness take place in those brains!
Some boys just need to move and are unable to control it. I coach those boys in making small body movements to relieve their stress, rather than large muscle motion. I teach them to quietly drum their fingers, or to swing a foot, or tap a toe. I have a ‘worry stone’ and teach boys to move a thumb — around and around in the indentation.
However, I have found that the most effective strategy is…to teach them to read!! The act of learning to read not only provides a lift to their spirits, it provides strategies and opportunities for further learning, and seems to help rewire the brain. Logical thought can proceed. The boy can quiet his body and let his brain be active. If we do not get our boys thinking we are going to have them moving.
We must support our boys and demand that they be allowed to behave as males are programmed to behave. If your boys are being nagged, over-managed and drugged to make life quieter in the classroom; if teachers are unwilling to provide the kind of instruction that boys need; it is time to shop for schooling alternatives. Bring your boys home and let fathers play a major role in the homeschooling! Your boys will be the better for it. Throughout history, boys have spent their days with their fathers — working, playing, observing how to become capable, honorable and wise — men, husbands, and fathers.
Government schooling then spoiled everything by forcing the boys to leave home. Now schools order boys to sit nicely like girls. What will be next…patent leather “Mary Jane” lace-up shoes that boys will be expected to keep neat and shiny? Not with my son, they don’t! Better that he have school at home, then head for the garage where he becomes greasy, grimy and sweaty — as he learns male skills and pursues male interests. It is healthier for him, by far!
Unless your physician can make a very strong case for medicating your sons, carefully consider the disadvantages and potential harm of allowing your boys to be drugged. Let your boys be boys, but guide and counsel them wisely. Limit television and closely supervise their choices in friends, books and activities. Demand that the schools teach them expertly; insuring that boys become early and skilled readers who are interested in books of all kinds.
Insist that the schools allow competitive and imaginative play and that they provide boys with academic challenge and competition. Expect the schools to provide wise role models, and to assign boys to teachers who really appreciate and enjoy boys. Request that at least one of your boy’s teachers have a good sense of humor. During some days, humor makes all the difference, for everyone involved in the raising of boys. God love ‘em…because some days they push the rest of us almost to the breaking point…even those of us who love boys.
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] lives in Michigan. She is a free-lance writer and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.