Boys Being Boys: The Redefinition of Boyhood in American Schools

Posted on May 28, 2014 in Sexuality by

boys playing armyI think we can all agree that I’m no expert in sociology, psychology, or even gender studies. I’m just a guy that reads hundreds of news headlines each week in an effort to study and learn more about the culture I live in. I’m no Dr. Keith Ablow, I’m not even Dr. Phil for that matter – though I’m pretty sure I could fill in for him without much trouble.

So when experts like Christina Hoff-Summers starts talking, I start listening. Hoff-Summers is the resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and she has a serious message for America: Let boys be boys!

That might sound like a silly old cliché but more and more it is becoming a battle cry for many parents at odds with a society that wants their boys to behave like girls.

I’m not saying that people want boys to wear dresses and sport some well applied make-up. I’m talking about the effort to “reform” the behavior of boys so that it resembles that of girls. In other words, we’re taking the macho out of our boys and replacing it with feminine characteristics.

In a recent video for the American Enterprise Institute and Prager University, Hoff-Summers explains the problem taking place in schools regarding boys and their behavior:

“Being a normal boy is a serious liability in today’s classroom…our schools have little patience for what only a few decades ago would have been described as boyishness.”

Hmm…boyishness. You mean like making noises with various body parts, playing war using hands as guns and throwing fake grenades, finding insects from outside to strategically place around the classroom, and having more energy than all the girls in the school combined? Is that the boyishness she is referring to?

If that’s what Hoff-Summers is talking about them yes, there is a problem in our schools. This kind of “behavior” from boys is being stamped out as inappropriate, or even dangerous. (Remember the boy that was suspended for eating his pop-tart into the shape of a gun?)

Hoff-Summers points out that girls behavior in school is treated like the gold standard, boys are treated like defective girls.

That might be one of the most pointed, perceptive, and pathetic statements I’ve ever read. The fact that it’s true is sad, and yet the reality of the statement cannot be ignored. Boys are indeed held to the same standard as girls and when they don’t “measure up” they are criticized. Somewhere along the way our society forgot the inherent differences in boys and girls that make us uniquely separate sexes. Then again, there is an effort to make sexuality into some fluid attribute that has no real meaning. The only way to do that is to start when boys and girls are young and “educate” them to believe that androgyny is far better than having two distinctly different sexes.

But when boys are raised to be girls under the guise of correcting some perceived social ill you can bet that many more social ills will be the result. The case of David Reimer is a sad and targeted example of what happens when a society seeks to force boys to live against the nature instilled in them as boys. (The same goes for little girls.) A recent article about Reimer ends with this chilling statement:

“David Reimer’s traumatic life and horrific death testify that no matter what elaborate theories the unscrupulous attempt to justify in the name of science, nature will always have the upper hand, often at the expense of human life.”

Why are we seeking to repress the innate characteristics that make us biologically different as males and females rather than celebrating them? For centuries the inherent differences between men and women have been emphasized as unique and special. But lately it seems that certain groups within our culture want to eliminate those differences.

I suppose the feminist movement is partly to blame. That movement constantly demonizes the differences between sexes and pushes the message that there is no difference between male and female. I will gladly grant that there is no difference in our value and worth as human beings. But to say, as a woman, “anything you can do I can do better” is simply a rejection of biological truth. If you don’t believe me then put the WNBA’s top athletes against the NBA’s top athletes and let’s see who wins; every time. The men of the NBA will win every single time because they are bigger, taller, have better hand-eye coordination, and possess physical skills that are simply not present in women. Go ahead, consider the illustration and see if I’m right.

It’s not sexist to make that analogy or utter those statements, it’s a matter of biological fact. Men and woman are different physically, biologically, and in many other ways that should be celebrated rather than demonized. (By the way, why is the feminist movement not leading the charge against sex-selective abortions worldwide?)

Knowing how out of touch our schools have become regarding what is best for girls and boys I am thankful my kids are home schooled. No one knows better how to teach our kids according to their unique personalities and attributes better than my wife and I. Is it any wonder that home school kids tend to test better, score better, graduate earlier, excel, and achieve academically far superior to their public school counter-parts?

In seeking to correct what is hurting our kids – especially boys – in public schools, Christina Hoff-Summers has four suggestions:

First, turn boys into readers. Schools can do this by giving boys reading material that interest them. No little boys wants to read Pride and Prejudice (I still don’t want to); but they will read about knights, pirates, super heroes, and sports.

Second, inspire their imagination. Let boys be the creative forces they naturally are with classroom activities that allow them to use their imagination. Rather than be concerned when a little boy chews his pop-tart into a gun, recognize the creativity in it and encourage further creative works. Who knows, he could be the next Michelangelo.

Third, get rid of zero-tolerance policies. I couldn’t agree more. Zero-tolerance policies sound good in board rooms and on campaign trails, but they fail in the class room. Every child is different and in need of personalized instruction – especially when behavior and discipline are part of the equation.

Last, bring back recess. Some of my fondest memories happened on the playground. Modern schools believe this is a waste of time and, gasp, someone’s feelings could be hurt. And yet kids naturally learn to interact and socialize on the playground. People worry about my kids learning to socialize because they are home schooled. Public schools aren’t much better. Let’s give boys a chance to be boys and burn off some energy while they use their creativity to invent playground games.

Boys aren’t’ girls, and they shouldn’t be treated like girls. Our schools, and society in general, needs to remember what it means to be a boy and quit trying to redefine it. Some of the greatest men in history were normal boys that no one thought would amount to much. Perhaps if we let boys be boys we will raise up a generation of men know how to be men, husbands, and fathers.

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