On behalf of American society, I need to offer a sincere apology. We have let you down, and you have every right to be angry.
We learned last week that for the first time in history, American girls earned more graduate degrees than boys.
In and of itself, it’s not a bad thing. Boys and girls are equals in intelligence and ability, so there should be just as many female doctors, lawyers and professors as males. My fear, however, is that this trend will continue — that girls will keep achieving more and more, and boys will be left farther and farther behind.
I spent much of the last 20 years teaching first- and second-year college students, and I came away with concerns about the future.
Generally speaking, the girls I taught were focused, confident, and realistically ambitious.
The boys, on the other hand, came across as bombastic, closed-minded, lazy or lost. Some were slackers, content with poor performance. Others had a chip on their shoulder about minorities — pitying themselves as victims of “reverse discrimination.” Many spent a lot of time playing video games — an activity once associated with children, not men.
Video games are just one symbol of our society’s bigger problem with boys. When they’re not doing thumb exercises, boys are turning the rest of their bodies into cartoons — puffing themselves up, primping in front of mirrors, decorating themselves with jewelry, wearing crooked hats and oversized clothes that make them look like giant toddlers. They shave off every vestige of masculinity and adulthood, turning themselves into tattooed Ken dolls — handsome, buff, dumb as a rock. Blind and hairless as day-old mice, they need 1,000 cc’s between their legs to feel like men.
You can see it on the pages of the paper. Girls play in the band, join the speech team, make the honor roll. Boys limp along.
This is where the apology comes in, because we, their parents and grandparents, have created this situation, mostly with good intentions.
Several decades ago we collectively realized that girls had been held back, their ambitions stifled over the course of centuries. To compensate, we changed our message.
Educators, parents and politicians started telling girls that they could accomplish anything they set their minds to, and they rose to the challenge.
Title IX gave girls and young women athletic opportunities they never had, and they learned to love competition, teamwork, and achievement.
In many ways, things haven’t changed enough. Women still earn, on average, less than 80 percent of what men make per hour of work. Media still portray women as sex objects, and many women still define themselves, their worth, and their roles in men’s terms, through men’s eyes.
While the focus has been on encouraging and empowering girls, boys have been ignored and forgotten. We’ve assumed that they’d be fine. Boys are innately confident, competent and competitive. Aren’t they?
Sadly, no. Many boys lack all three, and even those who have plenty of ambition still need encouragement, focus and discipline to be fulfilled and make a contribution.
Boys need to be told that there’s more to being men than driving fancy trucks and killing virtual villains. In the Neverland of the 20th century, Peter Pan could get by on charm, and we were none the poorer. But we’ve got real dangers ahead, and boys, we’re gonna need your help.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Mille Lacs Messenger.