1/21/09

Opinions and Rants #8: Boys Will Always Be Boys

I feel like it's been too long since my last rant, so here comes one that has bothered me for quite some time - our current culture in the U.S. does not let boys be boys.

Back in the early seventies it became a popular misconception that boys and girls are exactly the same. Boys liked toy guns and beating the crap out of each other simply because we as a society made them this way. Popular media (ex. Free To Be You and Me) made it abundantly clear that, aside from anatomy, John is really no different than Joan... so quit treating them different dammit!

Look at toy ads from the 1950s and 60s - the boy toys were basically various forms of weaponry and girl toys were dainty things like dolls. Admittedly, the gender distinction was a bit too pronounced back then, and thus the pendulum swung to the opposite extreme in a reaction in the 1970s.

So here we are in 2009, and in some states almost 20% boys are on Ritalin. No doubt, many of these kids need it -but when you remove recess and Phys Ed in these schools and expect these boys to sit like statues in their desks for eight hours straight, it's no wonder they need to be sedated!

Sitting idle all day at school and coming home to sit some more in front of a TV/computer/video game just isn't the way they're wired, nor is it healthy. These sedentary activities peppered with a few pitiful structured playtimes just isn't going to cut it with most boys. Could it be that some of the changes that have taken place in our schools and home are in fact driving our boys crazy?

I think we just don't understand them anymore. Something has gone terribly wrong when you consider this from Newsweek (source):

... the National Center for Health Statistics contained a jaw-dropper: the parents of nearly one of every five boys in the United States were concerned enough about what they saw as their sons' emotional or behavioral problems that they consulted a
doctor or a health-care professional.
(See the study here.)

To put it another way: One out of five boys has to get his head checked because his parents think he's either retarded or mentally insane.
So who cares that girls are leaving boys in the dust in terms of literacy and overall success in school? Maybe it's high time the girls lead the way. That may be true, but you can't deny we have a problem here. One problem is that schools have gotten more demanding; not in terms of difficulty or depth of understanding, but rather in terms of their relentless standards and requirements. Again from the Newsweek article:

By age 4, an ever-increasing number of children are enrolled in preschool. There, instead of learning to get along with other kids, hold a crayon and play Duck, Duck, Goose, children barely out of diapers are asked to fill out work sheets, learn computation or study Mandarin. The drumbeat for early academics gets even louder when they enter "real" school. Veteran teachers will tell you that first graders are now routinely expected to master a curriculum that, only 15 years ago, would have been considered appropriate for second, even third graders.
The way we teach children has changed, too. In many communities, elementary schools have become test-prep factories—where standardized testing begins in kindergarten and "teaching to the test" is considered a virtue. At the same time, recess is being pushed aside in order to provide extra time for reading and math drills. So is history and opportunities for hands-on activities—like science labs and art. Active play is increasingly frowned on—some schools have even banned recess and tag.
I don't know about you, but I don't think I ever did homework till I was in college. I was an Air Force brat, so I've been to a million schools and know the standards were basically the same from school to school. I had recess and P.E., did zero homework, played outside, and watched crap like Chico and the Man all night long.
How did I turn out academically? I got a masters degree in molecular biology without too much struggle. I say this not to pat myself on the back, but to point out that all this extra schoolwork starting in preschool is ridiculous; I did just fine on a steady diet of neglecting academics, endangering myself outdoors, and vegetating to the boob tube.
Here's my solutions:
1) Parents, lighten the hell up. Let your kid play outside - correction, make your kid play outside. Play outside until either (A) it is complete darkness or (B) he is seriously injured.

2) Educators, lighten the hell up. Take George W.'s "No Child Left Behind" curriculum (which is two miles long and one inch deep), wipe your ass with it and give your kids a nice long recess. This will give you, the teacher, a much needed break to watch the boys beat each other to a pulp.

Done.


14 comments:

  1. When I was a kid, I played army, when I was in school, I drew pictures of army men fighting. Today, if a kid did what I did he would be sent to the "Office" or worse, sent home with a note, or even have to police called on him. We have seen it in the news. To many leftist/democrates in the schools who want kids to be "pussyifed" A country of sheep

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  2. breezmister- Given the fact that this country has faced tragedies like Columbine, I can understand the firearms paranoia - If I was a teacher, and I even thought a little brat had a weapon he'd be tasered. I'm more referring in this post to the academic pressures and lack of physical exercise imposed on boys these days.

    I will also disagree with your statement that this has anything at all to do with Democrats... I'm sorry, but I know just too many staunch Republicans with annoying wus kids.

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  3. I remember seeing a show about boys in elementary school, well I think it was more about male teachers. Anyway, one teacher had a kid that needed to burn off energy to get anything done, so (IIRC) the teacher kept fake notes to the principal, and when the kid needed to run around a bit, he'd send him to the office with one of the fake notes. The kid thinks he's doing teacher a favor, and he gets to move around a bit. Sounds good.

    I am seriously considering going into elementary ed. I learned to hate school early on. How the hell I got through college, I'll never know. If I could keep one kid from hating school too, it would be worth it. Serious pay cut, unfortunately...

    Also, I am an ADD guy, only as an adult. We had recess when I was a kid, I just hated school. BTW, I hate work too :-D

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  4. Darius- If you could get one kid to not hate school, you would be doing a great thing indeed. Sadly, teachers that can are few and far between.

    Looks like we have a couple things in common: a deep abiding hatred of work and ADD. Think there's a correlation between the two?

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  5. Hey Gil. I really enjoyed your rant. I agree with what you said. I don't think it's necessarily just a Democratic issue. I think there are Republicans as well that are to blame. It's both sides. Boys and girls and men and women are not the same. That has nothing to do with being equal with each other. I think the elite decided that both genders were completely the same or they would at least make them the same. Which that meant that boys and men would be feminized and emasculated. When I was a kid, we had recess. We played our hearts out. When we went home, we went outside and played until dark. My brother and I played war. We would build forts, castles, etc. and then fight against one another. We loved having toy guns, soldiers, etc. Now you would have Social Services coming after you if you let your boy do all the things we did growing up. I think many of the social problems we are having is because of all of this. I don't think it's going to get better though. I think between parents, teachers, the media, the church, the government, etc. things will get much much worse.

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  6. There must be an ADD/work/school correlation.

    I have liked jobs in the past, but a lot of bosses are pricks just like teachers can be; and I might add, as a juvenile delinquent of sorts, principals are only surpassed in prickitude by vice principals.

    You know, if nothing else, teachers could replace recess by walking laps around the track/playground, and discussing a subject like history. I believe the Greeks were big on walking and lecturing. Sure, you'd lose some kids attention, but probably just the same ones you are losing in the classroom - or better yet, you might get some of them back and even the field against those who are classroom learners.

    Ugh. I could go on and on. ADD is such a pain in the ass. Everyone at my work takes constant notes on things. If I did that, I may as well not bother seeing something. I concentrate on the note taking rather than the subject matter. Some broad here said she wouldn't explain something to me if I didn't write it down. I said, tough shit lady, and moved on to something else.

    I won't touch the political side of this debate, except to say that many parents, regardless of political persuasion, are douchebags. Was that too harsh?

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  7. Keith - I heard that they recently suspended an 8 yr old in Txas because he pointed a chicken finger at another student. Things have just gotten plain crazy. As I said, I don't blame the teachers for their firearms paranoia, but that doesn't erase the fact that things are FUBARed big time.

    Darius - I normally don't post on stuff like this but I couldn't help myself - I simply had to vent.

    When I heard that 1 of 5 boys are getting their head checked, I vomited in my mouth. Something is seriously wrong here.

    To blame this situation on a particular political party is just way too much of a simplification for me to buy into. I think some Republicans blame Democrats when their cereal gets soggy.

    Of course, the blame game is played by both sides, and that's a big reason why this country is falling off the deep end. As Princess Leia would say: "Help me Obama, you're my only hope."

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  8. If boys show any side of masculinity, then that's trouble. Anything considered masculine these days is considered as a defect and something that needs to be corrected. That comes from brainwashing whether it's education, television, drugs, you name it. I think that's why there are so many problems with boys today whether it be in school, etc. There's something inside of many of them revolting against this hostile attack on being a boy.

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  9. I'm not a big John Updike reader, but I understand his sequel to his novel The Witches of Eastwick deals with how modern man has been basically rendered inconsequential. Females are simply better equipped to live and function in the modern age... leaving men to be sperm donors and cannon fodder.

    A gloomy and dim view, I know. But an interesting thought nonetheless.

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  10. I'm with you, but I'll add that we should let girls do the same fun shit you're advocating for boys--because believe me, for every Easy-Bake-Oven-lovin' girly girl, there is a little tomboyish girl wishing she had a GI Joe doll and could dig in the dirt with her brothers. I don't think this "pussyfied" stuff is a "leftist" or democrat thing either.

    And Gilligan, you and I had exactly the same curriculum--"I had recess and P.E., did zero homework, played outside, and watched crap like Chico and the Man all night long"--only I'd add reading comix and other crazy-ass books to it.

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  11. dguzman- Good point. I wasn't advocating letting the boys play kickball while the girls are stuck inside doing worksheets. Far from it. I have a daughter (and some boys too), so I certainly wouldn't want to see them get shafted either.

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  12. This is why we homeschool. Our oldest boy's first grade teacher wanted him on drugs and he kept getting in trouble for pretend sword fighting. Pretend! Not even anything in the hands! Now they get time to go outside, make swords, shoot hoops, wrestle and have fun. We don't have any video games of any kind either. Great rant, I agree and have even posted on similar topics. I want my boys to become men, but that isn't the same as them becoming sexist pigs. Some people (on both sides) can't tell the difference.

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  13. retrohound- The homeschooling thing has crossed my mind more than a few times. I certainly couldn't stay home with them (I'd kill them), but my wife is a damn good teacher... I could go on and on here. Suffice it to say, your kids are probably going to end up a lot better off than most boys hopped up on Ritalin counting down the minutes till the bell rings. Good luck to you!

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  14. Hey! Don't pick on free to be you and me. That's one of my favorite 70's memories!

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