Sunday, April 24, 2011

The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Summers

When I was attending university, I wrote a paper about the different communication styles of men and women using for the basis of my arguments the research of Deborah Tannen who wrote You Just Don't Understand; Talk Between the Sexes-Women and Men in Conversation.

It was an enlightening experience. The class for some reason, had only women in it, and they attacked. They all believed that there was absolutely no difference between the way men and women communicate. They didn't just disagree with me, they were angry at what I believed and they were angry with the paper.

But, I grew up in a home with a masculine father and a feminine mother and brothers and sisters and I had seen different communication styles at work. To say that the sexes were the same in the way they thought and communicated flew in the face of common sense in my mind.

Then after I graduated, I worked for a time in the counseling office of a local high school. I again saw different communication styles between boys and girls. And, I saw other things. I saw how a greater number of boys than girls had a difficult time in school. In later years I have seen boys adopting feminine hair styles and wearing girls jeans and wondered... What is going on here?

Christina Hoff Sommers book explains a lot. It explains why my university class mates hated my paper. It explains why boys need different parenting and educational styles and why our society is ignoring the needs of boys and why boys are becoming feminized.

The book challenges the teaching of fuzzy concepts like "self-esteem" being taught in school and advocates for clear expectations that include civility and ethics that are backed up by discipline. The author makes the claim that shallow self-esteem belongs to every sociopath and the real self-esteem comes only through achievement. Sommers argues for the Aristotelian model that works toward excellence through study and habit. Aristotle said, "The moral virtues... are engendered in us neither by nor contrary to nature; we are constituted by nature to receive them, but their full development is due to habit.... So it is a matter of no little importance what sort of habits we form from the earliest age-- it makes a vast difference, or rather all the difference in the world."

If you have a son, work with boys in scouts, or have daughters and hope they will one day marry men... You ought to read this book.

(Thomas Sowell's book Economic Facts and Fallacies includes research that supports many of Sommers conclusions...)