Imagine sending an army to war without the tools or training to achieve victory. That would be ridiculous. And yet we are sending boys, ill equipped, into a culture that has seemingly declared war on boyhood.
The results are tragic: according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, boys are almost twice as likely to receive special education, and the National Institute of Mental Health reports that boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Academically, boys underperform girls at every level. Meanwhile, women earned more than 52 percent of the doctoral degrees and more than 57 percent of master’s degrees in 2016.
Diagnoses of ADHD increase steadily. Conduct that used to be considered typical boy behavior—running or climbing when it’s not appropriate, or having a hard time waiting to talk or react—is now bulleted in lists of ADHD symptoms, as if boyhood is some sort of social disease that needs to be eradicated.
In a culture wary of “toxic masculinity” and bombarded with decades of secular media presenting fathers and husbands as buffoons, is it any wonder that psychologically damaging, unscientific gender-identification propositions find an audience? Boys are starved of moral direction and ignored in terms of academic struggles. They have no platform for their own defense because they’ve already been judged deficient.
As leaders of boys in schools, homeschools, churches and youth organizations, we must recognize and affirm their unique strengths and challenges. We are positioned to instill the principles and character traits that can prepare boys to become successful, focused men.
But will we?
While we don’t excuse the behavior of bad men, we must recognize that good men can be made from boys. Their unique makeup holds the potential for good men as much as the unique makeup of girls holds the potential for good women.
Engaging this potential will take some energy and strategic thought. Ideally, boys and girls would have separate learning environments to take advantage of their unique learning styles. Schools and organizations that take this approach are seeing great results. For example, Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis raised its graduation rate from 53 to 90.4 percent after converting boys-only and girls-only classes.
But a few years ago, attempting to favor politically correct inclusiveness over serving boys, the Boy Scouts of America announced it will be allowing girls to participate throughout the program. One of the first newspaper articles I read after this decision quoted a leader: “I have taught a lot of classes, and girls are always smarter. Also, always neater and quicker.”
Well, in settings designed for girls, of course they excel. In programs and settings designed for boys, that same leader might say, “The girls are a little nervous in the room. They don’t understand the changing rules and would prefer it to be a lot quieter.”
Dear Leader of Boys, if the boy-only meeting you are holding looks anything like a typical classroom or Sunday school class, you’ve already lost.
Are we ready for the challenge?
Mark Hancock is the CEO of Trail Life USA, a character, leadership, and adventure organization that is both Christ-centered and boy-focused. Trail Life USA partners with churches and parents across America as the premier national character development organization for young men which produces generations of godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens. In over 850 churches in all 50 states, fathers and sons are connecting, relationships are deepening, and legacies are beginning as a new generation of godly leaders rises.