The Myth About Boys – Time – August 6, 2007

Time Cover - Myth about Boys 08 06 07

This week’s Time magazine cover article, The Myth About Boys by David Von Drehl, should interest anyone involved in youth development, including parents of adolescent boys and girls. The below quote applies equally to both.

“When no one’s looming over them, they begin making choices of their own,” she says. “They discover consequences and learn to take responsibility for themselves and their emotions. They start learning self-discipline, self-confidence, team building. If we don’t let kids work through their own problems, we get a generation of whiners.”

That made sense to me. As I watched the boys at Falling Creek do things that would scare me to death if my own son were doing them–hammering white-hot pieces of metal, clinging to a zip line two stories above a lake, examining native rattlesnakes–I didn’t notice many whining boys.

That sounds a lot like what happens when you put a bunch of kids on a schooner for a sail training experience. Fun and adventure is a powerful elixir for developing character, self confidence, self esteem and self efficacy in youth. Give them “structured freedom” and introduce a little controlled risk and they will grow in amazing, unanticipated and immeasurable directions.

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Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

5 thoughts on “The Myth About Boys – Time – August 6, 2007”

  1. Thanks Peter;

    I definitely agree with your second point about the need for structured freedom.

    But I heartily disagree with your first and third. Reguardless of the “feel-good” points that are made, the statistics show that boys have suffered which is at odds with both the title and conclusion of the article.

    It has not stopped. Just 2 weeks ago, I was listening to “All things considered” on NPR and Noah Adams had 2 female guests on who repeated the often-quoted wisdom that has been the ralying cry for pushing girls to the forefront in educational opportunities (girls do better in all-girl classes, boys and girls put smart girls down, etc…). This ralying cry has had an impact – 33% more girls get into college than boys. Education transates into opportunity and income.

    What the author should have said was “Enough! It’s time to give boys equal opportunities.”

  2. John;

    Thanks for your comment.

    I’m not so sure that you and the author of the article are that far apart with the significant exception that his conclusion is that the pendulum has swung back to a more equitable position recently.

    My citing the article was based on my belief that all adolescents need more challenges and “structured freedom” like what the author experienced at Falling Creek.

    I just spent the past few weeks sailing on a tall ship with a coed group of at-risk, underserved 13 and 14 year olds and can attest that gender really did not play a factor in the group’s ability to come together as a effective team. Leadership was exercised and shared by both boys and girls throughout the program. If you had sailed with us, I am sure you would be more optimistic about our youth.

  3. Unbelievable – if the subject had been a minority group or girls, the conclusion would have been “we have got to organize and get this fixed.” Instead the author chose to picture white boys and, even after quoting many statistics showing that boys need help, chose to say it’s a myth.
    The fact that boys have gone from being the majority of incoming students in college to being outnumbered by girls 4 to 3 is a huge red flag. How many times has the argument been made that the reason girls didn’t do well in math was because of boys’ enthusiasm (they raised their hand faster) or putdowns from other girls and boys. Now that the tables have turned no-one wants to say that the gains of girls have been at the expense of boys, but to say there’s not a problem is beyond disingenuous.

  4. your observations are spot-on! school ships do that today; shipboard life did it for my hero h. melville. south street seaport works with harbor school; i’ve met and worked with some of the young people, and they’re great.

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