May 9, 2019: Borough President James S. Oddo and Dr. Warren Farrell, co-author of The Boy Crisis announce the creation of the Staten Island Council on Boys and Men.
The Dr. Vibe Show is offering a series of interviews with key members of the commission that is urging President Obama to create a White House Council on Boys and Men. Here are links to three of the programs.
Men, Power, Money, and Sex
Warren Farrell is a leading expert on men’s issues. He is the author of seven books and chair of the Commission to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men. He served on the board of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City and is an advocate for both sexes having the full range of options, professionally and personally.
I interviewed him about gender roles, power, why men earn more, and campus rape.
Marty Nemko: You’re most well-known for your book The Myth of Male Power, just out in a new e-book edition. Many people think men have the power: Look at the Senate and CEO rosters. How would you respond?
This remarkable video shows Warren Farrell explaining what moved us into our present cultural state of seeing males as disposable and offers a number of ideas about how we can move forward to a place where both men and women are valued as human beings.
As school begins in the coming weeks, parents of boys should ask themselves a question: Is my son really welcome? A flurry of incidents last spring suggests that the answer is no. In May, Christopher Marshall, age 7, was suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world.”
by David N Hafter, MFT
It has only been a handful of generations since people were born, lived their lives and died in the same geographical region. Unless a man was conscripted and hustled off to fight and die in faraway war, he was likely to live his life in the same place as did his father. His sons had the mentoring benefits of access to other family members and known community members in order to address growing up/rite of passage issues.
One of the unintended consequences of the industrial revolution is the breakdown of those non-parental mentoring relationships. As men followed employment opportunities outside of where they grew up, they uprooted (literally) their nuclear families and relocated to places where immediate access to caring mentors was often cut off. This pattern continues to this day. Uprooted families experience everything from linguistic differences and accents which separate them from their neighbors to unfamiliar cultural norms and social expectations. These differences can leave them isolated in their own communities.
In tribal cultures, where established rites of passage created the next generation of culturally consistent adults, it was not the parent who ushered a son or daughter through the process of transitioning from youth to adult. Rather, it was other trusted elders in the community who play that role. After all, for a child, it is often easier to hear guidance and constructive feedback from a trusted adult other than his or her parent. Indeed, life lessons successfully taught by a mentor have often been offered to the child many times before by a parent.
Today, there is a paucity of culturally competent mentoring opportunities for non-familial kids. In fact, there are now fewer mentoring opportunities of any sort, especially in schools. For example, when education funds get tight, arts, music and sports programs are the first to go, despite their value in terms of mentoring and skills development. Families may not be able to afford private lessons where their children could benefit from the tutelage of a coach. Even the military can no longer be counted upon to help in this arena. Military service used to play a significant social role in the grooming of youth into adulthood. With professional soldiering now the norm, entering the service – unless aiming at a high level career like a pilot – is more likely to be an economic decision than one steeped in a desire for self-realization (i.e. becoming a man). It is now an opportunity for under-served economic classes and carries with it an unusually high safety risk.
Like all adolescents, fatherless and/or mentor-less young men experience an inner striving for opportunities to earn their stripes as men. When society fails to recognize this need, we neglect to provide or support the structures where these needs can be met. Ironically, gang culture has elements that address some of these unmet needs: The need to belong to a community; the need to be relied upon; the need to transition to manhood by taking on and surviving a dangerous task. Unfortunately, gang activities – once organized around neighborhood protection – are now mostly organized around illegal activities focused on making money and anti-social attitudes and behaviors. The notion of doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do sounds antiquated compared to making money, which has proven to be the apparent over-arching value in our culture.
To counter these trends and their expensive consequences, it is not enough for enlightened men to have good intentions: We need an action plan with a commitment to following through.
What might that look like? The fantasy is to miraculously overhaul public priorities in line with what we perceive to be the chronic unmet needs of our youth. This White House proposal is a positive step in this direction yet these unmet needs dictate both a functional and practical grassroots approach which does not rely upon non-partisan political cooperation.
We can start by meeting some of the unmet needs of the fathers and ‘neighborhood elders’ who themselves may not have had the chance to be mentored in their youth. It is hard for a man to guide youth in ways he was never himself taught. Instead, many of these men learned their life lessons ‘the hard way’, at the fully respectable but unreliable ‘school of hard knocks’. To prepare men to be positive mentors, we start by serving them. In that vein, offer two models from my own experience:
Garage Groups: I have been a part of a ‘Garage Group,’ for twelve years now. Named for where we meet, our group of 6 to 8 men meets once a month to talk about issues that we face as men. We have no leader and few rules (no talking sports or politics). A brief check-in is followed by discussions on issues relating to the stressors in our lives: Work and relationship issues, parenting challenges, caring for aging parents and our own health and aging issues. We brainstorm solutions to vexing problems or just hear one another out, as needed. As we feel supported, we have the energy, inclination and ideas to support our youth.
Men’s Circles: An idea from the oft-maligned or dismissed Men’s Movement, Men’s Circles serve much the same role as garage Groups, but they are drop-in affairs, usually much larger (15 to 20 men) and tend not to provide a participant with ‘answers’. Instead, Men’s Circles are a place to hear and be heard with other men who may identify with whatever issue a man brings to the group. Just knowing that one is not alone with his issues is helpful and may lead to a man seeking more support. The Davis Men’s Circle operates free of charge.
So, first things first: We, as men, address our own unmet needs and re-connect with the power of community. Next, we calibrate our attitudes and behaviors according to both our own needs and those of our community. Fatherless boys need other men to step up as guides: uncles, older cousins, grandfathers, coaches, clergy and others. A healthy culture filled with young men who proudly own their strong sense of self is not made overnight but instead, step by step, man by man. Finally, together we create challenging activities – opportunities for boys to earn their place at the table of the community of men.
David N. Hafter, LMFT, (BA – Wesleyan University, Middletown CT; MA, JFK University, Orinda, CA) runs the Urban Children’s Resiliency Program at Victor Community Support Services, Davis CA. He has been a subject matter expert with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences since 1991.
Mr. Hafter is the author of Growing Balls: Personal Power for Young Men, a book of mentoring to, not about, young men. His group counseling curriculum Personal Power for Young Men, is available for downloading free of charge at www.growingballs.com. Mr. Hafter is also a musician, song-writer/performer and a somewhat capable tennis player and golfer.
How many are playing roles that increase their disposability? How many seem focused on work-life balance?
*l to r: Top: Solid Snake (mercenary killer); Chris Redfield (of Resident Evil); Kratos (violent God of War series); Hawke (Dragon Age II);
l to r: Bottom: Ken Masters (Street Fighter); Leon Kennedy (Resident Evil 4); Geralt of Rivia (the Witcher); Brick (kills with bolts on fists)
So what do you think?
In a relatively recent New York Times article, Robert Lipsyte, a sports author, posed the following question: “Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?”
The U.S. Department of Education’s reading tests for the last thirty years show boys scoring worse than girls every year in every age group. Those of us who have been following the issues revolving around boys’ education are not surprised at all.
Mothers often ask why their sons can’t read. The truth is more often not that they can’t, but that most boys are simply reluctant to read for a variety of reasons.
Most elementary school and secondary school English teachers who teach reading in English Language Arts time or classes do it through works of fiction. Most also happen to be female and choose titles with which they are more likely to identify. Most studies show female students learn reading better through fiction, especially emotive works with female central characters. In fact, most of these stories, especially in the younger years are more emotive and far less action oriented.
Rather than expanding reading selections with material that will better engage boys to read, schools tend to work with books that will encounter less resistance from parents. Boys love to read about things with which many parents today might object.
For example a boy would rather read a “Hunger Games” or “Harry Potter” than a “My Cheeky Angel”. So if it is fiction, make it action oriented.
Unfortunately, studies show that boys tend to relate better to non-fiction. But what non-fiction do we offer them? Here are the top 10 sellers according to Goodread.com, a popular site used by teachers for book recommendations:
1. Redwoods by Jason Chin
2. Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
3. Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola
4. Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette ‘Daisy’ Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure by Shana Corey
5. Step Gently Out by Helen Frost
6. Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet
7. Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg
8. Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy
9. Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman
10. 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
How many of those titles would a 9-year-old boy pull off the shelves?
The other major reason boys reading scores have gone down, especially over the past 12 years, ironically, is the heavy emphasis on testing and test prepping. There is no time for playing or acting out roles. There is only time to sit very still, read, and fill in the practice bubble sheets to prepare for the ELA test.
The question remains then, “What do boys need to increase their reading skills?”
Simply, for higher reading success, boys need:
- Reading lessons with clear, structured instructions with bursts of intense work.
- Specific goals and praise for success for ACTUAL success and not false praise.
- Hands-on learning that connects to their reading material
- Humor. Joke books are fun to read.
- Choice in reading material: Provide boy centered options even if they make you squeamish. These should also include periodicals, graphic novels (comics), and even technical manuals.
- Male role models who read, regardless of the material. Any text is reading – including fathers reading the sport pages daily.
Male drop out rates, college admission rates, graduation rates, and level of employment rates all tell us a sad story. Many males are quickly becoming second-class economic citizens, and not only males of color.
As a result of new technology now used in all careers, members of both genders must be highly skilled in reading to flourish. For them to matter and have success, even at many of our new manufacturing jobs, they must be able to use the new technology.
But that technology demands the ability to read and follow the instructions on a computer or tablet. Reading is THE required skill regardless of career and gender. If only one gender is able to make use of it, woe is us.
David Greene taught Social Studies and coached in NYC, Woodlands HS, Scarsdale HS, and Ardsley HS for 38 years. He mentored Teach For America Corps Members in the Bronx for Fordham University. He presently is a staff member of WISE Services, an organization that helps high schools create and run experiential learning programs for seniors. He is also the treasurer of Save Our Schools March Committee.
Warren Farrell has joined the ranks of people like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Stephen Colbert, and many others. He was invited and accepted to be a part of Reddit’s IAMA. The IAmA (“I am a”) is a text exchange where users prompt others to AMA (“Ask me anything”). They asked Warren anything and Warren responded. He mentioned the White House Council Proposal for Boys and Men and touched on a wide variety of topics. When asked: What’s the single most important thing the average person can do to advance an understanding of the challenges that men and boys are facing today? Warren responded by suggesting they read Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Boys and Leonard Sax’s Boys Adrift. The interview included some very interesting answers from Warren from a thoughtful and concerned audience. You can see the questions and answers here:
Warren Farrell responds to the protests via youtube.
Dr. Farrell writes:
Despite about 100 protestors blocking the entrance to my presentation on Boys to Men at the University of Toronto this past Friday, Nov. 16, I was ultimately able to speak.
Why the physically and verbally violent protestors who tore down and defaced hundreds of posters? In part, because my Boys to Men presentation was sponsored by the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFÉ). CAFÉ is a non-profit, self-funded group affiliated with the U of Toronto. It’s only a year old. Some feminist-oriented groups, and especially the Socialist Workers Party, objected to their efforts to bring to the U of Toronto an understanding of the boy crisis and the importance of incorporating boys and men’s issues into the discussion of gender issues. From their perspective, boys and men’s issues equal men’s rights; men are the oppressors and the rapists; and a university shouldn’t be allowing “hate speech.” From my perspective, boys and men are in the same family boat as women and girls, and boys are experiencing a boy crisis throughout the industrialized world that is hurting boys, families, the economy and those of our daughters who wish to parent their children with motivated and loving men.
Of course, the media is covering the heat, but if you’re interested in: the causes of the boy crisis; solutions; and how you can more effectively help boys avoid the “failure to launch,” go to whitehouseboysmen, CAFÉ, and The Myth of Male Power.
We will be presenting an on-air Google Hangout today at 3pm Pacific, 6pm Eastern with Dr. Farrell about this event.
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The video below is of Warren Farrell and Tom Golden with Martin Brossman having a Google Hangout on-air about why we should have a White House Council on Boys and Men. Discussing the how this helps us in raising sons, how it helps women and helps men be better men.
Learn more about the Proposed White House Council on Boys and Men at:
Also connect with us on Facebook at:
by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.
When Barack Obama became President, he immediately created a White House Council on Women and Girls. Shortly after, I got a call from the White House inquiring of my interest to be an adviser. I added to my enthusiasm the need for a White House Council on Boys and Men. To accomplish that, I created a multi-partisan coalition of 34 prominent thought leaders to discover whether the government had a valid role in transforming the boy crisis into our sons’ opportunities.
Our report met with interest at the White House—but three years of effort have resulted in nothing. This is a missed opportunity because as President Obama has been extremely sensitive to women’s issues, he’s acted as if boys and men who are not African American have no issues at all. Sensitivity to our sons and their dads is not only morally right; it is politically wise.
Notice more than the gravity of these issues for boys and men; notice how they would be addressed by different departments of the government, resulting in the likelihood that without a coordinating White House Council on Boys and Men that the left hand wouldn’t know what the right hand is doing…
Most of us have heard the statistics regarding males going from 61% of college graduates to a projected 39%. But few of us know that our sons will be the first American generation to have less education than their dads. And the problem is not just education—it’s also motivation. We’ve heard about the impact of video games and video porn. But few know how plastics leaching into streams and lakes simulate estrogen and accelerate female maturity even as it retards male maturity. For a president interested in our environment, overlooking this impact on virtually every family is egregious.
Item Boys’ suicide rate goes from equal to girls’ prior to adolescence to five times girls’ between 20 and 24.
Item Among the elderly, men over 85 have a suicide rate 1300% higher than their female peers.
Adolescent male emotional challenges range from ADHD to violence, crime and the 5 D’s: depression, drinking, drugs, disobedience and delinquency.
Why has the male-female life expectancy gap grown from one year in 1920 to more than five years today? And why do boys and men die earlier than girls and women from nine of the 10 leading causes of death? Fortunately, our daughters’ and mothers’ health challenges are addressed by seven federal offices of women’s health. Our sons’ and fathers’ are not addressed by a single federal office of men’s health.
One of every five men 25 to 54 is not working. The areas of future job growth (e.g., health; education) are areas our daughters are preparing for; the areas for which uneducated boys have typically found jobs (e.g., manufacturing; agriculture; construction) are in decline. And the mostly-male jobs requiring more education are being outsourced overseas.
A White House Council on Boys and Men would examine the potential for restoring vocation to education, and for developing our sons’ (and daughters’) skills to match employers’ future needs. It can expand the concept of a “man’s work;” and study other countries’ successes. And when men do work, it can recommend ways to increase safety (92% of workplace deaths are men).
A White House Council on Boys and Men can coordinate potential solutions. For example…
One out of three children in the U.S. live in father-absent homes, yet most of the above problems would be significantly addressed with one solution: father involvement. To say nothing of how the more fathers are involved, the more crime and poverty are defeated.
How do we get more father involvement? Take a look at how Sweden restructured its paternity leave so that 85% of its fathers would participate. And what about a male birth control pill? And educating boys in school as to their value as future dads? And…
The latest articulation of the crisis facing boys and men is Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men. If our sons see the “end of men” as their future, they will have little inspiration for life’s journey. With some help, we can transform the end of men to the beginning of men—of men as human beings rather than as human doings. In the past, we taught our sons to consider themselves “real men” if they made themselves disposable—disposable in war and in work. Being a “real man” and dead is a bit of a paradox. Calling our sons heroes if they risked being disposable was often healthy for the society, but it is unhealthy for our sons.
The Council can provide leadership to sustain the respect for firefighters and soldiers that allows us to recruit protectors for our homes and country, even as we also encourage alternative paths to becoming a valued man. Leadership for the future must both question and honor traditional masculinity. As our history of male-as-sole-breadwinner fades as downsizing and outsourcing burgeon, both sexes will need to be prepared to raise money and raise children. Our daughters have learned to do both; our sons have not.
A White House Council on Boys and Men can end the era of boys and men as a national afterthought. It can provide leadership to raise young men that our daughters are proud to love.
President Obama, you have daughters. You respect the family. You love our country. What are you waiting for?
Dr. Warren Farrell has been chosen by the Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders. He is the only man ever elected three times to the Board of NOW in NYC. His books are published in over 50 countries, and in 16 languages. They include two award-winning international best-sellers, Why Men Are The Way They Are plus The Myth of Male Power. His forthcoming book, with John Gray, will be Boys to Men.
Dr. Farrell has taught in five disciplines, and been featured repeatedly in Forbes, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He currently chairs a coalition to create a White House Council on Boys and Men.
Editors note – We are saddened to announce that Kathy Stevens, a member of our group and a co-Founder and Executive Director of the Gurian Institute, died in her sleep on Sunday morning, April 1, 2012.
We wanted to offer this short article by Kathy to both honor her and also to share a small sample of the gift that she brought in working with the issues of boys and men. Kathy will be missed.
You’ve got a bright child on your hands! As a preschooler he loved books, drawing, and creating with blocks. He was excited by the things around him and was a bundle of energy, wanting to explore, handle, and figure out his world.
When he started school he was enthusiastic and looked forward to the wonderful adventures you told him were in store. In elementary school you started getting notes from his teacher indicating that he was “having some problems.” The list included comments like: doesn’t stay on task, fails to turn in homework, doesn’t complete projects on time, can’t seem to stop fidgeting and sit still. In middle school your bright, gifted son is getting by with mediocre grades and an attitude that you find disheartening. He just doesn’t seem motivated to succeed in school the way you and his teachers know he could.
What happened when he entered the classroom? Too often, boys find they are asked to behave in ways that they are not prepared developmentally to do: sit still, be quiet, and use fine motor skills to learn to write. They find that their natural learning behaviors are less acceptable in the school environment. This disconnect can cause difficulties early on. While your son may never become a behavior problem, he might lose his excitement about learning and motivation in school.
This story repeats over and over in the hundreds of e-mail messages we receive from parents of boys all over the country. The names and specifics change, but the underlying concerns are the same. Why isn’t my bright child motivated to succeed in school? Why can’t he seem to finish his homework? Why doesn’t he turn it in when he has finished it? Why doesn’t he seem to care when he gets poor grades on tests and report cards? What can we do to help him perform up to his potential?
Being un-motivated can keep a child from being successful in school and can make home life a constant battleground. What can we do to keep our sons from going through this painful experience? Help them develop a love of learning long before they step into a classroom and educate schools about how boys learn best.
How Boys Learn
The physical connection between the male body and brain causes boys to learn best when they are on the move! In their cribs boys are already interested in the spatial world around them—the revolving mobile overhead, the sights and sounds outside the home. Physical activity, such as running and jumping, keeps male brains developing in healthy ways that promote learning.
To encourage a boy’s natural learning style provide opportunities for him to use his energy to learn. Letting him explore, touch, and manipulate will help him develop the skills he will need to be successful in school. Puzzles, Legos, play dough, and other small toys develop fine motor skills that will prepare young boys for holding a pencil and learning to write.
Read to a preschool boy—a lot. Let him squirm or fiddle with his toys while he listens. If you think he isn’t attending to the story while he’s playing, check in periodically and ask him, “What just happened in the story?” Probably, you’ll find he knows exactly what’s going on. The fidgeting may well be helping his comprehension. Have your librarian help him choose boy-friendly stories, which are becoming more available as authors realize that boys enjoy reading stories that are centered on boys and the activities they like.
Connect Home and School
Check out the school your son will attend before he starts. Talk to the administrators and teachers to find out if they are aware of the current research on how boys learn best. If they aren’t, provide them with resources like those listed in the sidebar. If you are a member of a parent-teacher organization, suggest that your group help fund resources and professional development opportunities for your school to help teachers and administrators translate theory about gender behavior and learning into the classroom. This helps both boys and girls.
At home, continue to involve your son in activities that are consistent with his interests and make learning fun. Pay attention to what motivates him and provide incentives (not rewards) to encourage ongoing learning. If he’s interested in animals, help him get into a youth program at your local zoo. If he’s fascinated by how things work, connect him with a local engineering organization. If your son likes sports, show him how math and science are involved. Help him connect the dots from what he is expected to learn in school and how it will help him succeed in his chosen interest or activity.
Make Time Trades
Your son needs to recognize that he will have to spend time doing things that he doesn’t necessarily want to do. Create time trades with him to help him become accustomed to doing those undesirable activities. For every minute he dedicates to doing those things he needs to do (homework, chores, his own laundry) let him trade an equal amount of time doing something he wants to do from a list you develop together. You can limit some trades, such as television watching or video-game playing to certain blocks of time (no more than 30 minutes at one sitting) or bank time for a big trade like an overnight campout or trip to a theme park. Establish the rules of the trades together.
Make sure the list is made up of things he wants to do, as long as they are appropriate (even if they don’t necessarily appeal to you). Remember motivating your son is about him and his interests. Both of you can be responsible for maintaining the time record, working on the details for the trade, and planning the activities. Besides encouraging self-confidence and self-regulation, more learning opportunities will open up to your son—math, geography, and more (but you don’t have to tell him that).
Create a Personalized Work Space
To help your son feel good about spending time doing schoolwork and reading, work with him to design his own work space. Encourage him to make it personal and functional. If that involves some paint or furnishings, find ways to let him earn those items. Be flexible and be willing to accept that it might not match your taste. Agree on a time frame before any modifications can be made; this will help your son learn to think about his choices and yet lets him know he can make modifications later. Personalizing his workspace can make sitting down to work more appealing even if the work itself isn’t!
Have a Surprise List Ready
Let your son drop notes in a jar dedicated for surprises—out of the ordinary things he would love to do sometime. Then, when you observe behavior that you want to reward (does his homework for a week or cleans his room without having to be reminded) pull a surprise from the jar and reward him. Don’t use the surprise as a bribe; for example, don’t say “If you do such-and-such, I’ll choose a surprise.” Make it truly a surprise. Don’t do it every time either. Make it random enough that while he might think a surprise is coming, he’s not quite sure—encouraging him to exhibit desired behaviors regularly.
Introduce Him to Male Role Models
Listen as your son learns what interests and excites him. Then find ways to let him meet men who are interesting and willing to share their stories, perhaps even provide some mentoring or an apprenticeship. If your son thinks cars are cool, find someone in your community who builds stock cars or restores vintage automobiles and arrange a visit. If your son loves rock music, find a local musician that will let him attend a rehearsal or even a concert. These activities could become time trades.
Motivation is something we want our children to internalize. Helping your son learn to harness his physical energy to set and achieve his own goals is one of the best gifts you can provide. It will help him become a life-long learner, someone who is always looking just past the horizon to see what adventures might be waiting down the line.
—Kathy Stevens, MPA
Kathy Stevens is the director of the Gurian Institute training division. Her work has been featured in Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, Educational Leadership, Education Week, and Library Journal.