Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Boys And That's a Problem

A few days ago, I heard pediatrician Leonard Sax (over-achieving with a PhD and MD) talk about a phenomenon he's witnessed over the years: the girls in a family are motivated, accomplished and engaged while the boy(s) want to play video games.

Sound familiar?

He's written a book that I will buy, read, and purchase stock in: Boys Adrift.

His main contention? With all this (rightful) focus on leveling the playing field and buoying our girls, we haven't noticed that boys stopped battling the real world. Here, he points to studies showing that college men have trouble maintaining an erection during real sex, but could ride for hours watching porn.

They actually report preferring porn. The real thing? "Too much trouble."

Masculinity? How's Homer Simpson for a role model? Sax singles The Simpson out but just think of all those sitcoms with beautiful skinny, razor smart mamas and beer belly dumb Dads.

He cited study after study of slipping math scores, college attrition, lost wage potential and more. In so many areas that mark youth's achievement, girls are firmly surging ahead. If Hilary wins this election, she could be the first in a trend.

During the radio interview, Sax was quick to remind listeners that he's not advocating a return to the fifties. Instead, he wants a return to or creation of an ethos surrounding work, struggle, achievement and self-esteem grounded in the real world.

I haven't yet read the book but some of the solutions he mentioned on the show were a rigorous religious life, replete with obligations that require some kind of self-abnegation, as well as limited 'screen time,' hosts of household chores, and a father with an attention span that included his own kid.

The interview gave me pause.

Yesterday, Stryker gave me this Christmas list.

1. TV, Movie, Music
A) The Simpsons
I. The Simpsons Movie
II. The Simpsons Season 5
III. The Simpsons Season 7
IV. The Simpsons Season 8
V. The Simpsons Season 9
VI. The Simpsons Season 10

2. Video Games

A) Play Station 2
I. Guitar Hero 3
II. Dance Dance Revolution
III. THe Simpsons Game
IV Star Wars Battlefront II
V More Dance Dance Revolution Mats

B) Nintendo DS

I. Mario Party
II. Drawn to Life
III. Flash Focus
IV. Lego Star Wars: the complete saga

3. Other

A. Books

I. The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh of Homer by William Irwin
II. Any Simpsons Comic Book

B. No Clue

I. Any other Simpsons paraphernalia

I think it's that 'no clue' that bothers me most. Stryker's teacher once observed that if Stryker plays too many video games he loses his 'internal compass' and reacts to external stimuli instead. Very apt observation.

It's hard to unplug a kid once they get wired. We continue to work on finding our balance here. And, I know that I'm not alone in these concerns, and that's disconcerts as much as it comforts.


Anonymous said...

From another Mary
I'm interested in this topic too with a 12-year-old, moody, tech-focused boy. I have often wondered about teaching/showing boys/men how to be "liberated" and feel good about themselves. We as moms promote and rejoice in our daughters and want them to know that all things are possible, all doors are open, explore all creative outlets -do we forget to tell our boys this?

Anonymous said...

A Dad here-
Also, I work at a private university around St. Paul, and I watch the desparity between the men (boys, a lot of the time) and Women (and many of them *do* act like women). This school used to be all male. Now co-ed, it's 51% female. And when I've attended an honors class, it's about 3/4 female. The guys are skateboarders. Even when the women are noticing the 'boys' I tend to see them doing so with a self-assured knowing tolerance. Oh, not always, but I see it. Certainly encouraging for the women, certainly sad for the 'men.'
I grew up the single boy with 5 older sisters. You can probably guess where my gender bias lies.