Friday, May 11, 2007

In the company of old men... Every year, when I have my classes with 7th and 8th graders, I feel so puzzled. The boys come into class full of noise and distraction. They can spend hours poking each other, discussing things with animation, or just making random noises with the bench vises, or a stick. The girls, on the other hand, get out their stuff and go to work. They have objectives that engage them, things they want to accomplish. My wife suggested that boys just don't mature as quickly as girls... But I suspect it is something more.

Who expects anything of these boys? And who demands that they make some effort toward fulfillment of objectives? Who are their role models? Is classroom education geared to meet their needs?

I can remember how difficult my 7th and 8th grade years were for me. I threw up my breakfast each morning and the doctor explained that I had a nervous stomach from stress. Each day at school I faced emotional bullying and taunts of other male students, and during the last 45 years, very little has changed in our nation's schools. In fact, it has gotten worse.

We still know nothing in our schools about how to make use of the incredible energies available in our youth.

We would learn a great deal from "more primitive" societies. Young men, passing from childhood to young adult status are moving from imaginative play to a readiness for adult responsibilities. While primitive societies had rites of initiation and formal mentoring by senior members of the tribe, we encourage our children in inane play and the perpetual avoidance of adult responsibility. We keep them entertained and fail to keep them challenged.

I believe it is time to expect more from our young men. We need to place them in the care of adult mentors with little patience for bull, and who are ready to challenge them with important tasks that build their self-esteem, let them know they have been tested in real life, and allow them to stand tall. Children have a way of meeting our expectations.

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