Dottie Lamm on recognizing the real at-risk youth of today.
“My grand-daughter has just as much God-given potential as a boy born in that hospital today,” Hillary Clinton declared in a recent speech on the birth of her granddaughter, Charlotte, Sept. 26. “I just believe that; that’s just how I was raised.”
Well, yes. I would venture to guess that Charlotte Clinton Mezvinski will exhibit the “God-given” brains of both her maternal grandparents, as well as the charm of her grandfather Bill and the focused discipline of her grandmother Hillary.
And if raised with the message that “the world is open to your talents” as Hillary Clinton was, and not “spoiled” by being the latest addition to America’s most prominent public family, Charlotte will thrive. And to all the sexist pundits who pontificate about whether Hillary “will be able to run for president and be a grandmother at the same time” or if the grandmother status will “soften her image,” I say, please.
Right now I have another concern. Let’s focus on that little boy “born in the hospital” that day.
Let’s say he is an average little boy from a working- or middle-class family. What are his chances of living out his God-given potential? Not as good as Charlotte’s, even if she had been born in his humble circumstances. For in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, our boys are now at greater risk than our girls.
A national proposal to establish a White House Council on Boys and Men, headed by Warren Farrell, Ph.D., author of the book, “The Myth of Male Power,” documents the following factors as a few of the challenges that set up our boys for failure:
• Education: This is the first generation of boys in U.S. history who will have less education than their dads. Yet male teachers are scarce. Recess and vocational education are being curtailed. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, drop out of school or be expelled than girls. By 2020, they are expected to receive only 39 percent of the total college degrees.
• Fatherlessness: A third of boys are raised in fatherless homes. This lack of a dad leads to poorer academic and behavioral results for them than it does for girls. A recent study of boys revealed that by the third grade, boys with absent fathers scored lower on every achievement test. Most gang members come from homes without dads.
• Emotional health: Depression remains hidden in boys because of the male taboo against the showing of feelings. Boys’ risky, anti-social or violent behavior often serve as a mask for depression. Usually that behavior is punished but the underlying depression not treated. Between the ages of 13 and 20, boys’ suicide rates soar to four times that of girls of the same age.
None of this is to say that men at the top levels of society don’t still rule. “The myth of male power” co-exists with the fact that in many corporations, politics and in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math, barriers to females remain. We must constantly strive to break these barriers down as we strive to lift boys up. This is not an either/or dilemma.
Early in his first term, President Obama established a well-funded Council on Women and Girls to coordinate and build on already existing but scattered programs serving either or both. It was a brilliant idea, and well-activated.
Here’s hoping that President Obama or the next president will establish the same kind of commission for our boys and our men. Their programs are scattered and sometimes non-existent. Please, Mr. or Madame President, recognize that it is our young males who are now at most risk.
Originally published in The Denver Post.
Photo credit: greg westfall/flickr