This comment is by Justin, on the post Stop Complaining About Boys/Men a post by Kozo Hattori
I was a high school teacher and coach for 10 years. I worked with boys and girls from age 14-18 mostly and during all of those wonderful years, I learned a few things about human nature, our (American) society, and the way we treat teens. One of the main problems with America is that we do not have any sort of ritual for boys to go through to earn their passage to manhood. Joining the high school lacrosse team certainly teaches you a few team work skills and will get you into good physical condition, but it does not fulfill that deeper spiritual need that young men have to learn about and embrace their own masculinity.
We (the adults) paint a fear-based picture for them of the way life is post-high school and post-college. We are a teeming mass of hurried and stressed worker bees struggling to satisfy our insatiable corporate overlords’ appetite for profits. This tells boys that if they do not “fit in” to a mold early on, then their earning power will be impacted or worse, they could be shunned from “normal” society. Raising healthy boys who will turn into the young men who lead the social, economic and political landscapes of tomorrow starts at home. It has always started at home. It will always start at home.
A boy learns his true sense of self worth from his parents and this is communicated in the language they use to speak to him, the berth they allow him to dream, and the support they give him as he struggles with mounting schoolwork of increasing difficulty, peer pressure to experiment with illicit substances, and sexual interactions of which they have little or no idea how to perform. So, I go back to my original point – our society allows young men to drift on the breeze and we even lie to ourselves that this drifting takes on some kind of structure when young men hit college. It does not, of course – the drinking and sex intensifies, but for 2 of the 4 years, many have no idea what their major is, strolling around campuses with lots of grand ideas in their heads and the label “undeclared” on their academic record. Still countless more pursue that major with a lackluster spirit, doing enough to get by and graduate without really doing any serious academic work.
Although it may sound like it, I am not down on the youth of America. What I am saying is that we set young men up for failure over and over again. We send them the message from a young age that their energy is bad. That they must sit still. That they cannot call out. That they must not use their hands or do anything tactile. We totally miss the point about who young men are, what they want, but more importantly, what they need – which is the same thing all kids need – love and kindness, guidance, a swift kick in the rear when they screw up, and more forgiveness – then you try it all over again. We, the adults, need to take a step back from our busy lives for a moment and acknowledge the honor and enormous responsibility that is placed on our shoulders. We are raising tomorrow’s leaders. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to show young men the wisdom we have acquired through experience, to mentor and guide them in choosing their trade, and to be a strong supporter of the family and contributor to his household.
If you ask me honestly if we are doing as good a job as we possibly can, the answer is no. Pointing fingers will not do any good, but realizing that the future we are living into is shaped by how we teach young men about the world is a good start.
Read about the Conference Call where we discussed this post, among other things—Almonds, The Boy Box and Compassion: Inside the Conversation at The Good Men Project
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