Thursday, November 16, 2006

Boy, do we have some problems to fix!

My wife and I recently rented a PBS documentary called Raising Cain: Boys in Focus. The documentary explores the secret lives of boys and some of the misconceptions society has about them. As the parents of a 2 1/2 year old boy, and a 7 month old girl who will grow up dealing with boys, we found this documentary to be informative and fascinating.

Raising Cain was hosted by child psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D. Dr. Thompson covered the gamut of boys' lives; from birth, to babies, to elementary, to high school. He also looked at the lives of boys who live in the inner city and boys who live in the ritzy suburbs. The most tragic episodes were - not surprisingly - the ordeal of inner-city boys. Dr. Thompson focused on the tragic results of inner-city boys who essentially raise themselves. Since there is rarely any father in the home, these boys have to figure out on their own what it means to be a man - either from themselves, or worse, their peers. The end result is a bunch of hyper-masculine wolves who prey on anyone weaker than themselves. One of the biggest reasons they prey on others is to keep from becoming prey themselves. You all know the intimidating swagger and non-stop cursing that many inner-city boys adopt. Dr. Thompson calls this the "mask of masculinity." These boys act in a manner that they think is an authentic representation of how men are supposed to act, when in actuality, their behavior is a distorted and perverted version of the real thing. Dr. Thompson juxtaposes the behavior of some fatherless inner-city boys, with another boy whose father, although divorced from his mother, is still very involved in the boy's life. The father's involvement makes all the difference in the world. I was particularly touched when Dr. Thompson pointed out a scene when the father hugs and kisses his boy, and described that tender moment as something a father can teach his son that a boy's peers cannot or will not; that you can be masculine while also being affectionate. I hug and kiss my son all the time, and while I know that is important to do, I don't think I truly appreciated how much until the lack of that affection was illustrated during the profiles of these inner-city boys who, deep down, are starved for a father's attention and affection. The wonderful thing, is that throughout the documentary, Dr. Thompson pointed out the importance of the role of the father, no matter what the socio-economic status.

Another thing Dr. Thompson talked about that I appreciated was the role that fantasy violence plays in the life of a young boy. Nowadays, many parents and school officials get the vapors when little boys play war, or draw violent pictures, or write stories with violent content, or even play tag and dodgeball. Dr. Thompson correctly points out that play violence is not real violence, and to retard a boy's predilection to participate in play violence does nothing but make the boy feel like there is something wrong with him or dirty about him. If some of these oversensitive teachers and parents could have observed me when I was a kid, they would have lumped me in with the Columbine killers. I drew pictures of guillotines and people being hanged, my friends and I played Vietnam War at recess, and when one of us was "wounded", the "wounded" kid would beg his playmates to shoot him and put him out of his misery; the playmates would happily oblige. We conducted intricate war games in the woods where we would deck ourselves out with camo uniforms, carry toy guns, and set up ambushes. Yep, I was a regular psychopath. It was refreshing to hear Dr. Thompson point out to teachers, students, and the viewers that some high school boys doing a risque skit involving the Seven Dwarves getting a little too friendly with Snow White does not mean that those boys will grow up to be gang rapists, and for some of the teachers and parents to insinuate that belief does nothing but alienate boys from the school culture that much more. As badly as boys are performing in school in comparison to girls, we cannot afford to alienate boys from school much more than we already have.

Good Day to You, Sir

14 comments:

Howard Davis said...

How dare you expose yourself to such liberal propaganda as a PBS documentary? You may get kicked out of the tight-ass, right-wingers club for that move.

Chanman said...

You kidding? I hear "documentary" and I think PBS. Frontline is awesome.

Howard Davis said...

I was kidding.

Chanman said...

I know

George said...

I would like to hear more of your observations about the suburban kids.

Mr Davis - You're right . . . he's out of the club! But that would be hypocritical of me because I enjoy PBS as well.

Polski3 said...

Hey, don't forget blasting your friends with Star Trek lazers....NOT set on "stun", but on "FRY THE ALIEN"......

Lets not forget the lack of reading material for young boys that is missing from most schools, school libraries, and school textbook publishers literature series, anthologies, etc.

Growing up, I read such classics as PT 109, Guadacanal Diary, the whole slew of "Childhood of Famous Americans" series (most of which were about our male heros, inventors, leaders, etc.). Heaven forbid a boy in school should read about Robert E. Lee or George A. Custer.....the pc that has invaded education is, IMO, partially responsible for our boys lacking male role models.

And, lets not forget the hip-hop music too many of them listen to and learn that women are just 'hoes and bitches and should be treated accordingly.

Good article. Thanks for sharing it with us.

bluejay said...

In response to Polski3 and reading material for boys. Every parent with a son should introduce him early and often to "The Great Brain" series of books by John D. Fitzgerald. They show boys doing boy things and having a heck of a good time doing them. Come to think of it, I'm a girl and I enjoyed them, too! I read them to my 7th grade students in class, and the students can't get enough of them. The boys actually move their desks in front of me so they will hear the words first!

George said...

We could add to the danger list the recent plight of violence over the PS3 . . . a damned video game player - status symbol of the hood!

George said...

Let me add two classic books:

1. The American Boy's Handy Book: What to Do and How to Do It
2. 40's-50's era Boy Scout Manual

Chanman said...

I read the entire Great Brain series as a kid, and a couple of years ago, my mother gave me the entire series as a Christmas present so I could read the series to my own kids.

Chanman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darren said...

When I was very young, there was a show on tv (Channel 13?) called Miss Pat's Playroom. Part educational, part fun.

One of the most anticipated segments each week was when Miss Pat showed--on tv!--pictures that children had drawn and sent in. Imagine how big my tiny chest puffed up when I saw my own picture showed--on tv!--and heard Miss Pat say something like, "And here's little Darren's picture of an airplane bombing a house. And next we have..."

No vapors, no counselors, no Ritalin. That's just what boys drew pictures of. And back then, it was ok to show them on tv!!!

nebraska girl said...

I was a tom boy as a kid and my brother and I would play war in the woods with actual bb guns (.22 rifles when the adults would let us). We've both turned into fairly well adjusted adults.

Chanman said...

I also played a couple rounds of war in the woods with BB guns. I will always remember standing there while hearing this high sounding whistle get closer and closer, and then it felt like my hand exploded. Turns out, the whistle sound was a BB coming at me, then the BB hit my right hand opposite my palm. I dropped to the ground writhing in actual pain... it was awesome!!!