Plus: discussing loneliness with the Surgeon General and a landmark essay on masculinity
Thank you so much for writing this.
One of the key takeaways for me from your writing is, “oh, I’m not a freak, actually.” I really, really struggled in so many of the ways you’ve described, especially academically. I always assumed it was because I was uniquely bad at school, stupid, lazy, etc.
Your work is helping me see that that’s not the case, and that I’m (tragically) more normal than I thought I was. It’s reassuring to me to know I’m not alone, but disheartening to know that so many other men are struggling similarly.
That Tate piece you linked to is a pretty special hodgepodge of Islamophobia and hyper-conservative culture grievances. Uncomfortable reading not just because of Tate but also the author’s pretty appalling points of view which are apparent from the piece.
I was jumping for joy to read your description of research on the grading methods, specifically grading based on assignment vs assessment. As soon as my son started school, it became painfully clear that he and other boys were at a disadvantage because of the huge emphasis on completing homework everyday — all manner of assignments. Test scores through the years showed very high levels of comprehension of math while grades were low.
Could you explain what exactly the difference is between assessment grading versus assignment grading?
I made my kids do math. In fact, I drove them crazy about it. "You have to learn my way of long division as well as the way the teacher tells you. I know I am a mean dad, but do it my way as well and show me the work." Later, when they had to divide polynomials they saw why I taught them the traditional way. I had the kids read rather than watch video. No TV, no little video screens. Yes, my son really started on captain underpants, but so what. As long as it was reading. And I got him a kindle so that he could read under the cover at night. He was getting away with something - but he was reading.
I had the kids take the most advanced math they could handle. My son wasn't as mathematically apt as his older sister, but he still survived calculus in what would have been 11th grade, when he went to Running Start. His sister did calculus in 10th grade before dropping out of high school and doing early admission to the university.
He did business and MIS in college, she did civil engineering.
When my first marriage collapsed, the counselor thought I was a hopeless reactionary when I told her that I viewed the characteristics valued in 'IF' as overall meritotorious. My daughter even recited it as her favorite poem in English class - and Kipling is no longer socially acceptable.
Yours would be only the second institute in the world for the study of boys and men. The only one in America. The other being John Barry and Martin Seager’s Centre for Male Psychology in London. Thank you.
Re: your praise of the Corbin piece, the quoted passage makes sense and is relatable. That said, my only hesitation is the characterization of “circling wagons” as necessarily always a bad thing. Interestingly, in the right circumstances it’s a natural and appropriate thing to do when one feels threatened, or in a more positive view, when it’s time to gather together and focus on core principles and defining mission. Christopher Lasch asked us to revisit the merits of values and world views that he saw as abandoned to society’s detriment. Was he “circling wagons” during a tumultuous period in American history or asking us to scan the past to help us find and preserve our better natures?
Fantastic as always. Forwarded to my husband and brother (dads to 4 boys between them)
One small thing...ELA and math don't balance out. I know you are talking populations wide, but, my oldest boy has dysgraphia. He basically had to relearn math every time he did it because of how his brain functions. But he was reading at a high school level in 3rd grade. His teachers always told us it would balance out...it never did. His profound sense of failure based on how he couldn't write math or essays well enough to translate his reading and eloquence haunts him still as he goes into 10th grade. My brilliant boy thinks he is a failure every day because he couldn't do what his elementary school teachers kept telling him he should be able to. I feel like I will never get over my heartbreak for him.
Few things get my attention faster than an Of Boys and Men post. One of the key drivers of girls success in math has been found to be higher self discipline among girls. Perhaps it is an element of socialization but it’s an advantage in this context. Boys are falling behind as they have lost other supports. What’s fascinating is how each sex needs different elements to thrive and is vulnerable in its own unique ways.