Let's play a little game of make believe shall we? Let's play "house" - and pretend to be a typical American family about five years from now- say in 2014.
In this scenario, Mommy is a CEO, serves on several Boards of Directors, and had her two kids in her late thirties. Daddy is at home full time, cooks dinner, coaches soccer and helps with homework at night. He dropped out of college, after struggling through high school, and can't find a well paying job to justify their childcare costs.
In our make believe game, there are two children. The daughter is getting all A's in school. She is the teacher's pet, class president, plays sports and is in honor's classes. The son likes sports, but hates most subjects in school, struggles with ADHD, and is fumbling. Both have the same amount of attention and opportunities at home, yet the daughter is going to Harvard and the son is going to Community College.
Now, before you get hot and huffy here about gender sexism, bear with me. This scenario is not far from the truth for our upcoming leaders of tomorrow. Since the 1970's feminism has opened up unparalleled opportunity for women to move forward in education and business. Is it perfect? No, but today's daughters are breaking glass ceilings and blazing trails.
However, there are glass shards and dead end roads being inadvertently left for the men, and the boys. In the past ten years or so, the world of education has changed dramatically. The "No Child Left Behind Act" has been a disaster, and instead has turned into "All Boys Left Behind." Our nation's boys are not just slipping through the cracks, they are washing down the Grand Canyon without a paddle, and something must be done about it.
Peg Tyre is author of the book, The Trouble with Boys, a #1 best seller, coming out in paperback this summer. Tyre spent five years researching the current education system from every demographic. She has a powerful, unrelenting story of how our young men are struggling, and describes a giant education gap that will affect every level of American life, in a very short period of time, as these kids grow up.
Currently, boys are being "expelled" from preschool four times more than girls. They are 60% more likely to be held back in kindergarten, and twice as likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities. Only 43% of young men are enrolled as undergraduates in college, girls are taking more AP classes in high school, and dominating as school valedictorians. In fact, a "dirty little secret" at many colleges and universities is the unspoken "new gender gap." Boys are being admitted to colleges with lesser qualifications than girls to keep the gender balance.
Even though the IQ levels are the same, boys are disengaging from the educational process from their very first moments in a classroom, and steadily falling behind with each passing year. Today 72% of girls and only 65% of boys are graduating from high school.
For struggling families, the child who does the best in school is the one who will be pushed the hardest - nowadays it is invariably a girl. This trend is a massive reversal of forty years ago, where the academic career's of the boys was pushed at the expense of the girls. How can we keep the scales balanced?
"In some ways its nice to see women on top. But we have to ask who is going to bring up the children and who are these educated women going to marry? In America there are 2.5 million more girls than boys in college, and women tend to marry men of the same level of educational attainment."
If the pipeline that is sending our boys up through the education system is damaged, the catastrophic recession is smashing the other end of the pipe as well- leaving scores of men unemployed, depressed and unsure of where to go next. Statistics show nearly 80% of those losing their jobs from the recession are men. Many of them are helping out at home, and redefining the meaning of "stay at home dad."
Does anyone see the connection here? In our recent lifestyle of 80 hour work weeks, an average father currently only spends 30 minutes a day with their sons. Maybe our struggling boys need their struggling dad's. Maybe both their lives need to be filled with a little more wrestling, games of Spiderman and comic books, instead of endless meetings and boring classroom droning.
Jeremy Adam Smith has written a new book, The Daddy Shift, just released for Father's Day. Smith, a staunch profeminist, spent a year with their infant son as the primary caretaker, and writes a very intelligent and engaging blog called "Daddy Dialectic". He offers a positive spin on the profound importance of men being at home as transforming bread winning into care giving. Check him out on this one minute video:
"Many fathers feel helpless, useless or in the way, when instead fathers can serve as a bridge between the mother and the rest of the world," said Smith. "It is time to come up with a whole new set of rules."
Smith feels that hands-on dads handle stress better when facing issues of unemployment.
"Taking care of my children is the toughest challenge I ever faced, but facing it strengthened me and enlarged my life, and critically, it has helped many of us to survive unemployment,"
I asked Smith if he has noticed any differences in how he parents vs. his wife's style.
"Primarily, I think there is not a huge difference between men and women as parents," he begins. "However, I do think father's wrestle more, and while many assume the maternal style is the gold standard, running around playing octopus is how we have fun and relate to each other."
I have great faith that having more men at home can help bring that critical masculine energy back into the nucleus of the family- there may be more sword fighting, squirt guns, and more hours of farting than flash cards. If boys can be empowered by men at home, ideally their ability to perform in school will increase. If more men are paying attention to how their sons are being taught and the obvious deficits they are facing, motivation will occur to take action and address their specific needs.
Let's hear it for the boys. How are your boys faring in school? How are the men out there handling the juggling domestic home front? Let's start a dialogue and your comments are warmly welcomed!