Saturday, January 19, 2008

Leonard Sax On Boys Today: They're Wimps And They Jack Off Too Much

This seems to be the take away from this Maclean's interview with the American psychologist/family physician Leonard Sax. And his views are also given some play in the Star today by Jim Coyle.

More generally, Mr. Sax believes that today's primary school system has been "feminized". Boys can't fight and throw snowballs and play with toy guns the way they used to. Furthermore, once out of school they are no longer surrounded by a "culture of men" that teaches them right from wrong etc.. Somehow, this is leading them to poor grades, violence and, when they reach college age, sexual impotence.

Dr. Sax's theory sounds fishy to me, lamenting and calling for a return to the "good old days" when school for boys was like one big scouting expedition, where campfires were sat around and guitars strummed and traditions passed from man to boy via rites extending back to the days of Lord Baden Powell.

But all I can say for sure is, I passed through the school system back during Mr. Sax's Golden Age (roughly 40 years ago), and I don't recall it being that much fun. Even back then you had to sit still in math class, which was boring and sucked, and in most of the other classes too, which were also boring and sucked. I don't recall being allowed to pack fake weapons into class, although maybe some schools were like that. In any case, these days the kids don't need to play with fake guns; they've got real ones, and this has clearly NOT had a salutary effect on overall grades.

I do recall the glory of a good snow-ball fight, especially one particular time when I corked some kid with an ice-ball I'd made up special and he fell plonk! right off the snow bank and we all had to run. I also recall the wooden Pirate Ship our neighborhood built outside of Millstream Elementary School in Langford, B.C. At every lunch hour, the kids would fight over who got to stand on the after deck, and many, many a child cracked their heads open getting fed to the sharks. But I don't really think its presence had an effect on my grades, which were dismal in any event.

Mr. Sax has mistaken nostalgia for science, I think.


Anonymous said...

BCL - my experience of school mirrors yours as well. I think though that school has become more feminized however. It's no surprise that the ADHD cases are almost always boys. They are naturally more rambunctious than girls. There is a control-freakishness that has taken root in our schools that has made them much more oppressive for your average kid than when you were in school

bigcitylib said...

Well, I haven't been around a working school in ages, but nothing that Sax speaks of in particular sounds like it has changed too much. I mean, the whole thing about sitting still. I grew up during the last few years when they were employing the strap. They used that to cure rambunctiousness, not encourage it.
Teachers could also cuff you upside the head for the same end.

Any of the control freakishness today I suspect comes from fear of lawsuits, rather than any sort of "feminization".

Ti-Guy said...

One thing about these discussions...there's a lot blaming going on, but those who hardly ever get blamed for the crisis with boys (which I believe does exist, prime examples of which are the current paragons of masculinity we see among Conservatives), despite whining to the contrary, have been the ones in charge the whole time.

Anonymous said...

After 40 years teaching, I can attest to the fact that there are precious few male role models at the elementary level. You're right. BCL, it's mostly crowd control and the latest weapon is 'zero tolerance'.

I always used the gym or schoolyard, myself, and tired the beejeesus out of the kids with sports and games. Appointing the so-called 'bullies' as leaders whenever possible had positive results. In a pinch, we'd push back the desks, string a net across the room and play volleyball with balloons.Sometimes
badminton with rackets and balloons.We called it Preferred Activity Time (P.A.T.)and it was well-earned. Of course,using a half hour or so at the end of a day with nine year olds cannot be done with older kids. I brought in men (husband, school caretaker, manager of a nearby car dealership, etc.) to read aloud their favourite books. The ADHD boys, as Jerrold called them, loved to earn their way to spending time with this men at their work. Girls chose time with the females (secretary, principal, etc.) but one of them did choose to spend time in the dealership garage washing cars. My small town school was a creative, safe environment. Lawsuits were not considered; parents trusted me and I trusted them. Communication was constant and I accepted many visits and calls at home.

Now in the city, I pick up my six year old grandson at the bus stop at four and find it sad to see his tired, emotionally rather flat countenance. Thankfully, a snack and some wild playtime outside changes that pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

Just once, I would like one of these critics to give us a first person account, as in "My name is Anon, and I've been feminized." How come it's always other people who have been feminized, huh?

Ti-Guy said...

How come it's always other people who have been feminized, huh?

Good point.

The issue is with the word feminised; it's meaningless to describe the issues they're griping about here. You know it means (for them) undesirable or unappealing characteristics, and is, at heart, sexist.

What they lament about these boys has nothing to do with feminisation...lack of motivation, ambition and interest, poor socialisation, bullying...those aren't feminine qualities. They're poor ways to cope...for anybody.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ti-Guy, you must be a Conservative posing as a left-winger. All your views are far too cliche to be those of a real person. It's either that or you're just a complete fucking asshole.

Anonymous said...


Ti-guy has some deep-rooted issues, and gleaning from his various comments, probably relating to unresolved sexual issues. I think one needs to look no further than that.

Ti-Guy said...

There's Biff talking about cock again.

Good God...we liberals gave them all that porn. What else do they need?

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