The Crisis of Men and Boys

I have avoided this subject here for a while. I don’t remember the last time I write here about the plight of boys and men in America society. This column by highly respected commentator David Brooks came “across my desk” : “The Crisis of Men and Boys.” It was published in the New York Times and was syndicated in many other newspapers recently. I found it by using a search engine and just entering the author’s name and the title.

I have been sounding the alarm about men’s health and boys’ falling behind in education for many years now. At first, say twenty years ago, I was ridiculed for it. The usual response was something like “They should just ‘man up’” and “It’s women’s and girls’ turn to get attention now.”

I have always said as clearly as I could that I do not want to take anything away from girls or women. However, I do think it is unfair and therefore wrong for the U.S. federal government to have a tax-funded Office for Women’s Health (going on 30 years now) with no similar agency for men’s health.

I also think the media is not being fair because they typically put the spotlight on girls’ and women’s needs to the neglect of boys’ and men’s. The above cited article contains some distressing statistics proving that more attention needs to be given to boys and men in especially education, job training, and health.

Brooks cites a new book by Richard Reeves entitled “Of Men and Boys.” I have not read it yet, but I intend to and I will review it here after I read it.

Recently I viewed three documentaries about “deaths of despair” in the U.S. They are sharply increasing. They include suicides and deaths by overdoses. Two of them, produced by British and Australian news outlets, focused on the crisis of deaths of despair especially among middle aged, white males, especially in Wyoming and Montana. The rise in such deaths in that demographic is alarming. The third documentary was made by an American media outlet and it raised the alarm about “deaths of despair” especially among middle aged Americans but did not mention the gender disparity. Why is that? I am certain that if the majority of deaths of despair were among females that would be mentioned.

So let’s imagine that perhaps the “men and boy crisis” is all males’ faults. Is that reason enough not to do anything about it—publicly? Is it not a stark prospect for the future—if boys continue to drop out of school and not enter the ranks of higher education and earn degrees? Is it not a stark prospect for the future—if young men continue to suffer chronic unemployment because traditional jobs for men are going away? Is it not a stark prospect for the future—if middle aged white men continue to die in increasing numbers from suicides and overdoses?

I think everyone will suffer if this trend continues. We cannot afford to have nearly half of the population alienated, lacking the means or wish to live fulfilled and and happy lives.

I have been in the “thick” of the American higher education, academic world for many years and I know from first hand experience two things. Increasingly open positions teaching in that realm are being held open for women. Increasingly, young male students of great talent and intelligence are being discouraged from even attempting to get into graduate programs. They are being told it is unlikely they will be accepted because they are white males, regardless of their intelligence, aptitude, interest and achievements. And they are being told to prepare to set aside their interests in academic fields and prepare to be baristas (or whatever) for a very long time if not forever.

I am not at all complaining about the achievements of women; I fully support total equality of women with men in every corner of American society. However, the statistics and just realities are now showing that unintentionally the rise of women is resulting in the decline of men and that is not helpful for the future of our social order.

Roger Olson

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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