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We need to bolster those bundles of joy

I was only a few weeks into luxuriating in the news that my third grandson would be arriving early next year – I know, I'm rich! – when a term I knew only vaguely suddenly demanded my attention.

Researchers call it male malaise, and they point to the economic, social and even political consequences of increasing numbers of males dropping out of the work force, shunning education/training after high school, and engaging in behaviors that threaten their health.

Maybe you've even witnessed this, but reflexively thought, Not my boys!

I forced my way past that and read on to learn more.

It turns out girls on average are ahead of boys academically from pre-K all the way to post-graduate. Girls in the typical U.S. school district are almost a grade level ahead of boys in English. Among students whose GPA is in the top 10 percent, two-thirds are girls. Of students whose GPA is in the bottom 10 percent, two-thirds are boys. So it makes sense that college campuses are about 60-40 female-male now.

Author Richard Reeves, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, where he directs the Boys and Men Project, cites the later developmental process for boys, and the education system's failure to deal with it. He also notes the dwindling number of men in the teaching profession.

All of which is to say this is not a good situation for our boys, our men, ourselves.

This summer Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Reeves discussed how men and boys are struggling with their roles and with cultural expectations of men. Adding that while we've witnessed this struggle, we haven't yet found a way to talk about it, let alone address it.

Reeves suggests expanding paid leave, creating more vocational high schools, encouraging more men to become nurses and teachers, and giving boys an extra year of kindergarten to compensate for slower adolescent brain development. But all are controversial and unproven.

If you know of a young man, or a young boy, who is struggling and seemingly failing to flourish, you're right to be worried.

Social change is not something we can take on by ourselves, but let's start talking about this problem, and acknowledging it when we see it. Maybe then we'll be angry enough to demand that our institutions take action.

Photo credit: Roxanne Schneider


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