Erstwhile Presidential candidate Andrew Yang put an important and fascinating thread up last week on Twitter related to…
(What? I Twitter. I’m old, but, I can Twit.)
This thread of Mr. Yang’s highlit several points, some of which you’ve seen in this space before:
- only 40% of college enrollees are male
- only 30% of high school valedictorians are male
- boys are 2-3x more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD
- boys are 5x more likely to spend time in juvenile detention
- more men age 18-34 live with their parents than with romantic partners
There is a crisis in the world of the American male, and it’s not getting any better.
Now, before I go too far down this road, let me be clear—crystal clear—that this is in no way an attempt to denigrate the gains that women have made in the culture. More women are getting better educated, more women are populating the C-suites of major corporations and more women are achieving political power in this country. As a father of daughters, I see all of this as a GREAT development.
But, also, as a father of daughters (Abu al-Banat, for fans of West Wing), I have seen the struggles my daughters have gone through trying to find boyfriends who are their equals and peers, who are worthy of respect and who give respect and who are capable of managing “adult” responsibilities and being real partners. Fortunately, right now, they are both in excellent relationships, but it’s taken a while.
I also see this in the schools. As a retired teacher who occasionally substitute teaches, I can say that the boys struggle. Most of them are torn between trying to meet expectations in a system that is designed away from their strengths and trying to fit into a social hierarchy that resembles a pack of stray dogs and a culture that seems to value clown behavior above achievement.
One thing Mr. Yang did not point out in his thread was the absurdly high number of boys who have to grow up in this day and age without a father in the home. By some estimates, fewer than a third of all boys live in the same household as their biological father; in some communities about half live in households with no adult male at all. And while it’s true that some fathers are toxic, I would say the street pack is almost always toxic.
And before anybody goes off about how “chauvinistic” it is for me to think that only a man can teach a boy to be a man, let me state this: I had no idea how to be a man until I had children, but I was raised by a great role model. My parents held me accountable and made me act the part; but, until I held my own child, it was just an act. Becoming a dad made everything my dad ever did, instantaneously, make sense. It’s different.
Also, it’s not just men in the homes—think about the cultural portrayal of man and dads. Disney and Nickelodeon are populated by dads who are buffoons, “Cobra Kai” is mostly absentee dads, “Stranger Things” has an absentee dad, “Friends” has two dads who are divorced and one who’s cheating on his wife, “Married with Children,” “The Simpsons”… you get the picture. I think, realistically, the last popular culture dad who was a good, respectable and strong figure was Heathcliff Huxtable. The models are broken, too.
Think I’m overreacting? Look at the statistics from the last 22 months on boys, drug overdoses and suicides. They will depress you.
I’m glad Andrew Yang is talking about this—he seems to be the only one. It’s all well and good that our state reps want to help us clean out our junk drawers, but really important and catastrophic things are bubbling beneath the surface of our society. And I think we need to start talking about it.
Michael Alcorn is a former teacher and current writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at firstname.lastname@example.org. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.