The War Against Boys: Preface

August 4, 2010 | NeW Staff

The War Against Boys is the story of our cultural attack on the modern male. Twenty-first century men are looked down-upon, laughed at, and many times emasculated in our day-to-day lives. In her book, Christina Hoff Sommers does an excellent job reminding us that men are responsible for a lot of good in the world:

“This book tells the story of how it has become fashionable to attribute pathology to millions of healthy male children. It is a story of how we are turning against boys and forgetting a simple truth: that the energy, competitiveness, and corporal daring of normal, decent males is responsible for much of what is right in the word.”

Sommers’ goal is to “set the record straight:” to discredit misinformation, show the facts and declare the truth about men in our culture:

“In this book I try to correct the misinformation and give an accurate picture of “where the boys are.” A review of the facts shows boys, not girls, on the weak side of an educational gender gap. Boys, on average, are a year and a half behind girls in reading and writing; they are less committed to school and less likely to go to college. In 1997, college full-time enrollments were 45 percent male and 55 percent female. The U.S. Department of Education predicts that the ratio of boys’ entry into college will continue to worsen.”

Our culture has promoted a skewed view; most people believe that women are treated unfairly, that men need to be changed and “recreated,” to connect with their feminine side:

“American boys face genuine problems that cannot be addressed by constructing new versions of manhood. They do not need to be “rescued” from their masculinity. On the other hand, too many of our sons are languishing academically and socially. The widening education gap threatens the future of millions of American boys.”

According to Sommers, other countries are significantly ahead of the United States in solving the languishing academic and social struggles of boys:

“Like American boys, boys in Great Britain and Australia are markedly behind girls academically, notably in reading and writing. . . The big difference is that British educators and politicians are ten years ahead of Americans in confronting and specifically addressing the problem of male underachievement. The British government has introduced a highly successful back-to-basics program into  primary schools called the Literacy Hour. Its explicit purpose is to help boys catch up with the girls. The British are also experimenting with all-male classes in coed public schools. They are again allowing “gender stereotypes” in their educational materials. They have found that boys enjoy and will read adventure stories with male heroes. War poetry is back. So is classroom competition.”

In closing, Sommers gives her reader a wonderful overview of the book, and a heartfelt plea for change before it’s too late:

“In the war against boys, as in all wars, the first casualty is truth. In the United States, the truth about boys has been distorted and buried. I begin by showing how the plight of boys came to be buried and by whom. I then report on actual condition of boys, giving readers documented accounts of how boys are faring and suggestion what we can do to brighten their prospects. boys badly need our attention. It is late, but not too late.”

Discussion Questions: Do you believe there is a war against boys? In your personal experience, have you noticed our culture devaluing, belittling or ignoring men and the problems they face?
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