4 Our Sons

by Marilynn Halas on March 8th, 2011
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Over the years I’ve written at least a hundred stories for children of all ages, but no words I’ve ever put to paper are more important than these.   There is a quiet crisis in America today and it affects everyone.  Half of the next generation is becoming disenfranchised and the more people willing to step up and get involved, the sooner we can make a better future for everyone.  Think about that for a minute, half of the next generation.  There is no one whose life will be unaffected by this sad and alarming trend.  Tomorrow’s families and being thwarted today, but we can change all that and it’s easier than you think.  The most important step is already taken because we are talking about it.  Little boys need us now more than ever.  In a recent article for American Way magazine, Charlotte Huff noted that according to the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan group that conducted a national analysis in 2010, reading proficiency scores for boys in elementary and secondary school lag behind the girls by as much as 10% in some states; further, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that college bound boys dropped to 66% in 2009, while girls continue to enroll at 74%.


As a girl in the 70’s and 80’s, (yes, I realize I’m dating myself), no one could be more grateful than I to see the wonderful advances my daughters can enjoy today.  Any sport is available for girls and education is not only accessible to our daughters, but it is a source of inspiration and empowerment to them.  I would never want to go back to a time when doctor, lawyer and police officer were de facto male occupations and teacher, nurse and babysitter were strictly female.  Anytime we pigeon hole vast sections of humanity we lose out on literally hundreds of thousands of great people who could make our world a much better place to be.  What if we let that happen again?


Forty years ago, the girls needed to be understood and the doors around them opened by caring adults who refused to allow their needs to go unanswered.  There will always be more to be done, like how about equal pay for equal work, but we are now beginning to see that in terms of childhood, the pendulum has swung the other way.


Go into any children’s store and take an informal survey.  Typically at least three quarters of the retail space is devoted to girls.  Check out your local bookstore.  Once you get passed the middle grades, it’s the same thing.  The vast majority of the titles are geared for girls.  It’s an accepted fact that we lose boys as avid readers once we get beyond middle grades.  That’s a vicious cycle.  Our sons lose interest, so they don’t drive sales, so the book publishers can’t justify greater investment in a market sector that offers lower and lower yields.  We can stop this downward spiral.


My generation reaped huge benefits from the people who fought for us to have access to the whole world, not just a small section of it.  How can we, who owe so much to those who opened the world to us, fail to learn the most important lesson?  They taught us that equality matters.  It still does.   They showed us how to stand up against injustice.  Now it’s our turn to pass it forward.


Our boys deserve no less than we did as children.  No less than we insist upon for our little girls.  Stories that entertain, inspire and empower.   Families deserve the chance to celebrate boyhood for the amazing and fun filled adventure it has every right to be.


Great in theory, but what if I don’t have sons?  Interesting, but it doesn’t really apply to me, right?  Wrong.  These underserved little guys grow up to be the husbands, fathers, partners and friends of the next generation.  So much of what they are offered for entertainment is based in abject violence.  That leads to desensitization to violence.  That hardly bodes well for the families of the future.  Strong men who understand their strength and have the self control to use it well, become good foundations for strong families with secure children.  People trying to make that happen deserve our support and the books, movies and games we give our sons must support boys; not diminish them.


How did the natural progression of entertainment for little boys go from Bambie and Peter Pan to Grand Theft Auto and L.A. Noire?  Or maybe a better question is, are we, as a community, okay with that?


Our children deserve better.  Boys and girls deserve the opportunities to grow into healthy people living full lives.  Who wouldn’t want their children to grow up feeling comfortable in their own skin and even celebrated for their differences?  Letting the girls be girls and the boys be boys is not enough, because who are we to define what that should be?  Let’s give them the tools they need to discover and create themselves.  Healthy people who feel empowered to be their best selves and who feel a sense of belonging to the community.


That sense of belonging is a basic human need and right now, our sons are missing out.  Knowing that school and books and lifelong learning are as much for them as for their sisters is the foundation of fulfillment.  Imagine a society where men and women are equal partners in caring for our children, our communities and our environment.  If that kind of equality matters to you, let’s get together and help ALL our children, boys and girls to feel empowered, not diminished by their entertainment, to feel inspired and excited about reading and to create a next generation that has room for everyone to embrace their differences and learn from each other.


I’d love to hear what you think and remember to keep your face to the sun and all shadows will fall behind.



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  • Jennifer

    Great thoughts Marilynn. As the mother of 2 boys and as a professional who works with lots of boys there is something missing in society that lifts our boys up and celebrates their boyness. Boys should be celebrated for who they are, for their differences from girls. Boys need to be read to and encouraged in all aspects of life, not just in sports. We need to have engaging, action filled books that grab their attention and instills in them a love of learning and a curiosity that makes them want to learn more and more. Schools also need to be aware that boys learn differently than girls. Our schools are run by women and made for girls who are capable of sitting at a table and drawing delightful pictures, boys need movement, they need hands on creative learning and this needs to be addressed. So what if they work best standing up or laying on the floor isn’t it most important that they are engaged and interested in learning? And why is it that recess is taken away from our boys for misbehaving when recess is where they get to run around and get out their energy. We need to grab these boys, get them interested in learning and set them up for success in life. Let’s not treat them like messy, smelly little girls but embrace their boyness!

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