We’re Failing Our Boys and Young Men

In my last year teaching high school in a middle class Boston suburb in 2016, a colleague flat out declared, “We’re failing our boys.” I remember staring at him perplexed. But he challenged me to peer into any special education class and the detention room after school. Sure enough. Nearly all boys, and this had been the norm for years. Fast forward to 2023. Putting high school behind us, let’s view two other institutions—colleges and prisons. The former is now dominated by women (over 60%) and the latter is devastatingly male. But why?

Answers to complex societal problems are rarely easy, but academics and other experts could benefit from a periodic reexamination of standard thinking and operation. We know testosterone leads boys to be more vocal, more rambunctious, and to act out more. Standard “solutions” often include an ADHD diagnosis followed by pills like Adderall. Next up might be a battery of tests and evaluations. The slightest deficiency can be grounds for a learning disability diagnosis and thus expensive (to the school district) special education mandates. I can attest firsthand that once a child (far more often a boy) is saddled with an individualized education plan (IEP), he rarely comes off it. It’s a life sentence. Detentions and suspensions also fall overwhelmingly on boys, even for the same behavior as girls. 

Facts. Girls are half a grade level or better above boys in all 50 states. Seven in 10 high school valedictorians are girls. College graduates are soon to be 2:1 women to men. Women with a college degree do not like to marry men without one. Single women are far more likely to own their own home, and they are far less likely to commit suicide. If you’re a young male in America today, particularly one without any higher education or job training, the statistics are increasingly grim. 

I reside in Central Florida. Retirement communities are numerous but no major colleges within an hour’s drive. Low wage service sector work, construction, and landscaping are the primary options for young men. COVID lockdowns and paying people not to work encouraged sloth nationwide. Some men never went back to gainful employment. There’s a growing population “unemployable” to a company and “unviable” to a partner. An arrest record. Tattoos on the face. A lack of meaningful work history. Too many young men are permanently closing doors to success.  Small wonder that crime and drugs fill the void. There’s scarcely a traffic stop in the area where methamphetamine is not found in the vehicle. And the triple homicide by three male teenagers that made headlines last week took place just miles from here.

But we’ve heard for decades and continue hearing that men have all the advantages. Who would dare utter that young men are in crisis? Who would further dare take up the cause to do something about it given how The Left might react?

New York University Professor Scott Galloway is one of the few out front. Galloway is an author, public speaker, podcast host, self-made millionaire, and entrepreneur. While he cut his teeth as a critic of Big Tech and is famous for telling his students not to follow their passions but to “follow their talent,” a more recent line of his, while alarming, is starting new conversations. “There’s nothing more dangerous than a lonely, broken, young man.”

Galloway is focusing attention on an educational system biased against boys plus contemporary dating and mating norms that get too many young men labeled as “not economically viable.” He’s a frequent guest on Bill Maher’s Real Time on HBO. Galloway is sounding the alarm about too many young men who are not attached to work, school, or women. That portends a less productive and more violent nation in the future. “The most unstable nations in the world have one thing in common, and that is they have too many lonely, broke, and alone men.”

Few 17 and 18 year olds of either gender know precisely what they want to do for the rest of their lives.  And they need not know. I remember trying to calm high school seniors down from angst by telling them I wanted to be an airline pilot at 17 but went on to work in travel, state government, and then education instead. Data show young women figure out and deal with the challenges of life faster and often on their own. Whether biology or something else, too many young men feel a need to “sow their wild oats” before getting serious, if they ever do. But youth recklessness and irresponsibility can have lifetime costs.

Galloway declares the ultimate positive display of masculinity is a successful man taking an interest in a young man that is not his and helping him grow. He states, “The number one indicator of suicide among teen boys is a fatherless home, and 70% of men who are incarcerated didn’t have a male role model.” He even advocates for a high school course on mating dynamics in a world dominated by Tinder. The on-line app stresses hook-ups over true relationship formation. Swiping through female photos is akin to ordering a pizza. Needless to say, it is a significant contributor in making men feel worthless. Finally, Galloway condemns the isolation of at-home work. “Young men need guardrails. They need to know how to read a room. They need to put on a clean shirt and get into the office.”

The evidence is in. We’re failing our boys and young men. Being pro-men should never be considered being anti-women. Acknowledging the current crisis is step one. Finding solutions is step two, but few if any will come from government. They will have to come from all of us.

Jeff Szymanski has a master’s degree in political science. He works in political communications for AMAC Action and previously taught high school economics, history, psychology, and sociology.

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