What is Happening to Boys in America

             Modern boys are losing ground in several key areas, but education may be the most significant.  For the first time in our Nation’s history, boys have less education than their fathers.[i] The education pendulum has swung so radically in one direction that women are surpassing men in every aspect of education.  Girls are outshining boys in academic performance, SAT scores, and in participation in debate clubs, student council, and other extracurricular activities.  Meanwhile, boys are leading the way in drop-out rates, school suspensions, ADHD diagnoses, and poor grade performance.[ii] 

            Boys are also less prepared when they come to school.  Over 30 percent of boys report coming to school without doing their homework, compared to 21 percent of girls.[iii]        No wonder that in the National Honor Society, 64 percent of the members are female, compared to 36 percent of males. 

            Contemporary women place a high value on education while men do not seem to be as concerned.   A University of Michigan study found that 67 percent of female high school seniors planned on graduating from college, while only 55 percent of males had the same goal.[iv]  The National Center for Educational Statistics recently asked 10th graders about their educational expectations; 42 percent of the girls reported that they planned to pursue a graduate or professional degree, compared with 29 percent of the boys.[v]  A study that tracked the students who graduated from Boston Public schools reported that for every 167 women in four year colleges, there were only 100 men.[vi]

            Another issue that has become the Achilles Heel to both men and boys is media and video games.  Most boys today are not spending their discretionary time reading classic literature or doing their homework.  Instead, they are playing video games.  According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, 99 percent of boys play video games—that is pretty much everyone folks!  Nearly one-third of teen gamers play daily and 34 percent of boys play for longer than two hours daily.  Over 65 percent of teens who play video games daily are boys, compared to 35 percent of girls who are girls.  Moreover, the games boys play are often more violent than the games girls engage in.[vii]

            In the Church, we have plenty of young men who spend inordinate amounts of time playing video games.  We are aware of male LDS college students who have been placed on academic probation because of their poor grades.  Further investigation showed that most of these young men were glued to their X-boxes and PlayStations until 3 or 4 a.m. regularly.  They weren’t passing any of their classes, but they had become masters of some virtual planet they were in running.

            Finally, the downfall of many boys and men today is sex, and more specifically pornography.  Renowned pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker recently wrote, “Every boy over the age of eight in the United States is under sexual assault,”[viii] and we wholeheartedly agree.  Boys have been exposed at earlier ages to lewdness, sexual acts, pornographic images, and filthy language. Most prime time television programs are saturated with sexual themes and conversations, and the commercials aired during the family hours of television are even worse.  In 1985, 92 percent of adult males had viewed a pornographic magazine by age fifteen; today with the internet, the average age of a boy’s first exposure to pornography is eleven.  Moreover, years ago, the pornography a young man would have viewed would have been a single woman staring at the camera seductively; today, a boy would more likely view sexual acts between partners.[ix]  There is a pornography crisis in our culture, and many of our LDS youth have succumbed to the temptation.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for this sexual temptation to become a full-blown addiction.  Consequently, some of these youth often forfeit their opportunities to receive the priesthood, to be directed by the Spirit, to attend the temple, and to accept a mission call. 

            Pornography is intensely addictive. Once in its grasps, it is very difficult to break free.  It will shape the way a boy views girls for most of his life.  Boys between the ages of 12-17 are the largest consumers of internet pornography.  President Gordon B. Hinckley warned, “Stay away from pornography!  Avoid it as you would a terrible disease.  It is a consuming disease.  It is addictive… [It] will destroy you.”[x]  Once those graphic images are imprinted on a boys mind, they will be there forever.  We do not know of a single social issue today, or vice, that is destroying the priesthood holders of the Church more than pornography. Satan understands that if can get boys and men to engage in this addiction, that he can ruin their lives, prevent them from exercising their priesthood, keep them from becoming men of God, stifle their spiritual growth, keep them away from the temple and the strength that comes from participating in ordinances, and frankly, lead them down the path of heartache and destruction.

            Regarding these trends, and some others that we don’t have time to detail, Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:

        Brethren, it cannot be this way with us. As men of the priesthood, we have an essential         role to play in society, at home, and in the Church. But we must be men that women can          trust, that children can trust, and that God can trust. In the Church and kingdom of God in          these latter days, we cannot afford to have boys and men who are drifting. We cannot                afford young men who lack self-discipline and live only to be entertained. We cannot                  afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming            families and making a real contribution in this world. We cannot afford husbands and                fathers who fail to provide spiritual leadership in the home. We cannot afford to have                  those who exercise the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God, waste their              strength in pornography or spend their lives in cyberspace (ironically being of the world              while not being in the world).[xi]

 

[i] L.M. Collins and J.G. Askar, “The War on Boys: Young Men Losing Ground in Education, Emotional Health, and Jobs,” Deseret News, 19 February 2012.

[ii] Christina Hoff Summers, “The War Against Boys,” The Atlantic, May 1, 2000; http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2000/05/the-war-against-boys/304659/

[iii] Judith Kleinfeld, “The State of American Boyhood,” (2009), Journal of Gender Issues, 26: 113-129.

[iv] Hanna Rosin, The End of Men and the Rise of Women, [New York:  Riverhead Books, 2012], 162.

[v] Hymowitz, 52.

[vi] Richard Whitmire, Why Boys Fail:  Saving Our Sons from an Educational System that’s Leaving Them Behind, [San Francisco, California: Amacom Publishers, 2010], 6.

[vii] Amanda Lenhart, et. al., “Teens, Video Games, and Civics,” Pew Research Center, 16 September 2008; http://www.pewinternet.org/2008/09/16/teens-video-games-and-civics/

[viii] Meg Meeker, Boys Should Be Boys:  7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons, [New York:  Ballantine Books, 2009], 61.

[ix] Meg Meeker, Boys Should Be Boys:  7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons, [New York:  Ballantine Books, 2009], 65.

[x] President Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 463.

[xi] Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Brethren, We Have Work to Do,” Ensign, November 2012, 47.