My father is a very successful guy. He was a top high school athlete who successfully played college baseball. He graduated with a Bachelors degree, then received a Masters. He is a full time executive. He’s also a firefighter, paramedic, and at one point served on the School Board.
Of course, he was also a ruffian. He couldn’t stay focused in school and often got into fights. Although incredibly smart, his grades didn’t reflect it. He drank too much at times and spent a few nights in jail throughout his young adulthood. He admitted that only his love of sports and his coaches kept him in line.
The other day he was telling some friends how he would’ve probably been put on ADHD medication if he were attending school today. And, he’s right. No doubt the educational establishment would go all out to get him medicated. But, I’m glad they didn’t. If he had been on medication, I highly doubt he’d have experienced any of his successes today. He wouldn’t be the strong man he is today.
I taught full-time for five years (high school) and subbed for about two more (all levels). I can say, without hesitation, that modern education is a girl’s paradise. Let’s look at what makes a person successful in school. It’s certainly not intelligence. It’s the ability to sit still, not make waves, regurgitate what you’ve been told, and express your feelings clearly.
On the other hand, the activities that guys typically enjoy are not only discouraged in schools, but sometimes outright punished. Schools have moved away from hands-on activities, recess, and physical games. Discussion of manly topics like guns can even get a boy kicked out of school.
A typical boy: squirmy, energetic, verbal, and somewhat unpredictable, turns into a problem child within a school system or classroom that demands complete quiet and obedience. Rather than designing a curriculum that can meet the needs of young men, schools simply want to curb their more boyish proclivities, ensuring they can sit down, focus, and answer writing prompts about their feelings.
And, they often accomplish this by pushing the parents to drug their children. A boy is much tougher to teach, especially for teachers trained in the current educational model, which emphasizes conformity, the expression of feelings, and political correctness. I’ll admit that in my teaching days, I viscerally preferred girls too. They listened and required less effort on my part.
But, as I continued to teach, I realized that most of our “problem” students (who were boys) weren’t being bad. They were being boys. We were the ones failing them. In fact, one year, the entire top ten percent of the graduating class was female. Were the best and the brightest really all female? Of course not! But, no one (except me) realized this was a structural flaw not a one off problem.
I give this school credit since I don’t recall them ever actively pushing to put children on medicine. But, there are many stories of schools pushing parents to put boys (and girls) on ADD medicines. This, I believe, serves to emasculate boys. We’re essentially medicating the men out of the boys.
ADD is often associated with being unfocused on the task at hand, hyperactive, unable to sit still, and rebellious. Of course, there’s another way to frame it. We could re-label these as being creative, energetic, good with your hands, and a trailblazer.
In the past, men had many outlets for their traits. Factory and manual labor jobs were plentiful, even for boys who couldn’t succeed in school. A guy who couldn’t sit still in class could channel that energy and inability to sit still into a rewarding (and tiring) career actually making things.
Now, the manufacturing jobs are largely gone and there aren’t a whole lot of manual labor ones either. And, a boy who can’t sit still and who isn’t terribly good with blind conformity probably isn’t going to buy the corporate indoctrination that flipping burgers for minimum wage makes him a part of an exciting team with a great future.
Fortunately, there’s a pharmaceutical solution. Medicating away the energy, creativity, and non-conformity ensures a smooth running school and a nice career taking orders in a service job. But, what does it do for society?
Men, especially young men, aren’t really stepping up to the plate to lead, whether it’s work, education, politics, parenting, or anything else. Men are unemployed at a greater rate than women, are highly underrepresented in the college ranks, and absent from their children’s lives at alarming rates. In essence, traditionally male activities (as of even fifty years ago) like providing for a family, attending college, and heading a household are way, way down.
And, the statistics seem to be getting much worse. Could the medicating of boys be to blame? According to the CDC, twelve percent of boys aged three to seventeen years have been diagnosed with ADD. These numbers are up sixty-six percent in ten years. This is incredible.
Could the rise in ADD medications be contributing to factors such as the decline of masculinity in society? Could the decline in male workforce participation, lowering marriage rates, the extreme rise of video game playing basement dwellers, and other lack of “manning up” be attributed to the increase in these meds?
That is beyond the scope of this small article, but I look at the example of my dad and it gets me thinking. Would this successful, manly man have found success in life and taken on such leadership roles (and helped so many people) if he were medicated by concerned teachers at a young age? My hunch is no.
This is why we make it our goal to help guys become men, and not just more masculine, but popular, successful, and driven. We’re fighting the culture on many levels, but it’s worth it. Government, workplaces, communities, and families all need more real men.