I just finished reading Boys Adrift, The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Dr. Leonard Sax. He outlines the reasons he believes there is an whole generation, and soon to be two generations, of slacker boys and men, who don't bother growing up.
As I have a 14 year old son who is starting to slip into this category, I read this book with a sense of doom and optimism. Doom that I have done things unknowingly that may have contributed to his slacker status and optimism that I haven't done as badly as I could have and may still have time to change his destiny. Since starting Catholic school, Will has become addicted to the computer, which means a fight every night over the Mac laptop that is issued to every middle school student in the state of Maine. He plays MineCraft and Skypes his friends for hours, switching screens back to school assignments when a grownup enters the room. He has even been known to sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to retrieve it for more game playing.
I have been tempted on several occasions to call Dr. Ray Guarendi, Catholic clinical psychologist and dad of 10 for advice or just throw the laptop out the window (but then I would have to pay for another one). We have told him that next year's school options are the fancy and expensive private school (no Catholic high school in the area) or back to homeschooling and with his attitude and grades, it is likely that his experiment in going away to school will have only lasted a year and a half. Luckily I am prepared to enroll him in Seton, a highly rigorous program with no opportunity to slack off or mess around on the computer. The local public school is not an option,especially since they give every student their own iPad.
Dr.Sax points out 5 factors that have contributed to the exact problem I am facing: changes in school, video games, medications for ADHD, endocrine disruptors, and the revenge of the forsaken Gods. School has become more intense sooner, which is not good for little boys. Five year old males are not designed to sit still for hours and hours each day. Luckily we homeschool our little ones and with several subjects already completed for the year,formal school is lasting less than 2 hours total. Dr. Sax blasts video games for their mind-sucking ability, the creation of males who can't function in the real world because they can't control it the way they can in games, and the fact that they take up time that could be spent doing something real- a sport, a hobby, reading, learning, interacting with others. He goes into the stimulant drugs that can make kids lazy and phthalates in the plastic water/soda bottles we all drink from that leach chemicals into our bodies that can cause boys to become more feminized and girls to develop earlier. The fifth factor he discusses is the fact that our culture no longer teaches boys to become men, responsibility is mocked and we are left with the resulting mess, a nation of 13 year olds in men's bodies.
I'm not sure I completely buy into all of the factors the author proposes, but it does make me think about why a very clear phenomenon is happening. Girls are developing earlier and earlier, girls are graduating from college in every increasing percents each year, leaving their male counterparts in the dust, and more and more men are refusing to take on adult responsibilities but instead living out their 20's and 30's in their parent's basements drifting from job to job and being lazy. Why and how we can change our sons so they have every opportunity to fulfill their potential are questions that many of us should all think about.