Are American boys becoming men?  Are American men acting like men?  Consider these disturbing trends:

  • In the already abysmal showing of American fourth-graders on reading tests, girls outscore boys.  By the time students reach high school, 44% of girls can read at a “proficient” level while only 28% of boys can.
  • Not surprisingly, boys trail girls in rates of high-school graduation: 65% vs. 72%.
  • Women attend and graduate from college in higher percentages than do their male counterparts.  In 2004 women earned 58% of bachelors’ degrees: a clear victory for them.  That is, until you realize that men earned only 42% of degrees.  Whom will these college-educated women marry?
  • Though underrepresented in college, men fall behind women in their grade-point average, participation in extracurricular activities, and even the frequency with which they work their way through college.  On average the men on any given campus have a G.P.A. a half to a full point behind the women.  Thus, when put up against each other in a job interview, a woman usually has a better transcript, a lot more evidence of taking responsibility, and more work experience than a man.
  • Boys are diagnosed with ADHD at more than a two-to-one ratio over girls.  The numbers vary according to which study you look at, but somewhere between 10 and 15% of boys are thought to have ADHD.  Most of those boys are medicated with Ritalin and other behavior-altering drugs.  Therefore, the number of boys on such medication may be as high as 10%.  Even if the conservative figure offered by the CDC in 2008 of 4.8% of boys on Ritalin is true, that number is alarming when we consider that in the years 1988-1994 only .8% were thus medicated.  In other words, doping boys up in order to alter their behavior has increased right at 600 percent in just two decades, and the trend continues.
  • Males spend significantly more time playing video games than do females.  The numbers vary according to which study you consult.  But a plausible estimate is that boys in middle school spend around 23 hours per week gaming (or one full day); boys in high school only a little less; and males in college over two hours per day.  But men put away childish things, right?  Wrong.  About half of men between the ages of 18 and 34 spend two hours and forty-three minutes per day playing video games.  Thus nearly half of adult men game more than 13-17 year-olds by 13 minutes!
  • Consequently, women in college spend sixteen more hours every week on jobs, homework, and other activities.  That’s just under five hundred hours over the course of an academic year.  Here we return to the résumé gap.
  • Men are lagging behind in the jobs market.  The nation is currently experiencing the largest gap between male and female unemployment since 1948.  The rate of unemployment for men is 11.7% vs. 9.7% for women, according to tone report.  Of course, we can hardly believe the official numbers we are given by the press and the administration.  In real terms, 20% of men between the ages of 25 and 54 do not go to work every weekday.  In 1954, that number was a mere 4%.  One in five men in America are not producing—only consuming.

The way these statistics get reported is usually along the lines of boys or men facing serious “challenges” in school or in the modern economy or that boys and men are under-performing in college, work, etc.  Stated more bluntly and accurately, today’s males are likely to be uneducated, illiterate, undisciplined, unemployed shlubs whose sole ambition in life and contribution to society is to get high score on Mortal Kombat.  That is hardly the measure of heroes.

Admittedly, this last statistic in our list owes to the current economic slump and the political policies that have brought it on.  In fact, some wit has renamed the economy that others are calling the Great Recession a “he-cession”; that is, those few new jobs we do see are in health care, teaching, and the staffing of government bureaucracies, sectors overwhelmingly dominated by women, while the private sector—especially construction and manufacturing—continues to shed jobs.  Can we really blame men for the economy?  Well, in many respects we can.  One of the arguments that will appear on this site is that the policies that are now destroying the nation’s economy—policies that were implicitly voted for in 2006 and 2008 (to say nothing of 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1964 . . . )—are the direct result of what we shall call the unmanning of America.  To state that another way, the decline of traditional manhood is the necessary precursor to the modern liberal, progressive state.  Or, to put the matter even more directly, Barack Obama would have never gotten into office if the nation’s men had not lost their “man card” a long time ago.

But before getting into politics, let us return to the culture and behavior of what seems to be a considerable portion of today’s American men.  Some aspects of the unmanning of America cannot be easily quantified.  The basic complaint—heard by young women in their teens and twenties ad infinitum—is young males’ stubborn immaturity.  They refuse to grow up.  And they seem proud of their not growing up.  This complaint is more than the general truism that is probably as old as time: that boys do not “mature” as quickly as girls.  No, the charge is that these days boys do not mature at all: not in their twenties, not in their thirties, not ever.  To explain this phenomenon a growing number of articles and books have appeared with such ominous titles as “The Plight of the High-Status Woman” (her plight being unable to find a similarly educated and accomplished high-status man); The Decline of Males; Men to Boys: the Making of Modern Immaturity; “Where Have All the Men Gone?”; “The End of Men”; and Manning Up, with the disturbing subtitle How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys.  Today’s men, clearly not living up to the moral dimensions of that word, have been renamed boy-men, man-child(ren), basement boys, adultescents, and (my contribution) wimps and barbarians.  The disturbing theme running throughout these diagnoses is that men are fast becoming the dispensable sex, or the disposable sex.  Absurd?  Consider the implications of the sperm bank, with single women and “same-sex” female couples making regular withdrawals.

Despite the insights and plausible accusations found in these works, the most succinct and accurate diagnosis of the problem I heard coming from a female college student: an attractive and smart young woman who was clearly going places.  If I recall correctly, the class was responding to my question of whether men should be required to serve for two years in the military (I was making the point in a Western Civ class that every man in the Greek polis was required to serve as a hoplite when the state was in danger).  The women of the class, far more than the men, favored the idea.  The former thought that the young men would go off after high school, learn some self-discipline, see and therefore come to know something of the world, and return to college as more experienced and mature men, presumably able to become serious candidates for marriage.  Then the female student I mentioned, who had on her own read Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation, offered this damning critique of her peers: “Back in those days a man at nineteen was a real man.  He could do things and had real responsibilities.  Today a nineteen-year-old guy acts like he’s twelve.”  The men in the class, any one of whom would have been overjoyed to date and to be taken seriously by this coed, could only lower their heads in momentary shame.

What is to be done?  What I propose to do on this website—and in subsequent books I may write—is to do more than complain about the problem, which is well-documented and is well-known to anyone who has to teach today’s young men, hire them, date them, or just be around them, which is to say, everyone.  What I propose to do is to offer ideas and advice—based on my reading of history, my experience in the world, and my decade-long wrestling with the Man Problem—that might help us regain traditional manhood and (as a first step) regain traditional boyhood.  I hope I shall not be alone in this endeavor; in fact, I hope that readers will generate a robust discussion by offering their own thoughtful questions, anecdotes, insights, and advice.  This country needs a conversation concerning the ends and means of attaining true manhood.  Indeed, it might not be too much to say that this great country might easily be lost without such a conversation.

Let us get a few things clear from the outset.  I do not insist that no good young men are left.  There are surely more than a few good ones.  Many of them are now serving in the military.  Others are in law enforcement or doing other dangerous jobs that keep the rest of us safe.  There are quite a few good men in business.  And I have met some fine young men in their late teens and early twenties now attending high school and college.  But these worthy men all have similar complaints.  They have sisters and daughters and worry what kind of men these young women will marry.  They see how much harder it is these days to hire a man who is reliable.  It is precisely these few good men who are the most convinced the nation as a whole must return to traditional manhood.  There is good reason for this.  What true manhood is has been kept a secret for at least the last forty or fifty years.  If you do not believe me, consider this question that I have asked young men in their twenties many, many times: When have you ever, over the whole course of your education, for which you may have paid tens of thousands of dollars; when in your participation in the culture (e.g., books, movies); when in being trained for a job, or even in going to church: when have you ever been told what it means to be a man?  Whenever I ask that question, the young men I am addressing instantly sense the enormity of the crime.  They feel cheated—robbed of their inheritance.  For this reason, the leaders of our nation—whether in schools and colleges, in business, in the culture at large, and, yes, in the pulpits of an increasingly feminized American church—ought to be ashamed.  Unlike every other culture in the history of the world, American fathers and leaders have failed to prepare their sons in the one thing needful: becoming a man.  Owing to this dereliction of duty, we have cast our daughters adrift in a world of wimps and barbarians.  We are turning the world over to monosyllabic monkeys on the one hand and clueless castrati on the other.  Yet the time for whining about the problem is over.  It is time to do the manly thing: to act.  It is time to reman America.