For a variety of reasons, boys and young adolescent males in the United States – our sons and the Next Generation of Fathers – are more likely than their female counterparts, our daughters, to be (a) characterized as “behavioral problems” by educators and school administrators; (b) enrolled in Special Education classes; and (c) victims of violence and homicides. A “National Initiative to Resolve the ‘Crisis of Boys’ In America” would work to resolve five (5) key challenges that boys and young male adolescents in the United States struggle with. These five (5) key challenges are exactly the same challenges that confront boys and young adolescent males in Canada, Australia, Europe, Africa, and Asia and were originally identified by Global and Regional Coordinators for 2010 International Men’s Day (www.international-mens-day.com) in a series of discussions which occurred throughout the month of December 2010:
HEALTH AND LIFE EXPECTANCY: Why are boys around the world more likely to die before the age of five and why do boys in every continent look forward to a much shorter life than girls? What are the reasons for boy’s higher likelihood of suicide? What action can we take to give boys the best possible start in life and help them live longer, happier, healthier lives?
EDUCATIONAL FOCUS: Why are boys in richer countries underperforming girls and also less likely to be in education, and why are tens of millions of boys in poorer countries still not completing a primary education? How can we address truancy, and poor literacy rates which leave boys prone to adult unemployment, substance abuse, obesity, depression, and poverty? What action can we take to focus on boys’ education in ways that gives them the best possible start in life and closes the gaps between girls and boys and rich boys and poor boys?
TOLERANCE OF VIOLENCE: Why are we so tolerant of violence and abuse against men and boys and why do we still tolerate a world where we send boys to fight the wars among adults? What actions can we take to help boys’ grow up free from violence and challenge our collective tolerance and support of violence against men and boys?
RIGHTS TO FATHERHOOD: How can we give boys a right to family life that gives them an equal opportunity to know and experience both their father and mother and ensure that their role as a future father is equal to a girl’s role as future mother? What actions can we take to give every boy an equal right to fatherhood?
REAL LIFE CHOICES: How can we make sure that every boy has opportunities to make a range of positive life choices in terms of work, family, and leisure and reduce the number of boys whose life choices are limited and end up poor, illiterate, unemployed, homeless, imprisoned, and isolated? What action can we make to help every boy get the best possible start in life and make a positive transition form boy to man that makes the world a better place for everyone?Components of the “National Initiative to Resolve the ‘Crisis of Boys’ in America” would take the form of:
Town Hall Meetings
National, regional, and local Town Hall Meetings would serve as a venue for boys and adolescent young males to engage in “straight, no-chaser” dialogues to discuss with stakeholders how, in their view, the five (5) key challenges – Health and Life Expectancy; Educational Focus; Tolerance of Violence; Rights to Fatherhood; and Real Life Choices – which they struggle with on a day-to-day basis, can be resolved. The stakeholders with whom boys and adolescent young males would engage in discussions include educators, school administrators, law enforcement professionals, legal professionals, health care professionals and providers, social services professionals and providers, parents, legislators, religious leaders, social entrepreneurs, business leaders, and Fatherhood and Men’s Issues advocates and practitioners.
Stakeholders and boys and young adolescent males would collaboratively identify existing national, regional, and local institutions and programs which have a successful track record in resolving the five (5) key challenges (Health and Life Expectancy; Educational Focus; Tolerance of Violence; Rights to Fatherhood; and Real Life Choices) that hinder our sons – the Next Generation of Fathers – from achieving academic excellence and maturing into purpose-driven, productive, and successful adults. A collaborative task of designing national, regional, and local institutions and programs that resolve the five (5) key challenges identified above which do not exist in cities, rural districts, reservations, subdivisions, suburbs, townships, and municipalities would be assigned to stakeholders and boys and young adolescents participating in the Town Hall Meetings. The design of these institutions and programs and the manner in which these programs are implemented would be modeled after institutions and programs which have a demonstrated successful track record of resolving the five (5) key challenges confronting boys and adolescent males in the United States.
National Action Plan
Information, solutions, and suggestions offered at national, regional, and local Town Hall Meetings would be compiled into a National Action Plan which addresses each of the five (5) key challenges -- Health and Life Expectancy; Educational Focus; Tolerance of Violence; Rights to Fatherhood; and Real Life Choices -- that make it very difficult for boys and adolescent young males to have “the best possible start in life.”
How would a National Action Plan address the key challenges of Health and Life Expectancy, Educational Focus, Real Life Choices, and Tolerance of Violence? Here a few suggestions:
Health and Life Expectancy: Designing and implementing national, regional, and local Health Education and Awareness Programs for boys and young adolescent young males which would provide, among other things, nutrition and preventive health information and equal and greater access to health resources and support services under the umbrella of the proposed Office of Men’s Health in the United States Department of Health and Human Services. These programs can be conducted in schools, religious institutions, community centers, recreation centers, and barber shops.
Educational Focus: Developing and sustaining “male-friendly” academic institutions and programs which are designed to resolve the problem of academic underperformance for boys and young adolescent males. One academic institution which can serve as a model for designing and sustaining “male--friendly” academic institutions in our cities, reservations, rural districts, subdivisions, suburbs, municipalities, and townships is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the fifth largest metropolitan area in the United States, 360 young adolescent males attend the Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School (www.boyslatin.org), where they receive “the best possible start in life.” Founded in the Summer of 2007, the Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School immerses its young male students in an intense curriculum that offers, among other things, four years of Latin Language and Culture, English divided into Composition and Literature, Scholastic Aptitude Test (“SAT”) preparation, a Summer Reading Program, and a Public Speaking requirement. Soccer, football, cross-country, basketball, and baseball are some of the components of its Athletics program. Each new student at the school is required to participate in two weeks of intensive classes which comprises basic skills, an overview of the school bibliography, organization, and note taking. Students are also engaged in experiential learning initiatives during this two week period. In Grades 9 through 10, the young men find that the school places emphasis on their mastery of basic skills in English, Mathematics, History, Science, Latin, and writing. In Grade 11, for these young men, the emphasis moves from individual learning to team-project based learning. Senior classmen entering Grade 12 are required to attend a two-week planning session during the summer which is geared to prepare them for their final year of high school and for their application to college. The curriculum for Grade 12 offers greater independent study, project-based instruction, opportunities for off-campus classes, and a senior project and presentation. Students at the Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School must abide by a strictly enforced Code of Conduct. And 20 hours of community service is mandatory for freshman, while sophomores are expected to perform 25 hours of community service! Did I mention that after-school activities are also mandatory? The after-school activities include drama, technology, debate, music, chess, science, virtual media, economics, robotics, bicycle repair, government, rock climbing, fencing, model trains, and mock trial.
Real Life Choices: Facilitating national, regional, and local academic enrichment, mentoring, leadership, and internship programs for boys and young adolescent males that offer tutoring in English, Mathematics, Science, Foreign Languages, and Writing; field trips to businesses and colleges and universities; and internships at engineering firms, academic and medical institutions, law firms, broadcasting and communications organizations, and information technology companies which will lead to full-time employment.
Tolerance of Violence: Facilitating national, regional, and local programs that offer mentoring, conflict resolution, and anger management training to help boys and young adolescent males deal with anger, rejection, and self-esteem and body image issues and provide them with options and tools to peacefully resolve volatile situations. An internationally acclaimed organization, the House Of Umoja, Inc. (www.houseofumoja.org) serves as an excellent model for conflict resolution, mentoring, and helping to “give boys the best possible start in life”. Created in 1968, the House of Umoja, Inc. has provided a life line to and positively shaped the minds and souls of over approximately 3,000 young urban males between the ages of 15 through 18 in Philadelphia. The House of Umoja, Inc.’s successful track record of working with and positively transforming youths has moved universities and institutions that include, but are not limited to, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Prevention and the Center for Disease Control to seek the House of Umoja, Inc.’s expertise in the areas of gang reduction, youth programming, and community organizing. Former United States Presidents Jimmy Carter and the late Ronald Reagan have recognized the House Of Umoja, Inc. for its pioneering work which has been documented in published articles such as A Summons To Life, by Robert Woodson of the American Enterprise Institute in 1981 and The Violent Juvenile Offender by Paul DeMuro and Richard Allison of the National Council On Crime And Delinquency in 1984.
Boys and young male adolescents -- our sons -- are the Next Generation of Fathers. We must move with all deliberate speed to resolve the issues that prevent our sons from reaching their full potential and maturing into purpose-driven, fulfilled, compassionate, successful and productive adults. We must do it for them and for generations yet unborn. We hold the future in our hands.
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