Many might be unaware of the boy crisis in America, but Montclair State University alumnus Dr. Warren Farrell is determined to change that. As Chair of the Commission to Create a White House Council on Boys to Men, he is looking to bring the nation’s attention to this quiet crisis.
Last week he returned to his alma mater to discuss the troubling topic as part of the lecture series presented by the College of Education and Human Services.
Dean Ada Beth Cutler opened the lecture, “Boys to Men: Transforming the Boy Crisis into a Boy Opportunity,” by introducing Farrell as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders. He’s been named such by the Financial Times as well as been featured repeatedly in Forbes, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal and on such programs as “Oprah” and “Larry King Live.” He has authored many books including two award-winning, international best-sellers, “Why Men are the Way They Are” and “The Myth of Male Power,“ and currently, he is co-authoring the book, “The Boy Crisis,” with John Gray, author of “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”
“His work is considered provocative, controversial, thoughtful and engaging,” Cutler announced before turning the floor over to Farrell.
“I’m going to start out in the provocative mode,” Farrell laughed. But he then went on to reveal some startling statistics and discuss the historical socialization of men, which he said has left them unprepared for and ill-equipped to deal with changes in the modern world.
Identifying five areas in which boys and men are in crisis, Farrell spoke about education, jobs, emotional health, physical health and fatherlessness over the course of two hours.
In education Farrell explained boys are falling further behind in areas across the board. “Our sons are a year and a half behind our daughters,” he stated, pointing out girls fare better in reading, writing, grades, motivation and standardize test scores.
“They lag most significantly in motivation,” he said, noting 31% of boys report feeling their teachers are not listening to them. Farrell argues this statistic can be linked to the higher dropout and expulsion rate among boys, which goes on to impact graduation rates from colleges and universities, leading to a much lower rate among males than females. For males the college graduation rate is projected to be 39% in 2019, down from 61%. For women the projected rates are the exact inverse.
This is at a time, Farrell notes, when higher education for men is more crucial than ever. He points out areas like manufacturing, agriculture and construction where uneducated men have typically found work are now in decline.
“New world work requires post secondary education,” he said. But not education in just any field. Farrell noted the fields in which future job growth is expected to be the greatest such as health and education have the smallest percentages of males in the workforce. He lamented, “Our sons are not being prepared for where jobs will be.”
As it is now, one out of every five men age 25 to 54 is unemployed according to Farrell, and the statistic is even more troubling when considering African American men in the age bracket of 20 to 24. Half the men in that group are jobless.
Farrell went on to discuss the current emotional and physical health of males, citing the suicide rate for boys, which is equal to that of girls prior to adolescence, jumps to five times that of girls’ between the ages of 20 and 24. He also pointed out the male-female life expectancy gap has widened from a one year difference in 1920 to more than five years today.
But perhaps the most stunning statistics came when Farrell discussed the importance of father involvement in a child’s life. Here, he asserted a child, boy or girl, without a father is 375% more likely to need treatment for emotional or behavioral problems including ADHD/ADD, speech defects, anxiety and bed-wetting.
According to Farrell the single most important factor in preventing drug use among children is having a close relationship with their fathers. Additionally, he maintains father-absent homes are a better predictor of crime than poverty.
“The single most underutilized resource in this country is called, ‘Dad.’”
In the U.S. with one third of all kids raised in fatherless homes, Farrell makes a strong case for an imminent crisis.
Farrell believes a wholesale change in the way we socialize our sons and daughters is the solutiuon. According to Farrell we need to “create an evolutionary shift in roles.” This “gender transition” Farrell believes is the key to success in contemporary society.
Historically, Farrell explained, society socialized boys and men to be disposable. Both in war and in work, men were trained to give their lives. Society’s survival depended on it, and men were “bribed” into their roles by being labeled a hero and gaining society’s approval.
“What society does to socialize a boy to their role in society is the opposite of what they need for themselves.” Farrell added, “For men to love effectively we need to provide a safe environment for them to express themselves.”
Society, he notes, also formed around an infrastructure of male bread winning. Men learned “earning money equaled earning love.” But earning money took men away from their families, and, subsequently, men came to believe love for their families is shown by being away from them at work.
This model doesn’t serve men well today. Farrell points out that while earning money may have earned love, it doesn’t sustain love. He said sustaining love requires communication.
“We need to guide our sons to offer women more than economic support. Women need to feel loved by them.”
Farrell noted that in the past half-century women have been socialize and have adapted to societal changes, but men have been left to flounder.
He stated the leaders in the women’s movement have helped women “get in touch with their spirits’ journey.” He added, “Men don’t have these leaders.”
“The women’s movement taught women to raise money and children, but nobody taught men that.” Farrell asserted, “We’ve not been taking a magnifying lens to boys’ development as we have been with girls.”
For all these reasons Farrell is spearheading the call for a White House Council for Boys to Men. He conceived of the idea after being asked to advise the White House Council for Women and Girls. After focusing on women’s issues for decades and serving on the Board of Directors for the National Organization for Women, Farrell thought it was time to turn the country’s gaze to boys as well. He appointed a commission of the country’s leaders to “work together to create an understanding of what’s happening with boys and men.”
After conducting their research the commission was convinced of the need for a White House Council. “Not one of us came away without a degree of surprise and shock of the degree to which there is a crisis.”