The War Against Boys

The War Against Boys: How feminism is harming our young men

by Christina Hoff Sommers, 213 pages

Under the guise of helping girls, many American schools have adopted policies that penalize boys, often for simply being masculine. The author states that boys do need help, but not the sort they have been getting. They need help catching up with girls academically. They need love, discipline, respect and moral guidance. They do not need to be rescued from masculinity. The author also points out that Great Britain has long recognized this problem and is on the road to righting the ship while in America we have still not come to terms with it.


Those who teach in schools of education, work in the U.S. department of Education, and shape policy in the nation’s lower schools, show little awareness of the noble and constructive side of the military ethos. The thought seems never to have crossed their minds that the military virtues- stoicism, honor, cooperation, sacrifice, striving for excellence- are the virtues that sustain our civilization.

Why shouldn’t boys- or, for that matter, girls- try to be sturdy oaks? All of the world’s major religions place stoical control over emotions at the center of their moral teachings. For Buddhists, the ideal is emotional detachment; for Confucianism, dispassionate control. Nor is “Be in touch with your feelings” one of the Ten Commandments.

These reform minded experts should seriously consider the possibility that American children may in fact need more, not less, self-control and less, not more, self-involvement. It may be that American boys don’t need to be more emotional- and that American girls do need to be less sentimental and self-absorbed.

There does not appear to be anything much wrong with the psyches of the vast majority of American children. On the other hand, there is strong evidence that they are morally and academically undernourished. Every society since the beginning of history has confronted the difficult and complex task of civilizing its young,teaching them self-discipline, instilling in them a sense of what is right and what is wrong, and imbuing them with a devotion to public duty and personal accountability. The problem is old and the workable solution to it is known- character education in a sound learning environment……Children need to be moral more than they need to be in touch with their feelings. They need to be well-educated more than they need to hae their self-esteem raised. Children do not need support groups or twelve-step programs. They don’t need to have their femininity or masculinity “reinvented.” They don’t need emotional fixes. Genuine self-esteem comes with pride in achievement, which is the fruit of disciplined effort.

There is a much-told story in education circles about a now retired Chicago public school teacher, Mrs. Daugherty. She was a dedicated, highly respected sixth-grade teacher who could always be counted on to bring out the best in her students. One year she had a class she found impossible to control. The students were noisy, unmanageable, and seemingly unteachable. She began to worry that many of them had serious learning disabilities. When the principal was out of town, she did something that teachers were not supposed to: she entered his office, and looked in a special file where students’ IQs were recorded. To her amazement, she found that a majority of the students were way above average in intelligence. A quarter of the class had IQs in the high 120s- 128, 127, 129; and several in the 130s- and one of the worst classroom culprits was in fact brilliant: he had an IQ of 145.

Mrs. Daugherty was angry at herself. She had been feeling sorry for the children, giving them remedial work, and expecting little from them. Things soon changed. She immediately brought in challenging work, increased the homework load, and inflicted draconian punishments on any malefactor. She ran the class with uncompromising discipline. Slowly but perceptibly, the students’ performance improved. By the end of the year, this class of former ne’er-do-wells was among the best behaved and highest performing of sixth-grade classes.

The principal was delighted. He knew about this class and its terrible reputation. So at the end of the year, he called Mrs. Daugherty into her office to ask her what she had done. She felt compelled to tell him the truth. The principal heard her out and forgave her. He congratulated her. But then he said, “I think you should know, Mrs. Daugherty, those numbers next to the children’s names- those are not IQ scores. Those are their locker numbers.”

The boys have difficulties at the level of basic organization…Most of the girls understand the idea of personal responsibility…The male students are preoccupied with skateboarding, surfing and in-line skating- activities with few rules, little structure, no responsibilities.

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