Raising boys better

I won’t bother to provide evidence that boys have a lot of energy, take risks and cause lots of “accidents” (some of which win them Darwin Awards).

Given those facts, I suggest that we reconsider how we raise — or educate — boys. Here’s my logic:

  1. Boys are likely to grow up to be men. With longer life expectancy, there’s no need to rush boys from school to work and family.
  2. The world is getting more complex, which means that education needs to reflect that complexity. Back in the day, boys only needed muscles and energy to do a job. Now they must wrestle with abstract concepts, office politics and 30+ years of evolving, cumulative responsibility.
  3. Somewhat paradoxically, but also obviously, there are fewer men willing to do manual labor and service jobs that involve low wages and hard work. The resulting shortages can result in a society of middle managers doing bullshit jobs while the working classes make big wages just for showing up. 
  4. Boys are less considerate and communicative than girls, especially when they are told that the route to success involves taking risks (but no prisoners) and they are judged according to their salary, car model, etc. 

From all of these trends, I think we should rethink male careers and education along these lines:

  1. Make sure boys complete their high school education.
  2. Do not let them into higher education until they are 25 years old.
  3. In the middle years (18-25) encourage them to do manual labor, military or civil service, go traveling, etc. The goal here — and the point of this post — is that these “aimless” years will help them learn about themselves, work off excess energy, deliver on obligations to employers and friends, and so on.
  4. After these rumspringa years, they will have more knowledge, patience and confidence, such that they may go to higher education — or not. The key is that they will be able to benefit from the experience and opportunities, unlike the case now where lots of young men seem more lost than found (I’ve seen a few examples).
  5. I’m guessing that men who are graduating at 30 years old will have plenty of time to start families and careers that will last a lot longer than many families and careers now do for young men who lack the emotional depth and confidence of experience that comes from taking care if yourself for some time. (I’m biased, as I traveled between 25 and 30, only starting graduate school when I was 32. I’ve also met plenty of “mature” students who got far more out of their education.)

My one-handed conclusion is that men mature later than women, and that our systems and institutions need to reflect that fact and the ways that the modern world has complicated “traditional” male roles. It’s time to raise boys in a system that recognizes how they mature.

What do you think?

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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