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Boys in Crisis! A Myth? and a solution...

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Over the last several years there have been books and studies declaring that American boys are in a crisis. ie. "contemporary boys are "scared and disconnected," "severely lagging" behind girls in both achievement and self-confidence." "society treats "boyhood as toxic, as a pathology,""


The current issue of Time Magazine contends in a long article that this crisis is a myth. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1647452-1,00.html (You may need to be a suscriber to access this article).


The end of the article printed below offers a solution to the "boy crisis" which any Scout will recognize. In fact Scouting has been offering this to boys for nearly 100 years!





If The Dangerous Book were a place, it would look like the Falling Creek Camp for Boys in North Carolina--a rustic paradise complete with a rifle range, nearby mountains to climb and a lake complete with swimming dock and rope swing. The choice of activities at the camp is dizzying, from soccer to blacksmithing, from kayaking to watercolors, but no pastime is more popular than building forts of fallen tree limbs and poking at turtles in the creek. Leave your cell phones, laptops and iPods at home.


There I met Margaret Anderson, a pediatric nurse from Nashville and a member of the faculty at Vanderbilt University. She works in the infirmary while her 11-year-old son Gage discovers the woods on multi-day pack trips. "I call this place Boy Heaven," she says.


Falling Creek subscribes to a philosophy of "structured freedom," which is essentially the same philosophy paying dividends among boys at the opposite end of the economic ladder at the Frederick Douglass Academy. It works across the board, says Anderson, and she wishes more of the boys she sees in her busy Nashville practice lived lives of structured freedom too.


"Whether it's urban kids who can't go outside because it's too dangerous or the overscheduled, overparented kids at the other end of the spectrum--I'm worried that boys have lost the chance to play and to explore," Anderson told me. Our society takes a dim view of idle time and casts a skeptical eye on free play--play driven by a boy's curiosity rather than the league schedule or the folks at Nintendo. But listen to Anderson as she lists the virtues of letting boys run themselves occasionally.


"When no one's looming over them, they begin making choices of their own," she says. "They discover consequences and learn to take responsibility for themselves and their emotions. They start learning self-discipline, self-confidence, team building. If we don't let kids work through their own problems, we get a generation of whiners."


That made sense to me. As I watched the boys at Falling Creek do things that would scare me to death if my own son were doing them--hammering white-hot pieces of metal, clinging to a zip line two stories above a lake, examining native rattlesnakes--I didn't notice many whining boys. Yates Pharr, director of Falling Creek, seemed to read my mind. "It's the parents who have the anxieties nowadays, far more than the boys," he said. "We've started posting photographs of each day's activity on our website, and still I'll get complaints if we don't have a picture of every camper every day."


Worrying about our boys--reading and writing books about them, wringing our hands over dire trends and especially taking more time to parent them--is paying off. The next step is to let them really blossom, and for that we have to trust them, give them room. The time for fearing our sons, or fearing for their futures, is behind us. The challenge now is to believe in them.


Yours in Scouting,



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