Boys Adrift

Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.

This is a very interesting book about boys and young men and the five factors driving the widespread growth of apathy, underachievement and lack of motivation amongst them. The author looks at video games, teaching methods (and the feminization of schools), prescription drugs, environmental toxins and the devaluation of masculinity. He shares his personal anecdotes and strategies to counteract these factors.

In his chapter, End Result: Failure to Launch, he discusses our present time where physicians and lawyers are more plentiful than plumbers:

The social critic Dr. Charles Murray observed early in 2007 that many high school students from middle-class families \”go to college because their parents are paying for it and college is what children of their social class are supposed to do after they finish high school.\” Those kids may have very little idea what they want to do at college. Few of them have given any thought at all to the trades.

Forty years ago, even thirty years ago, there was no shame in a young man choosing a career in the trades. Beginning in the early 1980\’s…a consenus grew in the United States that every young person should go to college, regardless. \”Vocational education\” lost whatever prestige it had, and came to be viewed in some quarters very nearly as a dumping ground for the mildly retarded. Principals and superintendents began to see classes in auto mechanics or welding as expensive diversions from the school\’s core mission of ensuring that every student would go on to college.
The consequences go beyond plumbers who charge exorbitant rates. The downside is a growing cohort of unproductive youmg men who see no meaning or purpose in their lives.

This has been an interesting read for me at this time because our fifth child (the third boy in the family) has decided to get a plumbing apprenticeship. He\’s sixteen years of age and has spent a couple of weeks working with tradesmen in a few different trades and decided plumbing was what he wanted to do. As parents we want to see our children become true craftsmen and women, \’…skilled and trained for the Lord.\’ (1 Chronicles 25:7) whether that comes via a trade or a degree.
\’Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings, he will not stand before obscure men.\’ Proverbs 22:29 

Update: Since reading this book I\’ve listened to a podcast at the Circe Institute by Andrew Pudewa on teaching boys which mentions some of the issues Leonard Sax addresses in the above book and another of his books, Why Gender Matters.

6 thoughts on “Boys Adrift

  1. Great quotes. Sounds like a good book, with hard truths . As a home educator and former public school teacher, it's sad to see how students with an aptitude for the tactile and mechanical are steered away from these noble yet hard professions often toward college and the problems that arise when that path does not work out. I think much of our drop out problems could be alleviated by more training or openness to alternative paths.


  2. I think it'd be really good to have strong vocational tracks in high schools. So many people have a sort of kinesthetic, spatial intelligence, and that can be wasted without training and opportunity to develop it! People should be allowed to play to their strengths in their careers – and that's not going to mean college track every time.


  3. Well said, Jessica. Unfortunately the vocational areas tend to be viewed in a lesser light. My 2 boys that have gone or (about to go) down that path have had basically the same educational background as the 3 that have gone the college/university route. They have all had some vocational training but 2 have chosen to pursue this as a career path.


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