Boys Adrift

Dr. Leonard Sax.  2007.

Review by Beth M

Excited to find a book with the subtitle “The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men”, I dove into this one hoping to find answers to why my son is so often bored with learning.  The book does explain five factors that the author believes is affecting boys today and is causing this surge in male disinterest in education and life goals.

Dr. Sax lists the five reasons for this epidemic among boys:

  1. Changes in School – School systems today are NOT designed for the ways most boys learn.  They need hands-on, practical, experiential learning that involves competition and a reason beyond just knowledge to be interested in learning.  Schools also expect children to read and write in kindergarten and many boys just aren’t ready for it.
  2. Video Games – Boys today are able to disengage from reality by playing video games, which often become a virtual reality for them, thus they escape the stress and physical involvement of real life situations.
  3. Medications for ADHD – Stimulant medications have been over prescribed.
  4. Endocrine Disruptors – As our world progresses, many of the conveniences, like plastic also bring dangers to our bodies, causing females to mature younger and males to have less male hormones.
  5. The Revenge of the Forsaken Gods – American culture doesn’t incorporate “becoming a man” in a manner that leads to self-respect and time-honored traditions of manhood – like being a gentleman.

The book gives ample evidence through study after study involving males, females, animals, and various ethnic groups.  I’m always a bit skeptical when studies are involved, as I know how they can be slanted to prove the point intended, so I read the book with caution and apprehension.  Still and yet, because the evidence of our society of more and more underachieving and unmotivated males, higher rates of learning disabilities, fatter people, more diseases like cancer, etc., I am prone to agree with most of the findings of Dr. Sax.

Reading this book didn’t give me a set plan for motivating my son or assuring that he becomes an achiever, but I did learn some helpful information.  I don’t plan to throw out all of my plastic ware and eat and drink only from glass or metal, nor do I adamantly oppose medications as Sax does, and I will continue to allow my children to play video games.  However, I will keep the doctor’s advice in the back of my head.  Given a choice, I’ll use glass or metal containers.  I’ll be observant of the games my children are playing and how they are engaging in those games.  I’ll be sure they get enough physical exercise and social interaction.  We’ll be even more vigilant to ensure that our son knows what’s expected of him as a gentleman, maybe even develop a passage into manhood.  I’ll choose teaching methods that will challenge and engage my son, knowing that he needs competition and practical application in order to want to learn.

I believe Dr. Sax has valid points and that he is on the right track with his thinking.  I will follow his research with interest as he seeks to find answers to this baffling question of what makes boys tick – or not tick as the case may be.  Read this book if you enjoy research and if you’d like to consider the latest evidence in an unresolved mystery.