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Reply #26: I am beginning to examine the possibility... [View All]

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TygrBright Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-02-06 10:11 AM
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26. I am beginning to examine the possibility...
...that Western social institutions formed over the last 200 years no longer serve our species well in terms of raising healthy, functional (in the larger social sense) males. In non-Western cultures there are many mechanisms for directing the 'gung ho' energy of young boys and teaching and enforcing cultural and social norms and standards.

Even historically, you can see vestiges of this in Western cultures in the institutions of apprenticeship, military service, cultural traditions of 'chivalry,' etc. Of course, these things all worked well because they were (essentially) created by and for males in a male-dominant cultural matrix. The loss of the absolute male-dominant culture devalues those institutions and they have not yet been superceded by anything coherent and positive. You can see the 'gang culture' groping in that direction, but of course it's not a positive force and does nothing to integrate boys and young men into the larger community and cultural norms.

We need to find positive ways to value the differences in how males generally develop and learn, how they apply energy and focus, and channel that into new institutions that will give them important roles in a more egalitarian, leisure-available, industrialized world.

Caveat: Boys and young men AS INDIVIDUALS vary widely and cannot be held to a stereotype, model, etc. However, boys GENERALLY do show many developmental characteristics that are different than girls. While culture affects and reinforces gender expectations, the differences do appear to go beyond what can be explained by culture. If I speak generally in the following paragraphs, it's on this basis, I am not making blanket assumptions that "all males" are such-and-such, or that differences don't exist and matter, etc. /caveat

Starting with pre-school and elementary education, it is clear that our system needs adjustment to better serve ALL of our children, boys AND girls. Early education needs to mix gender-segregated learning contexts with gender-mixed contexts to better serve both. Male-group bonding needs to start early with positive adult male role models, and needs to focus on developing confidence and social competence among peers and introduction to social values.

Males tend to function better in heirarchies and respond better to competition. Females tend to function better in egalitarian groups and respond better to cooperation. Each needs time to learn and grow strong in these inherent modes and also needs structured encouragement to develop confidence in each others' modes. (i.e., Boys need to learn the skills to function well in a more egalitarian, cooperative society, and girls need to learn the skills to function well in heirarchies with competitive norms.)

The modern institution of the family no longer offers a consistent matrix for certain types of developmental learning. Family structure is too heterogenous for society to rely on family alone to consistently perform some developmental tasks to assist. One danger we are seeing today is the success of efforts by those who would destroy the secular nature of our society to build a socializing network for young people in the context of church-based groups that promote horrendously anti-social values. These replace an older, more positive system of church-based groups that functioned well as an adjunct to family- and school-based socialization for a broader cross-section of youth.

One reason the authoritarian, reactionary, anti-secular right wing has mounted such a sustained, powerful attack on public education is that it is the single most important tool our society has for forming social and cultural norms. They have (correctly, in my opinion) focused on detaching young people from the larger social context and structuring their development around outdated male-dominant norms, with enormous power and effectiveness. They are harnessing 'boy power' and suppressing 'girl power' through early education and development, and in consequence are creating a tough, resilient anti-social subculture that is far better equipped to achieve its goals than the larger society.

We can't deal effectively with this until we re-orient our social institutions to harness 'boy power' AND 'girl power' to educate and nurture strong, positive young people focused on the goals so critical to our species' survival right now.

That means a massive makeover of the public education system that will infuriate all of the stakeholders, and a massive investment in a service program that will merge military service with a Peace Corps/CCC-type model and give all young people the experience of working cooperatively for the benefit of the community for a year or two.

It will take a couple of generations, at least.

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