The War Against Boys
by Kevin Swanson
You may have seen a recent news headline: "New scientific research indicates - Boys are Different from Girls." That assertion should be laughably obvious to the rest of us, but what is laughably obvious happens also to be a serious flaw in the predominant worldview operational today. Unfortunately, we have not taking this basic assumption into account in the education of our children. We give girls and boys the same education, the same toys, the same teachers, the same expectations, and the same functions and goals in life, and then we wonder why they are frustrated, angry, aberrent, and purposeless at 25, 30, or 40 years of age.
Dr. Christine Hoff Somers is the author of an eye-opening, new book called, "The War Against Boys." While interviewing her on my weekly radio program, "Generations," she told the listening audience that the modern school is dangerous for boys. It is producing boys that are feminized, awkward, rebellious, or otherwise ill-prepared for life. Only 43% of students attending college today are boys and that number continues to drop. Schools are increasingly designed for girls. Meanwhile, boys are disenfranchised and disinterested.
The removal of a boy's unique purpose and preparation in life, and setting him in a girl's world, putting him in competition with girls, will only produce devastating consequences for our social and economic systems. Actually, this devastation is already here. The number of children born without fathers, where the father is nowhere to be found, has risen from 5% to 35% only in the last 30 years.
This problem is not limited to conventional schools. It's happening in homeschools too. We woke up to this reality when my wife and I hit a crisis point with our son.
We had read somewhere that boys in the homeschool easily give way to docility, laziness, and sometimes rebellion, and it was plain that these issues were already hitting a little too close to home. While, it is important to hold a young man responsible for his own sin, we wanted to hold ourselves accountable for the proper raising of our son. As I listened to dozens of other stories, I came to discover that this problem is rampant throughout the homeschooling movement. The reality crashed in on us like a ton of bricks. We had inadvertently bought into an egalitarian viewpoint on education, and it was hurting our son. What my son needed was a man in his life. And God was pointing at me.
First, we should resolve the matter that differences in natural abilities and designed purposes do not contribute to an essential difference in value. A man can not birth a baby, and therefore has a different function. It would be futile to complain about it. He should just accept the fact. But the fact that a man cannot birth a baby and a woman can, does not mean that a woman is essentially better than a man. The same can be said for any other distinctive purposes God has instituted for men and women.
Goals - What We're Shooting For
When I trained my son to shoot guns, I would tell him, "If you can't see the target, it's doubtful you'll ever hit it." The same thing applies to raising children. Unless you have a clear and correct target in your mind's eye for those children, the arrows may very well fly far affield. You need to have a goal in mind, because the goal will shape the preparation of a child for life and eternity. I would recommend that every family start with the Bible, if they want a clear vision for the raising of children. It is far more important to review the Creator's Operations Manual before launching out to do anything as important as raising children. So what's the vision? What's the goal?
In some ways, we are raising our children for the same purpose. We want every one of our children to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We want them to pursue his kingdom's interests.
But it is pretty obvious from the Bible that from the beginning there was always a difference between the girls and boys in nature, function, and goals. Of course, man has perverted these differences and the end result is feminism, abuse of women, feminization of men, and the rest. Today we sit in a gender blender. For parents with vision, for parents who take the raising of their children seriously, we must go back to the Owner's Manual, and define a vision for raising our sons and daughters.
God's Goals for Girls
The woman was created to be a "helper" for the man (Genesis 2:18). This is the broad target or goal we have in mind. A more narrow target subsumed in the function of "helper" is "home manager" (Titus 2:5). While the term is translated in some Bible versions as "keepers at home," it is better rendered "home manager." Part of the woman's capacity of "helper" is to be a "home manager." Some will jump to the conclusion that this means a girl is limited to classes on changing diapers and how-to-wear-an-apron. But that conclusion is to limit the vision to the Titus 2:5 role. Her role is far more comprehensive than that. She is a "helper," which, according to Proverbs 31, includes buying fields, taking care of the poor, and a number of other things. Of course, central to her God-given duties is the managing of the home. But her broad purpose is to be a "helper" to her husband. She may, in the future, help her husband in missionary medical work, because she has learned medicine in an RN or an MD program.
Therefore, the preparation of a young lady must keep these two goals in mind. One day she will be a helper and a home manager. If her preparation ignores these important goals or if her homeschooling and college-level work trains her NOT to be a good helper and a good home manager, it will be a defective preparation. It is hardly worth mentioning that much of today's preparatory programs for young women not only ignores these goals, but despises them. That is because the worldview of the broad culture today is definitively egalitarian.
God's Goals for Guys
These being the specific, creation-mandated goals for our young ladies, what then are the goals God has laid out for our young men? Briefly, here is a list.
- Dominion - Gen. 1:26. (Dominion is effectively ruling the world about us. We take rocks and oil and turn them into cars and computers. We make wise use of the animals, property, environment, family, church, and state, by applying the absolute principles of truth and right found in the Bible.)
- Responsible for Material Sustenance for his Family - Exod. 21:10, 1 Tim. 5:7,8
- Fighters - Deut. 20:1-5, Neh. 4:14, Ps. 144:1
- Heads (Leaders) - Eph. 5:23
- Sacrificial Lovers - Eph. 5:25-28
- Resident Theologians - 1 Cor. 14:34-35
While the Bible directs these tasks to men, of course there are times when women are called to do these same things. But these are the normative functions of men (as defined by God), and therefore must be the special focus to which we train our boys. If our boys are raised without a vision for dominion, without a sense of responsibility for taking care of a family, without a sense of protecting the family, without leadership experience and training, without learning how to let his sister go first in the food line (in the quintessential act of boyhood sacrifice), or without the basic ability to teach the doctrines of the Bible in the home, then he has not been trained to be the man that God wants him to be. His preparation will be defective and he will not be trained to be a man. If this vital preparation is neglected on a widespread basis, we will have a nation without men.
Turning a Boy into a Man
If the goals of a girl and a boy are different, then it would make sense that their preparation would be different. There are several practical ways in which the training of a boy differs from the training of a girl:
1. When a boy is young he does spend more time with his mother, but as he gets older, he will need a man to properly mentor him into manhood. If a boy is to grow into a man, the best mentor that can show him how to be a man will always be a man. Ideally, this will be his own father. If, for some reason, it is not possible for a father to invest concerted time into his boy's life, his parent(s) should seek out an internship, an apprenticeship, or something like it under the tutelage of a godly, dependable man in the church or perhaps in the homeschooling movement that can serve as a mentor. This has been the tradition in human society for thousands of years prior to the importation of a statist education system (Matt. 4:21, 1 Sam. 17:15, 2 Kg. 4:18,19, Exod. 13:14, Deut. 6:20-25, etc.).
2. A boy should learn to treat girls different than how he treats boys. As the sacrificial lover, he must learn to treat girls with a tender respect, "as the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7). Several weeks ago, we took care of a couple of young boys whose parents needed a little extra help. From the outset I told the boys that they could wrestle with my son and punch him around a little. They could even sit on him if the situation called for it. "But," I told them, "That doesn't go for my daughters. I don't want you hitting these girls."
The same rule goes for debate. We can teach girls to fight like boys in debate or we can teach boys to hurt girls by not allowing for differences. Both young men and young women should learn to debate. But if we do not allow for the differences, debate will be thoroughly feminized, which doesn't do boys any good. Or it will be thoroughly masculinized, in which case women are left out, or they will be forced into an unnatural masculine mold, or they will be mistreated. The way a boy debates with a girl will differ from how he debates with a boy.
3. The environment of learning for a boy may be a mixture of home, classroom, or business. He should be trained for the environment in which one day he will find himself - and that is business and home. While classrooms may have an occasional use (such as for training in rhetoric), the principle of life-integration is often lost in that environment. As a home educated boy gets older, he should spend more time outside of the home. He should learn what it takes to take dominion and provide a sustenance for his own family.
4. A boy is a fighter, by nature. He turns a doll into a gun, and runs around the house shooting the bad guys. (Meanwhile, his sister takes the toy guns and turns it into play dolls.) I have encountered both liberals and conservatives alike that want to suppress this God-given ability in their sons. The problem, however, is not with the boy's inclination to fight. Like everything else in our children, this inclination needs to be shaped and honed according to the standards of God's laws. Boys need to be taught two things about fighting - what to fight and how to fight. They should learn to fight their own sin, bad worldviews in the realm of ideas, and real enemies.
While there is a place for self defense and real warfare, our boys need to know that the hottest war of all is the war of ideas. The greatest fighters of all time were stalwarts like Ambrose, Augustine, Patrick, Boniface, Martin Luther, John Knox, William Wilberforce, and missionaries like William Carey and John Paton. Over the centuries of the Christian church, courageous men of faith have brought down strongholds of Satan's kingdom and bastions of man-centered power-bases by holding up the Word of truth, and casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself above the knowledge of God. These should be the real role models for our boys. I highly recommend biographies such as the "Leaders in Action" series, as a terrific way to transfer this vision to our boys.
Our worldview does make a difference. If we build our children's education on the egalitarian worldview that most of us have learned from our university training and the 6:00 news, and if we ignore the Maker's Instructions, we will pay. Our children will pay. When rains come and floods rise, the house that was built on the sand, the house that was NOT built on the words of Jesus in the Bible, that house will come tumbling down. It may not be ten years now. It may be forty years from now. But the house will come down. Let us build our house, let us build our children's future on the Rock.