THE BLOG
07/04/2013 06:03 pm ET Updated Sep 03, 2013

Does Liberty and Justice for All Include Our Boys?

As our nation rounds the corner on another birthday and continues its long history of trying to figure out exactly what it means to be a nation of liberty and justice for all, it's a good time to look at an increasingly "lost" group in our culture: our sons.

First, some fast facts about our boys. According to New York Times bestselling author Michael Gurian:

  • For every 100 girls suspended from elementary and secondary school, 250 boys are suspended.
  • For every 100 girls diagnosed with a learning disorder, 276 boys are so diagnosed.
  • For every 100 girls expelled from school, 355 boys are expelled.
  • Boys are expelled from preschool at five times the rate of girls.
  • Boys are 60-percent more likely to be held back in kindergarten than girls.
  • Richard Whitmire, in his book, Why Boys Fail, tells us that the reading skills of the average 17-year-old boy have steadily declined over the last 20 years.
  • According to Michael Reichert and Richard Hawley, policy makers in the United States calculate that if 5-percent more boys completed high school and matriculated to college, the nation would save $8 billion a year in welfare and criminal justice costs.
  • More girls than boys take college prep courses in high school.
  • Girls get better grades than boys and graduate from high school with higher GPAs.
  • More girls than boys take the SAT.
  • More girls than boys are graduating from college.

Does that look like liberty and justice for our boys?

In the 1960s and '70s, when we sensed that our girls were not keeping up with our boys in education, we rolled up our collective sleeves and did something about it, to the tune of Title IX and $100 million from the U.S. government. Backed by the women's movement, not only did we get our girls caught up, but by the 1980s, they sailed past our boys and have now left them in the dust. To this day, even though our girls are light years ahead of our boys, the storyline is still about how our girls are behind, facts to the contrary.

Richard Whitmire notes that boys are struggling in most Western countries. But here's his telling observation: What makes the United States unique is its relative indifference to the issue. Here, the U.S. Department of Education has yet to launch a single probe into the problem. Not one dollar from the U.S. government has been spent on getting our boys caught up. No national movement focuses on our boys (or our men).

After a meeting with representatives from the Arizona government, one of whom worked for an agency devoted to women's and children's issues, I asked if we had an agency similar to that for men. The response: "No. Actually, yes, the criminal corrections department."

Does that look like liberty and justice for our boys?

We are just now learning what it means to have undereducated boys growing into men: men who are not trained for this emerging new world that is so dependent on reading and verbal skills, men who are growing up with no vision of what it means to be a man in the 21st century. To re-paraphrase Kathleen Parker (as I did in a previous post), young men now in their 20s have never experienced a culture in which men were respected or expected to be gentlemen.

Where will these men work? What women will want to marry them? Where will these men find significance and meaning in life? What will society do with an increasing number of undereducated men, or men who don't fit the profile for the emerging jobs of the 21st century?

If indeed we are a nation of liberty and justice for all, then it's time for us as a nation to invest in our boys on a national scale. To get them caught up in school. To call out the noble in them. To give them a vision of how they, along with their sisters, can change the world.

We've seen the power of fighting for liberty and justice for all in our battle for our girls. Let's do it again and fight for our boys. Our country is much stronger when our girls and our boys can lean in to their potential.

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