BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax

Boys AdriftIf you’re a parent, go get this book and start reading NOW. Even if you don’t have a son. While you’re ordering, make sure to also include Leonard Sax’s latest, Girls on the Edge, another life-changing read. If you’re a parent, truly, you owe it to your kids and yourself to read these two books.

I still marvel at the fact that once you get that child home (via whatever method makes you a parent – whether stork, planes, trains, or automobiles), no offspring ever arrives with a manual! As if we are just supposed to know what to do! With recurring regularity, most of the parents I know (including me!) seem confused, overwhelmed, frustrated, even speechless at our very own children. We face challenges we probably never imagined (of a type our parents certainly never dealt with) … which is why we need the good Doc Sax to help us meet these 21st-century challenges with some promising 21st-century solutions. Trust me: if nothing else, you will recognize your children (and many of their friends and classmates) in these pages … and as you close that final page, you also will have some solid plans for making better choices, providing more affective guidance.

If you need an immediate marker as to how boys are changing, here’s an opening statistic to ponder: in 1949, 70% of college undergraduates in the U.S. were male; in 2006 (just before this book hit shelves), the male student population had dropped to 42%. Not that college is the end-all marker to personal achievement. Indeed, too many of today’s teenagers go off in search of sheepskins without any other reason than the fact that a college diploma is expected of them. Sax even offers a section on why choosing a trade might be better for some young men … but then I’m getting ahead of myself.

So here’s an overview of Sax’s main points:

  1. Today’s highly competitive school environment is vastly different from what it was a few decades ago; overemphasis on rote academics starting in kindergarten is especially difficult for most 5-year-old boys who, if nothing else, naturally find sitting still for extended periods of time virtually impossible.
  2. Video games – especially the violent ones – can and will rot the brain (my words, not the good doc’s).
  3. ADHD is mostly an affluent, white, male condition. ADHD medications help anyone to focus, regardless of whether or not the person actually has ADHD. When juvenile rats are given stimulant medications like ADHD drugs, they grow up to be lazy adults.
  4. With all the environmental toxins flowing into the Potomac, male smallmouth bass are becoming feminized – male fish are making eggs instead of sperm. Those same toxins – including BPA, pthalates, PVC, pesticides, fertilizers found in everyday products like toys, plastic containers, water bottles – are consumed regularly, and have devastating effects on boys and girls.
  5. Failure to Launch is not just the name of a silly film – it’s also an epidemic affecting far too many boys and young men today.
  6. Boys need a community of men – not peers, not other teenage boys, and not the media – as role models. The transition from childhood to adulthood truly ‘takes a village.’

Concerned? Shocked? Feeling desperate? Be assured: Sax also offers strategies for changing both behavior and your child’s environment. Single-sex schools might work for some, turning off the electronics will help many, getting accurate diagnoses will save many more.

The final stories of valiant Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a mid-19th century mostly- footnoted-only Civil War hero, and John Nicholas, a teenage boy whose transformative story from “pillhead”/pusher to student class president is “happening right now,” are inspiring examples of turnaround determination. The “healthy world” that all parents want for their children go beyond having enough food and clothing. “It means our daughters and sons living lives that are meaningful and fulfilled.” Indeed, Sax wants nothing more than to keep solving, keep evolving, and especially to keep communicating.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2007



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