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At this very moment, through no fault of their own, our boys are caught in the vortex of four powerful, insidious, often invisible forces which conspire to rob them of their future.” Thus begins a provocative new book from New York Times bestselling author, attorney and mother Lisa Bloom: “Swagger: Ten Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness and Thug Culture.”
We medicate, discipline, suspend and expel our boys from school at quadruple the rate of girls, Bloom argues. We let far more boys drop out of high school than girls, and of those boys who do graduate, they are far more likely than their sisters to be illiterate, to fail to go to college, or to drop out of college if they do go. “Reading is girly,” many boys now say. The unemployment rate for our teen boys and young men rivals that of Arab Spring countries. And because the fundamentals of our economy have changed dramatically in the last decade, boys without college degrees are not only left behind in young adulthood, they’re virtually guaranteed to be shut out of the middle class all their lives. Traditional “male” blue collar jobs? Mostly gone, and they’re not coming back.
As our failing schools and decaying economy batter boys, Bloom argues, our “thug culture” promotes an unprecedented level of viciousness and drug use. No longer on the fringe, “slap the bitch” music has gone mainstream. Our boys’ favorite video games have never met a problem they couldn’t fix with gun violence or carnage. In film and television, heroes prevail through murder and mayhem. And the most popular word in music over the last decade? Swagger. You don’t have to know anything, you don’t need skills, or character, or integrity, multimillion dollar recording artists exhort our boys (backed up by gigantic media conglomerates counting their profits from these messages). Just puff yourself up with false bravado and fake it, boys! Swagger. And our boys have absorbed this message. They may rank 21st out of 30 developed countries in math, but there’s one area where they are #1: confidence!
There is one road for boys who don’t overcome their failing schools, who aren’t exceptional enough to find a job where there is none, who absorb the message that real men express anger via gun violence or who use or sell drugs, and that road has one dead-end terminus: our ever-expanding, bursting-to-the-seams prisons, Bloom says. Our prison population has skyrocketed to its highest level in U.S. history – more than any other country on earth now or in human history. Ninety-three percent of our prison population is male. We can’t find the money for better schools, for more accessible college educations, for job training or drug treatment programs. But we always manage to find the funds for more prisons. More are being built every day. Is there a place waiting for your son?
Swagger is a wakeup call for parents about the real world our boys inhabit right now, but it offers solutions as well. From how to teach your boy humility (the swagger anti-venom), to “making your home a reading mecca,” creating an expectation of college graduation, and how to teach your boy to be critical of the media onslaught in his life, the second half of Swagger is packed with research-proven, parent-tested, teacher-approved practical solutions, delivered in Bloom’s trademark no-nonsense, often humorous, take-charge voice.
About Swagger on Dr. Drew: