The Wonder of Boys

Even though I don’t have any boys, I decided to check out this book by Michael Gurian.  While I didn’t feel the need to take extensive notes like I did for The Wonder of Girls,  I thought I would jot down a few things that caught my attention or made me think.  For instance, I did learn some interesting things like that most boys/men hear better out of one ear than the other and process information better through their left eye.  He talks about how male empathy is more task-oriented.  A boy won’t allow empathy for others to interfere with completing a task at hand unless he has been given responsibility to look after a certain person who requires empathy at that moment.

Gurian talks about the importance of male role models to the proper development of boys into men and puts a big emphasis on the importance of competitive and team activities to fulfill a boy’s natural need for competition, physical exertion, socialization within a large group, and meeting other male role models.  This made me think a lot about male-only schools and clubs.  Having gone to a single-sex school I always heard that studies showed that girls did better academically in a single-sex environment than boys.  However, perhaps single-sex education is good for boys in other ways besides academics; perhaps it fulfills other develomental needs.  And maybe some all-male clubs were less about just trying to keep females down but more about just offering places where men could just be men.  Of course, the problem was that these all-male places sometimes had the side-effect of holding back female businesswomen when business deals were made at a place they couldn’t access.

One thing that I thought was kind of sad even though I understand it was when he talked about how mothers must be prepared to hand the emotional and moral training of her son over to his father or another male around age 10.  A boy needs a good man to teach him how to be a good man.  I couldn’t help think about one of my friends who lived with his father after his parents divorced when he was in early adolescence.  I couldn’t help but think about how hard that must have been for his mother to let her only child go live away from her.  And I wondered if she had agreed simply because that is what my friend said he wanted or if she somehow knew that it would be in his best interest to go live with his father at that time in his development.

A lot of what Gurian said really resounded with things John Taylor Gatto and David A. Alberts have written about the necessity for real work for adolescents, especially boys.  And I also couldn’t help thinking about how the Amish put a great importance on work that keeps the father with the family all day so that boys have a constant model of behavior and mothers aren’t given a disproportionate amount of responsibility for discipline.  Sometimes the Amish have an amazing understanding of things that us Englishers lost a long time ago.

I don’t care for the set-up of this book as much as I did the other-one.  Of course, having written this book first maybe Gurian realized that a structural change was needed.  He also seems to twist himself into a pretzel trying to emphasize that while boys need spiritual direction that doesn’t necessarily mean they need a religion.

I think the two biggest flaws of the book, though, are that he doesn’t even mention pornography and he condones masturbation.  Pornography is a huge problem for men, especially in this internet age.  These are huge missing pieces of the puzzle that I hope has/will be remedied in later editions.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to the parents of boys.  And if I ever become the parent of a boy, I will probably add this to my book collection.  It does have certain lessons that parents need to learn.

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