This morning I came across an AOL article about what Kay Hymowitz calls “Child-Men.” Her new book, “Manning Up,” can be found here on Amazon.
I was immediately drawn to the topic as I know so instinctively and deeply what Kay Hymowitz is talking about. She describes a group of men who remain in a limbo, primarily between ages 21-35, unable to advance in the world. They remain dependent and, shall I say, a bit pathetic as viewed by the opposite sex. These are the real life Adam Sandlers of the world as represented in Billy Madison.
Kay Hymowitz points to several factors: 1) the change of our economy from one requiring physical skills to the knowledge economy that favors communication skills. 2) role confusion as men and women realize that traditional views of the male-female bound don’t meet a reality where women are advancing faster than men, both educationally and professionally, 3) the breakdown of the family and its impact on the male role model. I haven’t read the book, but I’d say that traditionally, from early childhood, boys dealt with the world of work outside the home, training from this early age to take on responsibility. When there was time for sports, it created a training ground for men to learn how to handle the game of power relationships that exists in the working world. You needed to learn how to work on the team or you were on the bench.
Multi-media directed at captivating and idling the male adolescent, from television in the 1960’s to Pac Man and Ninja Turtle video games in the 1990’s to the latest simulation games you now buy from Nintendo, has been extremely successful. Parents, both mother and father, have been responsible for creating this passivity in our children, born partly by an honest desire for recreation and good old fashion fun, but also by a desire to sideline children as quickly as they can, dumping them so they can get on with their busy lives. This is widespread. It may have begun with low-income and single parent households, but it has no doubt extended to the upper class with a vengeance. How easy is it today to sideline our children as we selfishly get on with our lives? Kudos for Kay Hymowitz for hitting the nail on the head.
As an employer primarily of blue collar males, I now recruit for emotionally intelligent males. That is my primary objective. If I am successful at this one task, most other elements will fall into place.
I have learned a few things about young men:
1) They need to see a future with positive outcomes.
2) They need to understand the path to arrive at their goals, which must include some “higher purpose.”
3) They need to learn what I call “active patience.” They can’t sit back patiently for a genie to grant them wish fulfillment. Neither can they expect short cuts to success. They need to understand that growth comes in steady increments when you chart a course and implement steps toward long term achievements.
4) They need to value formal education if they are to value themselves.
5) Their education works best when combined with work internships that test their work based maturity alongside the academic skills that allow them to achieve incrementally.
Trade companies, such as our local pest control companies, have a potential role to play in shaping technical education programs and designing work internships at the high school and college levels.
The men Kay Hymowitz talks about may seem like jerks and misfits. I just think of them as deeply depressed. These are men who have lost role models and who have had inadequate values training. They have been passive victims of broken families and media misdirection that they are clueless to overcome. Perhaps they truly have tried many times and now feel so dejected that they give up or give in to passive relationships with women who will care for their needs.
Society can’t keep going down this vicious spiral. The breakup of the family needs to be reversed. The existence of the information economy should not be destroying men. Rather, it should be opening up the eyes of men and women to create richer and more meaningful lives together, both at home and at work. Boys can become men as girls become women, working together and exploring the new world we live in. Men will always be explorers. It is in our nature. What makes that path so difficult is that the new world we must explore is as much within ourselves as it is out there in the universe.
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