No Running, No Jumping

  The Cleveland Avenue School in Atlanta has all the amenities you would expect a new school to have: computer equipment, an up-to-date library, and modern classrooms. It has everything except a playground. No, it wasn't an oversight. It was designed that way, in order to make little boys behave more like little girls. And it's part of a trend. In 1998, Atlanta eliminated recess in its elementary schools. Other cities, like Philadelphia, retained something called recess, but it bears little resemblance to the unstructured play time most of us enjoyed as kids. Why? As Christina Hoff Sommers says in her new book, The War Against Boys, educators today are intolerant of boys acting like boys -- moving, making noise, and engaging in raucous play. This intolerance goes beyond the need for order and discipline. The rule is "no running and no jumping," and boys who engage in normal active play are frequently punished or sent home. When boys aren't being punished for being boys, they are being medicated to accomplish the same result. It is revealing that 95 percent of the kids on Ritalin today -- a drug used to treat hyperactivity -- are boys. As Michael Gurian, the author of The Good Son, puts it, "If Huck [Finn] and Tom [Sawyer] were in today's schools, they would be labeled ADD, having attention deficit disorder, and drugged." Behind this campaign against what Sommers calls "youthful male exuberance" is, in her words, "misguided feminism." Many feminists insist that it is maleness itself -- defined by characteristics like aggressiveness, competitiveness, and assertiveness -- that causes violence. This view has found its most receptive audience in education, which is dominated, to a greater extent than other professions, by women. The result is a commitment to what Dr. Sommers calls feminizing boys: monitoring and policing characteristically male behavior, and getting boys to participate in "characteristically feminine activities." As a result, our sons think there's something wrong with being a boy. As Dan Kindlon, a child psychologist, puts it, our sons feel like a "thorn among roses" and a "frowned-upon presence" in our schools. This war that's being waged on sons isn't only cruel; it's culturally disastrous. When Christians say that God made us male and female, it isn't only about sex. It's an acknowledgment that the attributes of both sexes were intended to complement each other, and achieve results that neither sex, acting on their own, could achieve. While she isn't a Christian, Camille Paglia, a feminist author, understands this. She has written that masculinity is . . . the most creative cultural force in history." "Men," she adds, "created the world we live in and the luxuries we enjoy." To be more precise, it is the masculine role as provider and protector, as restrained by clear standards of right and wrong, that has produced the civilization we know. But our schools are failing our sons today by not encouraging them in this role. We need to help our neighbors understand that a generation of boys who are taught that there's something intrinsically wrong with being male will not be able to act as the kind of responsible and creative force that Paglia describes. And our sons won't be the only ones paying the price. If we really understand what's really at stake in society's "war against boys," we'd realize that a little "male exuberance" on the playground is a small price to pay.


Chuck Colson


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