Once upon a time long ago there was a little boy in a 4th grade classroom staring out the window, not paying much attention to the teacher droning on and on like the adults in a Peanuts cartoon….  Beneath that window and upon the radiator stood a new display of books, and in that display he saw the abridged version of R.L. Stevenson’s Kidnapped (see above).   The cover illustration was the coolest depiction of a sword fight the kid had ever seen.  He just HAD to read that book.  Next came the unabridged version….  Then came Treasure Island….  The kid became hopelessly hooked on history, both fiction and non-fiction.  When he played outside at recess he was David Balfour, Jim Hawkins, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, the little drummer boy of Shiloh, and Wyatt Earp.

That kid was me….

Will we find such a book available in a classroom to hungry-for-adventure 4th grade boys today?  Not bloody likely – too violent.  We’re sissifying our boys, and it is costing us dearly.

Boys are far less likely than girls now to get a college degree.  They are far more likely to be suspended from school, to commit crimes, and to use drugs.  They score significantly lower than girls across all lines on reading and language arts scores, at a time when jobs increasingly require good communication skills. The causes are easy to discern – it’s the feminization of our classrooms and our culture. Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, discusses the problem and suggests remedies in a short video here from Prager University:

First, she says, turn boys into readers. You won’t do this offering Little House on the Prairie and similar touchy-feely fare.  Boys like action – heroes, bad-guys, gadgets, cars and sports….  Inspire their boyish imagination and get rid of “zero-tolerance” policies that won’t let them pretend to be cops nailing bank robbers, or Marines taking Iwo Jima.  And for cryin’ out loud, bring recess back!  Boys are like large breed, high energy dogs in this respect – they need to expel excess energy or they will explode.  (When I was in elementary school in the early 1960s we had three unstructured recesses a day!)

Viewing little boys as just defective little girls (as Sommers describes it) condemns those boys to what researchers call the Matthew Effect.  Since in this modern age all endeavors of study – not just language arts and history but also science and math – increasingly rely on textual analysis, early reading and comprehension deficiencies will snowball.

“For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”  Matthew 25:29.

Lt. Col. David Grossman tells us in his best seller On Combat (later borrowed for a scene in American Sniper) that there are three kinds of people – sheep, wolves and shepherd dogs.  (He said “sheepdogs” but I think the image of a shepherd dog, like a GSD, is more to the point than a big ol’ friendly raggedy lump that can’t see through his own hair.)  If we refuse to properly channel innate boyishness and simply suppress it, or worse try to turn little boys into little girls, we will end up with either sheep or wolves;  no shepherd dogs.  (The men around that “wolf” Harvey Weinstein who turned a blind eye to his depredations were mere “sheep,” and that is the best that can be said of them.  A “shepherd dog” does not tolerate discourtesy towards a lady, let alone outright abuse.)

Consider for a moment how many of society’s ills could be mitigated or dispensed with if boys are allowed to be boys once again.

Click here for Part 2here for Part 3, and here for Part 4, this series’ conclusion on classic literature for boys.


David Churchill Barrow is a regular Liberty Island contributor and along with his wife, MaryLu Barrow, is the author of the young adult novella Silver and Lead.