Vail Valley Voices: Why can’t boys just be boys?
Ryan Summerlin April 24, 2013
As our country continues to adapt to this notion of “globalization,” and I call it a notion because it is a fallacy that we will all have a Kumbaya existence, the ones who seem to be getting the short end of the stick are our boys.
No matter what they do, they just can’t win.
If a boy plays rough on the playground, he is labeled a “bully.” If he eats his sandwich in the shape of a gun (or the state of Florida) he is labeled a future “terrorist.” If he is antsy in class, he is labeled “ADD” and then drugged. If he is quiet and sensitive, he is labeled “gay.” If he is socially awkward (which most men will admit), he is labeled mentally ill with “Asperger’s” and also drugged.
Nowadays, a boy just can’t win.
“Tom Sawyer” is considered a classic because generations of men (and anyone dealing with men) have identified with his antics. He was considered the all-American boy. The timeless phrase “boys will be boys,” is rooted in this experience.
The same is not true for girls. They are expected to be more calm and quiet and socially adept, but if they are rambunctious and prefer to play with boys or join the football team, they don’t face labels like “ADD” or “gay” or “mentally ill” because their deviation from the norm is considered a step toward women’s equality … “See, we can do everything a guy can do.” No labels, no drugs, just acceptance and even admiration.
People will live up, or down, to their expectations. Labels are giant expectations, and these are placed on a student’s “permanent record,” following them everywhere and at a very impressionable time of their lives.
In addition, we will have generations of boys raised on highly addictive drugs that impede their intellectual development and permanently alter their unique personalities. We also rob them of the ability to develop skills necessary to adapt to challenging circumstances, something quite useful in life.
It reminds me of a quote by the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow, “If the only tool that you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
We cannot create cookie-cutter children. We must also consider how the extensive use of prescription drugs will impact their potential dependency upon other drugs later in life, including illegal substances, and what that will do to their future potential.
What are we doing to our young boys? Have we become obsessed with creating “Stepford” children? Will we lose our edge as a nation because half of our population has been doped up or pressured to believe they are something that they are not?
Who benefits? Drug companies, overworked teachers, stressed-out parents, kids wanting instant relief from the pressures of growing up?
This labeling has become epidemic and growing. It will be the certain downfall of this great nation if we continue to suppress our greatest resource, our young people.
For a country so proud of its independent thinking, I am continually shocked at this unrealistic pressure to conform that is placed on children in schools, particularly boys.
They must be “normal” kids, but to get into a good college, they must also don a cape and become super heroes … curing cancer in their spare time between gym class and math.
They can’t just play sports. They must also qualify for the Olympics. They must enroll in all AP/IB classes and make the honor roll or risk rejection from their preferred college. In addition, they must use all 12 seconds of their free time building homes for the underprivileged.
And boys must be macho, but not too much; sensitive, but not too much; energetic, but not too much. Could any of us have lived up to these expectations?
Just writing about this makes me want to utilize Amendment 64. Good grief! Can we please back the heck off? Let kids be kids, and particularly let our boys have the freedom to be themselves … obnoxious, annoying, impatient, inappropriate, outrageous, hyperactive, and totally loveable… the all-American boy.
Our communities and our country will be eternally grateful, not to mention that little kid who just put gum under your table.
Jacqueline Cartier, who has more than 25 years of political communications experience and is the president and CEO of Winning Images, recently moved back to Eagle-Vail from Washington, D.C. She can be reached by email at WinningImages.Cartier@gmail.com or by phone at 202-271-4165. Visit her website at www.CartierWinningImages.com.