When Boys Roamed Free

We recently commented on the success of the new Dangerous Book for Boys, a celebration of everything that makes up boyhood. The success of the book has ignited a lot of discussion about how we’re raising our boys these days.

Dan Hall recounts the story of how, back in 1958, at the tender age of 13,  he and a chum were dropped off by their parents at a lake outside Detroit for four days of camping, fishing, rowboating, and general adventure-seeking — by themselves. Today, the parents could be accused of child endangerment for such a thing.

Hall bemoans the loss of this kind of boyhood rite of passage, and applauds the current discussion on how we’re short-changing our boys in today’s risk-averse culture.

The authors are right: Over the past few decades, we have focused on the dark side of masculinity: aggression, the tendency to take dumb risks, false machismo. Perhaps that is one reason boys are falling behind girls on any number of social and academic measures. Their book points to a brighter side: self-discipline, wry humor, quiet determination, and curiosity about everything. Let’s send the pendulum swinging back in that direction.

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