December 31, 2006

Peter Pan - The Lesson

Warning, I'm on my high-horse here.

Last night I watched part of an old film in which Mary Martin, playing Peter Pan, said, Are you ready for today's lesson? And then she launched into a long song about a boy refusing to become a man.

With apologies to the original lyrics, what follows are some excerpts run together to make a point:

I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me! I don't want to wear a tie. And a serious expression... And if it means I must prepare, to shoulder burdens with a worried air, I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me. So there!

Never gonna be a man, I won't! Like to see somebody try, and make me. Anyone who wants to try, and make me turn into a man, catch me if you can. I won't grow up... And Never Land will always be, the home of beauty and joy, and neverty. I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me!
As I point out in the Man-Making book, I'm of the opinion that until a man steps into the ancient role of mentor for a boy or boys, there is a hole in his mature masculinity. Something critical in him goes undeveloped. A man can pretend his life needs to be all about him, wearing a tie or serious expression, but until he accepts his responsibility to guide the next generation of boys into manhood, he's not fully "grown up." He's living in the land of "neverty."

The premise of the book, The Peter Pan Syndrome, by Dan Kiley is the same. Too many men are inhabiting a place where, consciously or not, they are refusing the obligations of manhood.

Showing up for boys is one of the ways men can begin to self-initiate themselves into a full and responsible manhood. Until they do, the men will remain stuck in "neverty," that place between boyhood and manhood. Both they and the boys who need them will remain lost on their mutual journey to manhood.

December 26, 2006

WrightFlight - Giving Kids Wings

In the Man-Making book, one of the forms of involvement I discuss is called One-to-Many, one adult to many kids. It's where a man takes his hobby or interest and shares it with the world in a way that involves kids. There are many examples of how this simple act can evolve into something that can change kids lives in a multitude of ways. Sports, learning to drive safely in high performance cars, even building wooden boats from scratch are all examples I talk about in the Man-Making book.

WrightFlight is another of those stories. It was founded in 1986 in Tucson, Arizona by Robin Stoddard, an Air Force Reserve fighter pilot. He was aware of the excitement flight held for most kids and decided to use that as motivation to improve kid's lives. The way it works is each student to signs a contract at the beginning of the program. This contract requires the students to raise a grade point in one of their weaker subjects (i.e. raising a math grade from C to B), in addition to staying in school, off drugs, and out of gangs. If the student passes the Wright Flight "History of Flight" test, the student earns a graduation thrill of a hands-on flight in a small aircraft as a co-pilot.

With over 750 successful students graduating in the Tucson area during this school year, approximately 10,500 graduates since its inception, and new chapters springing up across the country, WrightFlight is powerful testimony to what one motivated man (and a lot of help from friends and ally's) can create. Check out their website for the whole story.

What hobby, skill, or powerful interest do you have that you might share with the young people in the community around you? That's just how it all gets started.

December 14, 2006

Adolescent Boys: Statistics and Trends

The mission of the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium (MAEC), a not-for-profit corporation,is to create learning environments free of race, gender, class, ethnic and cultural biases so that students of all backgrounds will have equal opportunities to flourish.

At this link on their website they have a very interesting collection of data titled Adolescent Boys: Statistics and Trends. Some of the items include statements such as:
  • The range of affiliations available to boys are very limited; they are generally competitive models defined by winning or losing (ie. organized sports and athletics).

  • Some research suggests that it is not inherently true that "normal adolescent boys" are naturally aggressive, withdrawn and emotionally unexpressive. More importantly, there needs to be an increasing awareness that many parents and schools support these types of behaviors in the belief that they are necessary for male success, and in fear of hindering the development of "normal" masculinity.

  • Boys are more likely than girls to have discipline/behavior problems; to be diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Disorder; to be placed in special education; and to be involved in violent crimes. For example, boys constitute 71% of school suspensions.
Check out their site to see if there are any surprises for you.