Recently, there have been a lot of news stories about the plight of young black males. Abysmal high school graduation rates, unemployment, incarceration rates, special education referrals, all point to a depressing state of affairs. Mentors, rites of passage programs, job training, school improvement, alternatives to incarceration, are all part of proposed solutions. I believe that the plight of black males is reflective of a similar sad state of affairs for boys generally. Whether you are looking at boys in a farming community in Nebraska, a reservation in Utah, a fishing community in Maine, or a housing project in Newark, there will be large groups of "lost boys." I believe that a large part of the problem stems from society's blindness to differences between the sexes. Boys look for challenge, risk, and danger. If these are not provided in controlled environments, then drugs, gangs, premature fatherhood, etc. will serve as substitutes. This country also has to decide that there are some cultural norms that need to be instilled and can't be left for teenagers to discover.
I have a "rites of passage" program that I am developing that will address some of these concerns. If boys are allowed to be tough then they won't have to be afraid of also being gentle.