One Boy’s Journey through a Toxic Landscape

Our male children are in crisis and have been for decades now. Research shows that boys are more vulnerable than girls, even in terms of live birth rate, but also in finding their way in the world, trying to balance cultural “norms” of toughness with emotional expressiveness. The result of this collision, combined with institutions that do not serve them well, such as our schools, and a culture that has eliminated most of the opportunities for adolescents with lots of testosterone to productively serve and provide for their communities has meant astonishing rates of dysfunction for boys. In the past, teenagers and young men have had to physically labor to support their families. The evidence is that boys are paying a high price for not having access to such meaningful physical activity. I will identify four ways, visible only in retrospect, that our son and we sought to navigate this toxic landscape in order to provide a healthier context for his development.

Kathleen R. Smythe teaches history, globalization, and sustainability at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her second book, Africa’s Past, Our Future, was published in 2015. She is at work on a third that outlines a new sustainability paradigm and a fourth on historical and ecological cycling tours around Cincinnati. She works to promote a local (particularly food) economy and loves hiking, biking, cooking, eating, and hanging out with friends and family.

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