Boys Face Challenges

7 07 2010

“Well I talk about boys now, what a bundle of joy.” – Ringo Starr singing the Beatles song “Boys.”

A recent Lilith magazine cover boldly stated, BOYS ARE THE NEW GIRLS.” The current issue of The Atlantic has a fascinating article titled, “The End of Men.” 

When I first got involved with foundations nearly 20 years ago, there was great concern about girls. I worked closely with Swanee Hunt, founder of The Hunt Alternatives Fund, and Lauren Casteel, President of The Hunt Alternatives Fund.

Among the many issues of interest to Swanee and Lauren at the time was “girls.” Swanee was one of the founders of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and Lauren was one of its early Board members. They were concerned about many ways in which females lagged behind males, including pay scales, glass ceilings, and elective office. The Hunt Alternatives Fund worked on a variety of projects aimed at helping girls, such as trying to reduce the math and science achievement gap and trying to reduce teen pregnancies.

Today, as evidenced by Lilith and The Atlantic, there is a growing concern about boys.

Less than 43% of college students in the United States today are males. Scholarship programs in Colorado and elsewhere struggle mightily to find enough qualified boys. The high school dropout rate for boys is dramatically higher than for girls. And, needless to say, there are far more young males than females in prison. For boys of color and boys from lower socio-economic groups, the disparities are even larger and more disturbing. These boys, as Lauren says, are “canaries in the mine.” Recently, former Colorado First Lady Dottie Lamm wrote a powerful column in the Denver Post about boys.  She asked, “If the advocacy efforts to move middle-school and high-school girls into math and sciences… in the 1980s and 90s paid off, why wouldn’t a similar effort work on behalf of boys’ literacy in elementary school?” Several years ago, Dottie Lamm was the leading feminist in Colorado. For her to talk about boys in this way is truly stunning.

No one is suggesting that the glass ceilings have been shattered. No one is suggesting that there is complete equality between men and women in the workplace. But, clearly we as a society are not doing enough to help boys succeed. I think we need to focus on both boys and girls. And, we need to focus on all ages, from infancy through college.

As we as a society strive to help all children succeed, is there a role for The Denver Foundation related to boys? Is this something The Denver Foundation should get involved in when we do our next Strategic Plan?

— David Miller, President and CEO, The Denver Foundation

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3 responses

8 07 2010
Tanya Ishikawa

Although I agree statistics seem to point towards boys needing some attention to help them improve in education and avoid jail, I tend to think that focussing on children in general is better than focusing on just boys, or perhaps just girls. Rather than emphasizing programs for a specific gender, I think programs should be aimed at target populations such as low income, underserved, minority, etc. Then, I do believe that each child has different needs and perspectives so the more tailored each approach can be to meeting the children “where they are at” the more successful they will be. By reducing the self-esteem issues, intimidation factor and other obstacles, children will be more likely to participate and flourish. Easier said than done, I am sure.

12 07 2010
Hanifah Chiku

I totally agree with both the article and Ms. Ishikawa’s comment. Having been involved with various organizations and events over the years, for girls and youth in general, I have seen a rise in program focusing on the issues related to females in our community and not so much males. In the past there was the Expanding the Visions Program coordinated by the African American Leadership Committee which targeted minority males in middle to high school. Unfortunately, due to funding issues, that program has not been presented the past couple of years. I have had discussions with different males about the necessity of programs targeted for males, of all races and ethniticies, beginning in elementary school. Our boys are suffering from the lack of self-esteem causing them to make choices that are not positive and that have long-term detrimental impacts in the lives and future choices. I also feel that in not focusing on issues impacting our boys, what will this mean for both girls and boys, being in relationships (romantic, business or otherwise), if they aren’t provided the lifeskills to handle appropriately?

29 10 2010
Are boys the new girls? | Colorado Giving Voice

[…] feel free to leave your comments both here and on his blog about his recent post, “Boys Face Challenges.” We also encourage you to write your own post or suggest other blog posts that we can share on […]

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