“‘Boys Adrift’- Failure to Launch and The Loss of Positive Role Models”

This is the final factor—Factor #5. Dr. Sax said, “Manhood is mimesis (the deliberate imitation of the behavior of one group of people by another as a factor in social change.) To be a man, a boy must see a man. A boy is likely to become the kind of man he sees around him. A boy needs real-life models of healthy masculinity…If you don’t provide a boy with healthy role models, he may choose the unhealthy role models offered by the marketplace, from hip-hop or television or movies or Internet or social media or video games.”

Dr. Sax wrote an article in 2006 after watching the movie,  “Failure to Launch”. This section of the books deals with that issue. Here is the trailer and here is the article.


Dr. Sax said he wasn’t prepared for what happened next. “For three consecutive days my article was the most e-mailed article on the Post website. The Post invited him to host an online chat on this topic. The chat line was open for just 60 minutes. Staffers at the paper shut the line down after 395 posts, which they told me was more than double the previous record for a 60 minute chat of about 170 posts.”

“Over the next two weeks, my article was represented in about three dozen major newspapers around the United States… I went to National Public Radio as the featured guest in a 40 minute interview on the NPR program…by the end of April I had recieved over 1000 emails from around the country.”

Dr. Sax had struck a nerve. He publishes many of the letters he received in this chapter.  They are illuminating and provocative, some verifying the truth with personal experiences and others offering insights into why this social phenomenon is happening.

One 27 year old wrote in,

“I don’t think you understand the computer game phenomenon when you talk about it sapping the motivation of male 20-somethings. That’s only part of the picture. The other part is that computer games allow people to do things that feel as significant and important as the things they wished they could do in real life but don’t see anyway of doing…when they are playing that game, they can, for a few hours, feel like they’re doing something significant. When I started grad school, I had a rough first year or so. Many times I came home feeling like I was never going to to be any good as a scholar, like I had no hope of ever actually doing anything significant, or making a serious contribution even just in the academic community. But I could turn on the computer and play X-wing and feel like I was helping to destroy the Galatic Empire. If you want to feel significant, feeling like you just destroyed the Death Star helps for a little while.”

Another letter at the end of  the “Failure to Launch”  chapter  said,

” You mentioned “the engine that runs the world.” As for me, I think the engine is the love of a good woman and the ambitions we have together for the family we are raising and for the world we want them to inherit.”

Dr. Sax finishes with his Fifth Factor of why boys are adrift:  the importance of good role models:

“To become a man, a boy must see a man. But the man doesn’t have to be his father. In fact, ideally, it shouldn’t be only his father.”

In my ward, a woman in her divorce, lost custody of her stepdaughter whom she really loved and she had no biological children of her own. In the end, she adopted three children who were in the foster care system. Her oldest son was taken under the wing of many men in our ward, who took him horseback riding, helped him receive his Eagle award and helped prepare him for his mission. Many of those men are also contributing financially to his mission. It was so wonderful to watch the male tribe show up for this young man. It made all of the difference in his life.

We, as Mormons, have a few things we do for our young men. These activities are rites of passage.

They get the Priesthood at the age of twelve and then get to bless and  serve our whole congregation. The purpose of the meeting is to partake of the sacrament–the bread and water– every Sunday.  Our young men are given the responsibility to bring the bread, prepare the bread and water in similitude of the Saviors flesh and blood— and pass it around in an orderly, reverent way. We have the Scouting program, with becoming an Eagle scout the highest goal to attain. Many men are encouraged and volunteer to help these boys on a weekly basis, not only on Sundays but also on Wednesdays. Even this week, I heard mention of a scouting trip going on this summer in our neighborhood church that the boys and men are already planning.  The biggest thing Mormon families do is to prepare their sons and daughters all of their lives for voluntary missionary service which can be 18 months for the girls and two  years for the boys. It’s a right of passage and a way to learn discipline and focus, and for a Mormon son or daughter, a much deeper understanding of our beliefs and doctrines.

I have  loved distilling this book for you. Dr. Sax doesn’t have all of the answers, but he gave stories and data that helped me understand how we and our culture can ruin our young men if we don’t hold them accountable, or enable them to not rise to their potential.Dr. Sax showed us how  schools have been  unfriendly to boys, how harmful video games can be, how being over medicated and how environmental toxins are hurting our sons. Finally he showed us how important it was for a boy to grow up with the positive role models of other men. What are some other ways we can help our sons realize their potential? I would love any of your thoughts on this.

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