18 May 2007

An Enchanted Life: The Various Uses of Danger for Raising Boys

Something about a boy that requires danger, and adventure. Boys cannot truly grow to manhood without it. Author Conn Igulden exposes this dangerous gap in western child-raising practices in The Dangerous Book for Boys.
Amazon.com: It's difficult to describe what a phenomenon The Dangerous Book for Boys was in the UK last year. When I would check the bestseller list on our sister site, Amazon.co.uk, there would be, along with your book, which spent much of the year at the top of the list, a half-dozen apparent knockoff books of similar boy knowledge. Clearly, you tapped into something big. What do you think it was?

Iggulden: In a word, fathers. I am one myself and I think we've become aware that the whole "health and safety" overprotective culture isn't doing our sons any favors. Boys need to learn about risk. They need to fall off things occasionally, or--and this is the important bit--they'll take worse risks on their own. If we do away with challenging playgrounds and cancel school trips for fear of being sued, we don't end up with safer boys--we end up with them walking on train tracks. In the long run, it's not safe at all to keep our boys in the house with a Playstation. It's not good for their health or their safety.

You only have to push a boy on a swing to see how much enjoys the thrill of danger. It's hard-wired. Remove any opportunity to test his courage and they'll find ways to test themselves that will be seriously dangerous for everyone around them. I think of it like playing the lottery--someone has to say "Look, you won't win--and your children won't be hurt. Relax. It won't be you."

I think that's the core of the book's success. It isn't just a collection of things to do. The heroic stories alone are something we haven't had for too long. It isn't about climbing Everest, but it is an attitude, a philosophy for fathers and sons. Our institutions are too wrapped up in terror over being sued--so we have to do things with them ourselves. This book isn't a bad place to start.

As for knockoff books--great. They'll give my son something to read that doesn't involve him learning a dull moral lesson of some kind--just enjoying an adventure or learning skills and crafts so that he has a feeling of competence and confidence--just as we have. ....Amazon.com: Do you think The Dangerous Book for Boys is being read by actual boys, or only by nostalgic adults? Have you seen boys getting up from their Xboxes to go outside and perform first aid or tan animal skins or build go-carts?

Iggulden: I've had a lot of emails and letters from boys who loved the book--as well as fathers. I've had responses from kids as young as ten and an old man of 87, who pointed out a problem with the shadow stick that we've since changed. The thing to remember is that we may be older and more cynical every year, but boys simply aren't. If they are given the chance to make a go-cart with their dad, they jump at it. Mine did. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to know the book is being used with fathers and sons together, trying things out. Nothing is more valuable to a boy than time with his dad, learning something fun--or something difficult. That's part of the attitude too. If it's hard, you don't make it easy, you grab it by the throat and hang on for as long as it takes.

The book is often bought by fathers, of course. Their sons don't know Scott of the Antarctic is a great adventure story. How could they if it isn't taught any more? Good, heroic stories don't appear much in modern school curriculums--and then we wonder why boys don't seem interested.

Listen to an interview with Conn Iggulden on the Glenn and Helen podcast show.

You may also want to contemplate Cristina Hoff Sommers' message in War Against Boys, when thinking about the much-neglected topic of "what boys need."

Boys are not exposed to adult male role models for much of their lives. Most schoolteachers are women. The curriculum throughout K-12 and into university is slanted toward a feminist, anti-male outlook. With so many single mother households, many boys may not learn the special enchantment that boys must learn, if they are to grow to be responsible, independent, and courageous men.

Western feminism has grown from a liberation movement to a power grubbing movement of cowardly and insecure third rate minds. Feminism has been hijacked by the perpetual revolutionaries--the inferiors who have the need to oppress all other points of view besides their own.

It is the boys who suffer the most, the boys who remain dangerously psychologically neotenous throught their lives. Why does the prevailing ideology in education and western intelligentsia wish to handicap boys for their entire lives? Clearly independent and courageous persons represent a serious threat to an ideological group that wishes to grab and retain its hold on power. If not shackled and confined in monotonous walls of indoctrination early, there is always the danger that boys may eventually grow into men. Men uncontrollable by the ruling ideology.

Rather like what is done to bulls to make them more tractable as steers.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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