Sometimes I’m a little slow to pick up on cultural references. This explains why I only recently figured out what “SMH” means. Naturally, once I did, I smacked my head. I had a similar reaction while reading Peg Tyre’s excellent exposé, THE TROUBLE WITH BOYS, appropriately subtitled A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do.
One reason I wanted to SMH when reading this book is that I realized I should have read it four years ago when it first came out. I’ve been working in education all this time, and Tyre’s data-rich reporting on boys’ struggles would have been useful to have in my hands sooner. Not that I didn’t have a sense that there was a problem. Like many people in the field, I’ve borne witness to the challenges that Tyre describes. Boys have been falling behind for years now—frustrated, antsy, and increasingly lost—and we (teachers, especially) have been wringing our hands, trying to figure out what to do.
Tyre does not provide easy solutions because there are none. She cites efforts in various schools that have met with some success, though, and her book will absolutely raise the awareness of anyone who picks it up, and I think that is half the battle. Indeed, as the daughter of a woman who played Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” repeatedly on her record-player (yes, I’ve been 28 for a while) and who has always encouraged me to do whatever I like, I admit to being somewhat more focused on feminist concerns. But as Tyre rightly points out, we don’t have to oppress girls again in order to help boys, and it would help ALL of us to help boys. Because disaffected, poorly educated boys grow up to be men.
If you’re a parent or a teacher, it’s not too late to read this book. Though published in 2008, it is unfortunately still relevant.