Proposal for a White House Council on Boys and Men
This study, resulting in the proposal to President Obama to create a White House Council on Boys and Men, was originally inspired in 2009 by a discussion between Dr. Warren Farrell and the White House Boards and Commissions Director, Joanna Martin. Shortly after, Dr. Farrell created a multi-partisan Commission of 34 prominent authors, educators, researchers and practitioners to accomplish three goals: investigate the status of boys and their journey into manhood; identify both surface and underlying problems confronting boys and men; create a blueprint toward solutions. This proposal is the result.
Although the Commission is diverse, we have in common at least two beliefs: first, the desire to support the progress made by our daughters in the recent past, and to continue that into the distant future. To this end, we desire for the White House Council on Boys and Men to work parallel to and co-operatively with the already-formed White House Council on Women and Girls.
Second, the Commission members share the belief that our daughters and sons are in the same boat. Therefore, if just one sex wins, both sexes lose. The more closely our Commission investigated, the more concerned we became with the crisis our sons, fathers, and men currently face. It is a crisis as ubiquitous yet invisible today as our
financial crisis was five years ago. We will first identify the five major components of the crisis—each with potential solutions. As with the financial crisis, real answers require more than putting out fires. So we conclude by fundamentally re-thinking the journey from boy to man in the past, with an aim to preserve the best and modify the rest.
First, then, the five major components of the crisis:
1. The Education of our Sons
2. The Emotional Health of our Sons
3. Children without Dads; Dads without Children
4. The Crisis of Boys’ and Men’s Physical Health
5. The Future of Work, and of Boys and Men at Work
Lately the proposal is getting some attention from the media with articles in publications such as Forbes Magazine where they published an article titled “The Need to Create a White House Council on Boys to Men.” The article interviews Dr. Warren Farrell about the proposal for a White House Commission on Boys and Men. The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an article titled “Saving the ‘Lost Boys.’ Click the 'News' tab above to see these and more.
Who and What: A multi-partisan Commission of 34 nationally-known scholars and practitioners request that President Obama create a White House Council on Boys and Men. Why: A nationwide crisis of boys and men already exists. The Commission identifies five components:
• Education: Boys are behind girls in almost every subject, especially reading and writing. Yet boy-friendly programs (e.g., recess and vocational education) are being curtailed.
• Jobs: Our sons are not being prepared for jobs where the jobs will be. Yet women rarely marry men in unemployment lines.
• Fatherlessness: A third of boys are raised in father-absent homes; yet boys and girls with significant father involvement do better in more than 25 areas.
• Physical health: In 1920, American males lived only one year less than females; today, it is five years less. Yet federal offices of boys and menʼs health are non-existent.
• Emotional health: Between ages 13 and 20, as boys feel the pressures of the male role, boysʼ suicide rate soars from equal to girls', to five times girlsʼ.
Each of the five crisis components is potentially handled by a different department of the government; therefore coordination and prioritization is best handled at the White House level.
Short-Term Investment: One million dollars. Long-Term Savings: Savings of billions of dollars per year. For example, homes with fathers create more boys who become taxpayers as opposed to costing taxpayers billions for prisons and social welfare. Quality-of-Life Savings: Priceless. Timing: The mere presidential announcement of a White House Council on Boys to Men makes visible an invisible crisis. Within one year after the Council is created, a White House Conference on Boys to Men will present “best practices.”
More information: Warren Farrell, (415) 259-6343
The Proposal to Create a White House Commission on Boys and Men
This is a proposal for President Obama to issue an Executive Order to create a White House Council on Boys and Men, parallel to his already-created White House Council on Women and Girls. The proposal is the result of an18-month study by a Commission of thirty-four nationally known scholars and practitioners, led by Dr. Warren Farrell.
The Commission identifies problems at a crisis level in five areas: education; emotional health; physical health; father involvement, and work. (The facts are documented in the endnotes of the body of the proposal.)
Boys are more medicated and less educated. They are considerably behind girls in reading and writing, motivation, grades, and standardized test scores. More boys are dropouts and expelled. In higher education, as this graph reveals, males have gone from 61% of graduates to a projected 39%.
Percent of All College Degrees, Female vs. Male, 1966–2019
Among Hispanics and African-Americans, the male-female gap is greater. As for consequences, by his mid-30’s, the African-American boy who drops out of high school has a 60% chance of having spent time in prison.
Solutions a Council might explore include more male teachers; updated teacher education; boy-friendly teaching, testing and schools; and incentives for children having both parents.
Boys’ suicide rate goes from equal to girls’ prior to adolescence to five times girls’ between 20 and 24. Among the elderly, men over 85 have a suicide rate 1300% higher than their female peers. Other symptoms of male emotional challenges range from ADHD to violence, crime and the 5 D’s: depression, drinking, drugs, disobedience and delinquency. A Council might proffer such solutions as parent and professional education, communication and relationship-skill training, and encouraging mentoring and two-parent families.
With one out of three children in the U.S. living in father-absent homes, the Commission examined the potential benefits of more-involved dads to single mothers, and to our children’s emotional stability, academic achievement, social maturity, physical safety, and future marital success. It examines the possible impact of fathers on the reduction of social problems from poverty to unwed births and crime. It considers solutions ranging from examining the impact of paternity leave (e.g., in Sweden, 85% of fathers take paternity leave) to the potential of a male birth control pill; from legislation to create incentives for father involvement in unwed and divorced families to educating boys in school as to their value as future dads.
The Commission examines why the male-female life expectancy gap has grown from one year in 1920 to more than five years today. And why boys and men die earlier than girls and women from nine of the 10 leading causes of death. The proposal cites the economic costs of neglecting boys and men’s health, from the cost of emergency room use, to the cost to women (e.g., half of elderly poor women were not poor before their husband’s death). The Commission applauds the progress of the many federal offices of women’s health, and suggests parallel offices for boys and men’s health. Their mission might range from boys’ physical health (e.g., testicular cancer; safer football) to male emotional health (e.g., military
men’s transition home).
One of every five men 25 to 54 is not working. Half of African-American young men ages 20-24 are jobless. The areas of future job growth (e.g., health; education) are areas our daughters are preparing for; the areas for which uneducated boys have typically found jobs (e.g., manufacturing; agriculture; construction) are in decline. And the mostly-male jobs requiring more education are being outsourced overseas.
A White House Council on Boys and Men would examine the potential for restoring vocation to education, and for developing our sons’ (and daughters’) skills to match employers’ future needs. It can expand the concept of a “man’s work;” and study other countries’ successes. And when men do work, it can recommend ways to increase safety (92% of workplace deaths are men).
The Commission concludes that our sons face a profound crisis in education, work, and their physical and emotional health. Respected publications such as The Atlantic have seen the symptoms and predict “The End of Men.” If the symptoms are ignored, and our sons see the “end of men” as their future, they will have little inspiration for life’s journey.
Solutions may need to go beyond more fathers, mentors and male teachers. They may require a fundamental reconsideration of what it means to be a man. In the past, we taught our sons to consider themselves “real men” if they did what was healthy for society’s survival—whether to risk death in war, or to build a railroad. Calling our sons heroes if they risked being disposable was often healthy for the society, but it is unhealthy for our sons.
The Council can provide leadership to sustain the respect for firefighters and soldiers that allows us to recruit protectors for our homes and country, even as we also encourage alternative paths to becoming a valued man. Leadership for the future must both question and honor traditional masculinity. As our history of male-as-sole-breadwinner fades as downsizing and outsourcing burgeon, both sexes will need to be prepared to raise money and raise children. Our daughters have learned to do both; our sons have not.
A White House Council on Boys and Men can co-ordinate the nation’s best efforts to parent, mentor, and teach each of our sons to discover who he is. It can end the era of boys and men as a national afterthought. It can provide leadership to raise young men that our daughters are proud to love.