Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why Mentoring Bright Boys is a Great Use of Your Volunteer Time

My previous two posts discussed how to mentor bright boys but gave short shrift to why I believe it's one of the best uses of one's volunteer time.

Today, we tend to view boys negatively and believe that when bright boys succeed, it's despite their maleness. So, with all the good causes for you to devote your time to, why mentor a bright boy?

Many bright boys today feel neglected. Thanks, in part, to No Child Left Behind, most schools focus on low-achieving kids. Bright ones are too often ignored or made to tutor slow kids. Sure, bright kids derive some benefit from tutoring the slow but making a kid who's reading on a sixth grade level read The Cat in the Hat to a weak student is mainly a way to reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator.

Imagine you were forced to sit bored for six hours a day, five days a week, for 180 school days, for more than a decade. How would you feel? Now imagine that, like many boys, you are active and have a hard time sitting still for six hours. Mightn't you act up? How'd you feel if the teacher (usually a woman who cannot understand why you can't sit there all day) yells at you, gives you bad grades, and virtually forces you to take Ritalin (an amphetamine) in order to attend class?

Would you live up to your considerable potential? Are you likely to enjoy a happy childhood?

For the foreseeable future, the schools will not change. Even though many more boys than girls drop out, and commit suicide, and far fewer go to college, disproportionate attention is paid to girls: for example, curriculum that highlights women's accomplishments and men's evils; e.g., the enormous coverage given to Pocahontas, Sacajawea, Harriet Tubman , Marie Curie, and Susan B. Anthony and to white male tyrants from Hannibal to Hitler to Joe McCarthy. Girls are allowed to wear tee shirts that say, "Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them" yet no one would even dare make a tee shirt that said "Girls are stupid. Throw rocks at them."

Lest we have a generation of bright boys with enormous wasted potential and who experience great pain, we need fair-minded people, especially men, to mentor bright boys. How about you?


ALP said...

This is a wonderful post! My long term partner, an engineer and a math-loving geek through and through, would be a great mentor/tutor. During his recent, year-long spell of unemployment, I encouraged him to consider such volunteer work. However, he pointed out that working with kids exposes one to much potential liability. Parents these days see "stranger danger" wherever they go. I live in WA state, home of the "Wenatchee Sex Ring Hoax" (Google it, there is also a Wikipedia page). Many men, especially those without kids (and thus those with the most time to offer) are reluctant to have anything to do with kids due to the fear of possibly being wrongly accused of some horrible crime against children. Sadly, many men that do not have children feel this way, and after talking to many of them, I'm afraid I have to agree. I know countless men that won't get onto an elevator if do so will find them alone with a woman and her young child, as they simply got tired of the unwarranted, suspicious, "evil eye" glances. You seem to be well tapped into current issues in education - surely you are aware of the declining number of men who are willing to go into teaching? Or has the media blown that out of proportion?

Marty Nemko said...

Dear ALP,

Excellent and accurate comment, alas.

The media is so obsessed with making women look good, but too often it's at men's expense. Yes, there are bad guys. as there are bad women (whose evil is equally devastating but sometimes less obvious,) but many, many more good men.


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