Big Trouble for Boyhood
As the father of a 7-month-old, I read with keen interest your cover story "The Myth About Boys" [Aug. 6]. In our digitized, globalized 21st century society, we value orderliness and predictability. Yet boys are all about disorder: digging in the dirt, scuffed knees, taking apart Dad's favorite portable radio to "see how it works," learning the rules and etiquette of street basketball. As the article points out, boys learn best by doing. The inevitable bits of temporary pain that occur through mistakes and failures forge the common sense and confidence that allow young boys to successfully navigate through life as young men.
Jeff Yastine, Pompano Beach, Florida
America is a dangerous place for boys. Life is not the same as it was 30 years ago. A mistake as a youngster can remain on one's criminal record forever, and police give much less leeway when dealing with "rowdy" behavior. I fear for my son's future more than for my daughter's: Can he make it to adulthood without a screw-up that could ruin him for life? To their credit, boys today have adjusted to the rules of the baby boomers who have outlawed the antics of their youth. Let boys have a wild streak, fight on the playground (and not get expelled) and get their butts spanked when they are bad. Boys expect no less.
Michael Parker, Des Moines, Iowa
The article does not seem to address the damaging effects of social pressures on boys to meet male-gender expectations. Are boys becoming "thugs, dolts and cads" because they must demonstrate aggression and stoicism to be considered "man enough"? We should concentrate on breaking down such stereotypes and the belief in inherently male hardheadedness. Let us raise children and promote the positive attributes regardless of gender: intelligence, strength, sensitivity, humility and compassion.
Brendan Parent, Los Angeles
There was a time when most boys had a good role model in their father, who was the provider and protector of the family, a role that sat well with the male disposition as it has been formed over countless millennia. Then came feminism, and the claim that apart from some bodily plumbing, males and females were interchangeable, both equally suited for any role in life. As men became more emasculated, boys became more confused. The education system too shifted toward favoring girls and feminist culture, until girls were doing better in school than boys. Fortunately, enough boys seem to survive these disadvantages to take their appropriate place in society as adults. Despite feminist assertions and much "affirmative action," the vast majority of prominent leaders and outstanding exponents of "hard" sciences like physics remain males.
Bill Martin, Valentine, New South Wales
Growing up in the '60s, I camped, canoed and played basketball with my dad. I helped him (or tried to) roof the garage, insulate the attic and tile the kitchen floor. He gave me a bow-and-arrow set for my ninth birthday, and we went to the archery range together so I could practice. He read to all his children, checked our homework and expected us to do well in school. When Dad was at work, I played cowboys, baseball, basketball and climbed trees with the neighborhood kids. I rode my bike to the swimming hole and swung from a rope to drop into the lake. In short: I led the ideal boy's life. My dad's mentoring and fun-loving spirit made my childhood beautiful. He made me a better person and a better mother to my own two daughters.
Lisa Lippitz, Bourbonnais, Illinois
No amount of photos of frolicking boys and shaky reasoning can hide the facts: boys are clearly lagging behind. It's feared that attention to the so-called boy crisis will hamper achievement by girls. But education is not a zero-sum game. Boys and girls thrive under different conditions, and it's time we accommodate the learning styles of both. In a global competition for talent, we cannot afford to handicap any of our children.
Adam Habib, Los Angeles
I had just finished reading "The Boys Are All Right" when, walking to the shops, I watched three little boys aged about 4 or 5 playing in a front yard. They were all covered in mud from head to foot as they excitedly built a road, carefully lined with rocks, for their toy trucks to cross the lawn and run down the slope. Although there was a perfectly good toy front-end loader in the mud pit, one boy had figured out that the dog's water dish carried much more mud and was easier to fill, so he had clearly been designated the logistics officer, while the other two became the surface engineering team. It was refreshing to read an article by a writer who recognized that the basic wiring of a boy differs from that of a girl. Vive la différence.
Mike Jesina, Melbourne
Perhaps boys are floundering because they no longer enjoy undivided attention. Schools now provide boys and girls the same educational resources. Historically, girls overcame harsh inequities and brutal discrimination. Boys have been deprived of nothing. The age-old excuse, "Boys will be boys," is the root of the problem. Boys have to learn responsibility. Then they will succeed.
Jeanette V. Novak, Northville, Michigan
Inside a Political Machine
As Joe Klein writes in "the bran-muffin Candidate," Senator Hillary Clinton is not the most charming presidential hopeful, but she knows her stuff [Aug 6] Increasingly, Americans are sensing that a seriousness of purpose may be the tonic to help this nation recover domestically and internationally.
Jane Doyle, Altoona, Pennsylvania
Re "How to Deal with Dictators" [Aug. 6]: I was disappointed to read Peter Beinart's suggestion that bringing Benazir Bhutto back to power is the ideal way to solve surging fundamentalism in Pakistan. It seems he has forgotten or is simply unaware of Bhutto's role in the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Her government was the first to recognize the Taliban regime after it took control of Kabul in 1996 and hailed its leaders as agents of peace in the region.
Forogh Hakimzada, Monterey, California
An Army of Ambassadors
Mark Kukis' story on the karbala attacks really put a human face on the cold statistics of the casualties and suffering in Iraq [Aug. 6]. It was impossible to deny the reality of violence and pain that so many soldiers see in Iraq. Regardless of our opinions on the war, we can all agree that our soldiers are amazing heroes. Along with their loved ones, they deserve our continued support. I wish I could shake each soldier's hand and thank all those in uniform for the sacrifices they have made. Please bring them home soon.
Jose Mendoza, Granada Hills, California
It's unsettling to hear that the Karbala case has stalled because pursuing those behind the attack may undo progress. As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I found it disheartening to read about the loss of these five fine soldiers. If we agree that the situation in Iraqi villages is too dangerous for diplomats and that Army officers serving as diplomats are not properly trained, we need to come up with a better solution. With modern communications equipment, an Army officer in the field should be able to serve as the "face person" for a diplomat in a secure camp in Iraq, in Kuwait or even in Washington. I served with Captain Brian Freeman and remember him as an energetic and highly respected officer. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to the families of the others slain in this attack.
Mark Williams, Monroe, Ohio
How did the American people feel 232 years ago when British troops were sent to Lexington and Concord to seize rebel leaders? I do not know of any example in which democracy was brought to a country with weapons of destruction.
Dirk Bruehl, Salisbury, Pennsylvania
Shed Be Right, Mate
I enjoyed the review of makers, breakers and Fixers, the latest "Blokes and Sheds" book by Mark Thomson [Aug. 6]. In pride of place on the door to my shed is a Shed Code of Practice from woodworkforums.com, which states: "The purpose of a shed is to provide an environment and territory wherein a bloke has total and complete dominion and control and is therefore happy." And: "A bloke shall never have enough tools."
Gordon Bidgood, Tyabb, Victoria
China's Gen Y
I found Simon Elegant's story "China's Me Generation" very interesting [Aug. 6], but the article failed to highlight a crucial point. While Chinese in their 20s and 30s are certainly exploring the new consumerism, they are most readily applying for Party membership. Affiliation with China's Communist Party helps ensure more of the bene fits these young people seek to enjoy; it also raises some interesting questions about possibly a much more complicated relationship between youth and politics in China.
Caroline Cooper, Jakarta
As a Chinese citizen, I found Elegant's depiction of young Chinese as apolitical and materialistic rather naïve. He assumes that certain "Paris Hilton" types are representative of their generation, and that functional democracy and governments responsive to citizens cannot exist without a ballot-style voting system. Deng Xiao-Ping's pragmatism, as well as redefining socialist economics, has brought about new understandings of democracy and politics for China's youth. The "Me Generation" have certainly hit the right political buttons so far, prompting governmental commitments to keeping them "rich and happy."
Mingyi Yao, Melbourne
Restoring the Faith
As you pointed out in your story on the Democrats and religion [July 23], God has become pivotal in presidential campaigns something I could not be more heartened to see. We are a country composed of atheists, agnostics and all brands of faith. In order to be an effective leader, you can't just be the President of the Christians. It insults our intelligence to assume that we would let difference separate us. While faith is important, it does not negate our ability to make intelligent decisions about our leaders.
Bishop Thomas Dexter (T.D.) Jakes, Dallas