The meaning behind that old playground adage/taunt (which I first came across in the movie Homeward Bound when Sassy the cat says “Cats rule, dogs drool) seems to be a semi-hot topic in contemporary news.
I remember last year reading Nick Kristof’s blunt assessment, “The Boys Have Fallen Behind” where he appears to promote the “do whatever it takes to get them to read” approach. I flinched at that. Do we really need to meet teenage boys where they are (in that mucky adolescent mind) and provide them with low-brow humor? Can’t we encourage them to be men? Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed in one of my favorite journalists in the world.
Then this year, the Wall Street Journal posted an opinion article, “How to Raise Boys Who Read” which sort of took a different approach but felt unrealistic. The idea that in this day and age you could “keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books” is what I’d love to do (and probably could do since I’m stubborn), but isn’t feasible for many families (especially those where both parents work).
So, what do we do?
Today while I was working at College Track, my awesome boss/supervisor challenged “I” to read Isabel Allende’s “Two Words.” Now, “I” is a smart kid. He’s cute, cool, confident, etc., etc. What bugs me is if I ever showed him this article, “How to Raise Boys That Read”, he (and others like him) would vehemently defend his right to not read. He would somehow find holes in the article’s argument (admittedly, I found many), and in the end, joke around the whole deal. Since he’s a pretty charismatic character, all the surrounding boys (and girls) would be swayed over to his side and loudly put in their two cents arguing the virtues of video games and technology over books and how their English teachers suck and yadda yadda yadda.
How do you get around this? There’s the smart kids who won’t read, and the not-so-smart kids who follow the influence of the smart kids. I really doubt putting up pictures of celebrities posing with books will get them to change this mentality. But honestly, without reading, how do you expand minds? Honestly!
To be fair, I was that weird kid who sometimes sat out during recess reading books (until I realized pretty late in the game how uncool that was). But I think it worked. And I think family intervention has a lot to do with it. Perhaps ridding the home of video games might be overkill, but I hope that when I become a teacher, I can effectively work with the family to address this issue (without of course, neglecting my own).
Gah, it makes me mad. Smart boys who won’t grow their brains because they’re too smart to care. Does that make sense?