Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book review: Swagger

A must read!!!

  Lisa Bloom is not the first person to sound this alarm. Educators have been aware of the dismal statistics concerning the achievement of males in our school systems. This book, however, is a clarion call to all who have sons, grandsons, nephews, brothers, students, and etc.  Boys drop out of school more that girls do, they are twice as likely to be retained in a grade,  and "girls are now outperforming boys at every level of school, graduating in significantly greater numbers and with better grades and test scores." The ramifications to American society in the next twenty to thirty years will be dire without collective intervention. Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Age of Failing Schools, begins with Lisa Bloom explaining why she wrote a book about boys. When asked should we be concerned about girls, she retorts, "Hell, yes, we should!" This is not a boy or girl proposition. Bloom has written about girls in the past. It is the author's attempt not to "traffic gender stereotypes", but to "open a window into their world, supported by interviews, facts, and data, and to provide workable, boy-tested solutions."Her language is bold, prophetic, sensational, stern, sarcastic and sometimes over generalized. An example of  an over generalization is "Little boys start to lag behind girls when they're still in diapers, and the gap only widens with time" (as if changing their diapers were not enough).

Bloom begins the first chapter by discussing the forces aligned against boys-sub par schools, educational cuts, an unwelcoming economy, a prison industrial complex, thug culture, violence, and our own misunderstandings of who they are.  Trained as a lawyer, this book is filled with statistical data. But as a writer of social commentary, she makes her case by  aggressively exposing other policies that disproportionately affect boys. According to Bloom, "One man out of eighteen is incarcerated or on probation or on parole and new prisons are under construction as you read this, waiting to house the next generation of American boys." She is not making allowances for criminals, but drug laws are sending non violent offenders to jail at record numbers, including juveniles. More juveniles are locked up in America than any other industrialized nation.

This book is not about victimization. Lisa speaks to the over indulgence in video games,  media, sports, lack of reading, and thug music by our boys.  They are often times complaisant in their own demise. I am a lover of hip hop music, but some of the lyrics that our boys are drumming into their ears  for hours upon hours are problematic and most parents are "blithely oblivious to the messages being delivered." My sons are constantly informing me of this or that rapper who has been murdered;this has become a sad reality. Take a moment and listen to your son's entertainment.  Lisa Bloom explains that, "Calling music, film, television, and Internet 'entertainment', really underplays its current role in young people's lives. More accurately, our children live simultaneously in two worlds: the physical world of school, home, and what adults call"real life," and the digital world, which to young people, is equally if not more real." There is also a list of titles  taken from the billion dollar music industry that may shock you.

Finally, Lisa Bloom discusses ten rules for raising boys now.  Rule  number one (which I personally love) is Lose the Swagger Kid. Can I get an Amen? I have never witnessed such an assault of  unmerited cockiness in my life. It seems that every one's a superstar in his or her own eyes. Okay, I digressed. Rule number two: Set College Expectations Early and Often; Rule number three: Make Reading Home a Reading Mecca; Rule number four: Eliminate the Competition( I call this mutilate the media!); Rule number five: Become Aware of the Data Pining in and out of Your Boy's Brain; Rule number six: Teach your Boy to be ever Critical of all Media; Rule number seven:Support His Teacher; Rule number eight: Teach Him how to Respect Girls and Women; Rule number nine: Make Community Service a Regular Part of your family Life; and Rule number ten:Take Him Away.

Lisa Bloom referenced this quote by Frederick Douglass, "It is easier to build strong children that to repair broken men." The statistics in the book are alarming for all families of every ethnicity. There are many entities that vie for our sons' attention. We are quick to label males with pejorative terms; our criminal justice system's answer is a rationing of "unprecedented punitiveness." Our legislatures can not find money to adequately fund schools. Our entertainment conglomerates do not care about the  violent images perpetrated on our sons. I raise the alarm along with the author and concur that," Poorly educated, trapped in a jobless economy, and bombarded by thug culture, many of our boys turn into rudderless young men-adrift and lost."  Swaggger is a thought provoking readRead it and weep.



  1. Wow! I just requested this from my local library. I don't have any kids, but I work as a tutor and I absolutely see this in the students I work with. I had been working with a group of 6th graders previously, and I asked each of them what they wanted to be when they grew up. The girls said things like they wanted to become a nurse, a teacher, or a lawyer. The two boys both said they wanted to be basketball players. WHAT!?! I think there are definitely education stereotypes (boys are good at math and science, girls are good at reading) that does a disservice to both groups.

    And I love that this book encourages boys to be critical of media! We're told to teach this to girls (i.e. -- actress and models are made up, Photoshopped, etc to create a certain image), but I don't think this type of criticism is really taught to boys. There is so much that young men can be critical of in the media as well.

    Ok, I'll end the rant there, thanks for the rec! I found your blog via bookblogs. Mine is
    I hope you can drop by!

  2. Nickie,
    You have found a place to rant. I am trying to put my book proposal together on the same subject. I have three sons and work at a college. I, like you, am very concerned.

    Thanks for the comment. I will follow you.