An overdue book on parenting: The Last Boys Picked

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An overdue book on parenting: The Last Boys Picked

Post by Earl on Sat May 11, 2013 12:35 am

And I mean way overdue . . .



http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-parenting/post/bullying-and-the-boy-who-doesnt-like-sports/2012/08/10/aa13b90e-e313-11e1-98e7-89d659f9c106_blog.html
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 08/29/2012
Bullying and the boy who doesn’t like sports
By Janice D'Arcy

We are poised n the start of another school year, and with it comes an increased focus on bullying.

From the White House to Hollywood to a schoolbus in Florida and another one in upstate New York, attention to the issue has only ratcheted up in recent months.

A new book coming out next week looks at the phenomenon specifically from a boy’s perspective, examining bullying as part of a larger cultural problem that disproportionally rewards physical prowess and sports proficiency, leaving boys who aren’t drawn to athletics vulnerable.

The Last Boys Picked: Helping Boys Who Don’t Play Sports Survive Bullies and Boyhood, (Berkeley Books) was written by Janet Sasson Edgette, family psychologist and mother of twin boys, and Beth Margolis Rupp, an educator.

Edgette and I talked about her inspiration for the book, why we all seemed to have just woken up to bullying as a problem and why the “boys will be boys” mentality is dangerous.

Below are excerpts from our Q&A:

JD: Why did you write this book now?

JSE: I actually started writing this book seven years ago. I had nine-year-old twin boys; Austin was a terrific athlete, and Jake was not. For years I’d already been noticing that this difference between them in physical abilities was so much bigger than just a difference in what they liked to do, or in what they were good at. It was a difference that had meaning for a lot of things: how each boy viewed and thought about himself as well as his twin, how well each was included in games and jokes by the kids on the block, whether waiting at the bus stop was easy or an excruciatingly self-conscious experience. In grade school, Austin leveraged his physical talents commendably into an elevated social status, while Jake struggled to find a place of comfort.

There were no books to help me talk to Jake about the things he was experiencing and no doubt thinking about, and no resources available to help me shore up his confidence in a social environment that didn’t value his particular skills, most of which were rooted not in body-kinesthetic but in interpersonal, intrapersonal, and existential sensibilities. And yet I knew that he was far from the only boy experiencing this marginalization from his community of peers — kids who believed that the only boys you really wanted to be seen hanging out with were those who, like yourself, matched up well with the stereotyped image of aggressive, sports-crazed, thrill-seeking, risk-taking males.

So, I figured I’d go ahead and write the book I wished were available to me.

JD: Can you talk about how our cultural dismissal of boys who don’t embrace sports or are “picked last” is related to bullying?

JSE: Whether we like it said or not, our society makes kings out of certain boys who then become our leaders and standard-bearers.

If we’re ever going to be able to quash the bullying, we’re going to need to hold ourselves accountable for society’s role in institutionalizing and sanctioning victimhood for nonathletic boys. We already know that we need to speak up against the abuse of personal power among children whenever and wherever we see it.

What we haven’t realized yet, is how much we need to disabuse our fellow adults of their illusions that all boys love to play sports and other competitive or aggressive games, and that there’s something the matter with the ones who don’t. When the grownups stop their exaltation of the physical, and learn to appreciate and seek out males’ many other sensibilities, the children too will stop.

JD: With the increased focus on bullying in recent years, there’s been some push back, with certain parents saying that many incidents described as “bullying” are really just kids being kids. Where’s the line between bullying and immature behavior?

JSE: Bullying is immature behavior, so there really isn’t any line. But what this question brings forward is our population’s collective suggestion that maybe-- just maybe -- we should lighten up a bit on all this anti-bullying and understand it as an expression of immaturity in kids -- i.e., a normal phase (especially in boys), something they’ll grow out of.

What a slippery slope that is though. There is already too much disguising of downright bad behavior on the part of boys by simply describing it as immature, or a matter of “kids being kids.” In these situations, kids, essentially, are given exemptions from appropriate social behavior based on the assumption that they don’t know better, or are at the mercy of their unmodulated impulses and emotions. They do know better; to wit, they manage to control themselves just fine in all the contexts in which it matters to them how they are perceived.

… By “unpacking” the language surrounding bullying, we can see it for what it is-behavior that intimidates, reduces, humiliates, devalues a person’s sense of self, or induces fear. What becomes apparent is how different it is in intent from other types of immature behavior, some of which may appear goofy, irrational, or ill-timed. Bullying may be all of those things too, but it is also and always mean.

JD: Why do you think we are just waking up to bullying as a problem, has it intensified in recent years or have adults become more sensitive to its repercussions?

JSE: Many things have brought bullying forward and are exposing it in ways never before possible. Not too long ago, bullying was a problem involving two, three, maybe a handful of kids. It happened in places where nobody saw it, or it disappeared quietly with a visit to the principal’s office or a call home.

But now, with the advent of the Internet and cell phones, bullying has a new, higher level of visibility and a higher level of play, with its exploitation of kids’ naivete and need for acceptance, and capitalization of public viewing. It is a runaway train.

… There’s more. Boys and girls are killing themselves after spending years being bullied, and we are reading about it the very day it happens. We see their faces and learn their names. Their stories have empowered other victims to come forward to tell their stories, and they are finding audiences online that are more receptive than ever. People are ready to hear.

What are your thoughts on bullying?

Is it a discipline issue or a cultural issue? Has it gotten worse or have we just begun realizing how bad it’s always been?


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Re: An overdue book on parenting: The Last Boys Picked

Post by Earl on Sat May 11, 2013 8:49 pm

Well, I've had another A2K adventure -- which, if my sanity holds and I learn from my mistake, will definitely be my last.

To start from the very beginning, in a topic at Democratic Underground, I submitted a single post in which I briefly referred to this book. Before the day was over, I had received two replies from guys who wished that the book had been available when they were kids for their parents to read. In other words, they recognized there was a need for this book; namely, to provide advice to the parents of nonathletic boys so they can help their sons deal with this problem.

So, although I had told myself to no longer post there, I went to able2know.org, where I actually started a topic on this book. One reason why was because I was hoping that a parent or two who would have a use for the book would become informed that such a book was available. I didn't expect much of a reaction, if any.

In fact, I intended to simply post the OP and then not post in my own topic again or even check to see if there were any activity. Well, I yielded to temptation and did what I shouldn't have done. First of all, I discovered that I had been tagged "Republican Idiot," which -- even though I'm a disillusioned, apathetic centrist, ideologically speaking -- has got to be one of the biggest laughs I've ever had online. (A supreme insult, to be sure, in the predominantly "progressive" forums of the smug, self-important website known as A2K.) So, I posted in amused response to the silly tag. One of the few truly decent members pointed out to me that someone had responded to my OP and that I ought not to be reacting to the tag troll, but should respond to the other member's post. So, I thought I'd give it and try, and apologized to the member whose post I had overlooked.

You would think that a book addressed to the parents of nonathletic boys would be a dull, noncontroversial topic that wouldn't be a subject of controversy; but you're wrong. Two of A2K's many "progressives" responded and completely ignored the fact that any young boy who had no interest in sports would have a legitimate point of view. They blamed nonathletic boys for their own predicament, saying that they weren't "trying" hard enough. This is unadulterated BS! The problem is NOT that nonathletic boys don't try hard enough; the problem is that THEY SIMPLY AREN'T INTERESTED IN SPORTS! These two "progressives" clearly believe that sports were essential to the development of children, especially boys. The fact that young boys who have no interest in sports have their own point of view is not regarded by these "progressives" as being a legitimate consideration. The way many parents of school athletes react is that if you say some boys have no interest in sports, they react as if you have just insulted their own sons! What mindlessness! How insecure can you get? That's what gets me about many sports fans, especially fans of school sports. They expect -- nay, demand -- that everyone around them validate their personal preference while at the same time denigrating those who don't happen to share their preference. Hence, the labeling of nonathletic boys as nerds, losers, wimps, sissies, fags, and whatnot.

In one of my posts in the same topic at A2K, I copied and pasted a post that had been featured at a mental-health website about three years ago. The author of the post is Dr. William Van Ornum -- a New York psychologist who has an athletic background, but who also recognizes (sympathetically, I might add) the problems nonathletic boys face as they grow up in a society that is saturated with sports. He calls it "the sports wound." (I might also add that the two A2K jerk "progressives" could learn a lot about compassion from this man.) I once posted Dr. Van Ornum's comments in the old forum at Ray's website. I shall do so here in this new forum in a day or two.

One of the A2K "progressives" was a woman who (in an amazing display of total lack of reading comprehension) took offense at a particular comment Dr. Van Ornum made in his post:

Dr. Van Ornum wrote:We may tell children aout how many great high school athletes burn out right after high school and end up in menial jobs.

She went ballistic at this point, saying that she was fed up with all those who tell kids to base their self-esteem on the failure of others, or something to that effect. Well, that was not what he was saying! He was presenting a hypothetical situation. He was NOT advocating that such children be told that! To the contrary, he says why that doesn't work IN THE VERY NEXT SENTENCE, WHICH THIS WOMAN ACTUALLY QUOTED IN HER POST -- YES, THE VERY SAME POST! Laughing

This is the sentence I'm referring to, the sentence that IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWS the sentence I've already quoted:

Dr. Van Ornum wrote:But smart youngsters will also note the many highly successful men whose success is in heavy measure supported by the self-esteem and drive that comes from success in the athletic arena.

TALK ABOUT POOR READING COMPREHENSION! Of course, that is to be expected when one enters a discussion with a completely closed mind (as this woman "progressive" did) intent upon pursuing her OWN agenda while completely disregarding any comment or observation different from her own -- not antagonistic to her own point of view, mind you, but simpy different.

Well, there you have it. There must be hundreds of books in print about coaching youth sports and books written to the parents of school athletes, instructing them how they may best support and encourage their sons in their athletic endeavors. But when one -- just one -- book is written for parents of nonathletic boys, then the controversy starts and the sports fans react as if this book is a moral affront to them! All of the comments I made or presented in my A2K topic were compassionate, moderate, and tolerant. I did not denigrate participation in sports. Indeed, I've never done that in my entire life! I even specifically said that if a boy will feel better about himself if he participates in a sport, then he must do that for his own good. But was that enough for these two "progressive" sports fans? Noooooooooooo! In their way of "thinking," the nonathletic point of view is illegitimate and should not be encouraged. So much for "tolerance"! Mad Rolling Eyes


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Re: An overdue book on parenting: The Last Boys Picked

Post by Skul on Sun May 12, 2013 1:35 am

I think they would feel more at home at Unable 2 Know.

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Re: An overdue book on parenting: The Last Boys Picked

Post by Earl on Sun May 12, 2013 2:10 am

That's funny! Laughing Laughing Laughing

Thanks, Skul! I needed that!

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