Wired for War

At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility
to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.
– John Piper

It seems like every little four year old boy knows that to be male is to be active, and eliminate threats.

These past 3 Mondays I helped out with childcare at a parenting class. Somehow the first night this basically entailed me chasing around about three pre-K guys in a game of monster. Ever since that first night, every class at least one of them would come and beg me to chase them. Then they built guns out of duplo, and used those and various other powers to put me to sleep, or kill me or put me in jail. The other part of the routine was after they killed the monster (me) they’d always come back to revive me, so I’d chase them again.

Then, of course, the kids in the pre-k class that have so-called “behavioral issues” are the active little boys. Running is fine if you are playing monsters on your downtime, but not so fine if you’re supposed to be sitting still and listening to your teacher. And so our lovely post-modern female-dominated pre-kindergarten education system cracks down on all this little boy energy.

And yet in our society, the inaction, lack leadership and lack initiative on the part of males is hugely problematic. Psychologist James Dobson goes so far as to say that “America’s greatest need is for husbands to begin guiding their families, rather than pouring every physical and emotional resource into the mere acquisition of money.”

What were we thinking?

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13 Responses to Wired for War

  1. T3 says:

    I don’t think these are all necessarily mutually exclusive, nor do I think they even need to be divided into two, mutually exclusive categories.

    It seems to me that the goal is to teach little boys to act maturely (you’ll note that Piper uses that word; I think it’s incredibly significant) and responsibly based on the situation and not on whatever they want to do at the moment.

    Certainly, they have a responsibility to treat women appropriately (and they often have gobs of extra energy), but it is important that they learn to recognize and act appropriately when the time calls for them to sit down, be quiet, and let someone else have the spotlight (or the attention, or whatever).

    I also might argue that making you the monster doesn’t make the system “female-dominated”. It just makes you the bad guy, and you happen to be bigger than any three (or fewer) of those children.


    • pxsarkany says:

      T3, that’s an excellent point you make about teaching them to act maturely. I think part of my lament was that some naturally occurring aspects in small boys could be better channeled into appropriate masculine outlets, if that makes sense.

      And of course the other part of it is that I don’t see mature, godly masculinity being held up as the standard in public schools (is anyone surprised, though?). Also, hand in hand is the lack of male role models, at least in the school system at that age. It’s true that having me be the monster doesn’t make things female dominated – but I was trying to refer to the school district as a whole, where, as far as I know there is only one male pre-k teacher.

      I just think that kids are already learning something about gender, manhood, and womanhood, so why not make godly teaching more explicit? (Again… problem of public schools…)

  2. Alex Mead says:

    Good post, so true. Our education system (and entire society really) doesn’t appreciate or desire masculinity and so tries to drive it from boys. In the end it leads to emasculated men who are useless.

    • T3 says:

      I think the issue that we can all agree on, here, is that today’s public school system isn’t holding up a Godly image of masculinity.

      I’d venture that we can understand this by realizing that today’s public school system can’t support such a system explicitly because there’d be too much affective backlash by people who don’t ascribe to a Christian worldview.

      And any attempt to implement such a system implicitly likely wouldn’t last very long because some people have the time, energy, and resources to figure out what’s going on.

      You’re definitely right that from a very young age kids are learning something about gender roles these days, and that it isn’t necessarily influenced by a Godly viewpoint. I maintain that it would be incredibly difficult to inject that sort of view into the public school system because some people would make a point of attacking it; I don’t think it would last very long.

      As to pre-k/public school teaching turning male children into emasculated, useless people I maintain that until the school system accepts a setup that encourages a Christian approach it will be impossible to teach the boys any other way to be.

      And I have to admit I don’t know much about education training and certification, but I recall having one male teacher in my pre-k setup as well. Perhaps women are better suited? If this is true, then the only solution is to help more Christian women feel comfortable in teaching roles teaching appropriate male-female gender roles to the kids.

    • anon says:

      I was under the impression that the public school system was meant to be a tool for education, not for socializing people into specific gender roles (or images of gender roles influenced by a particular faith). It’s the fact that it relies on secular values that allows every family to determine some of these more personal factors for themselves : will their kids follow a certain Godly image they believe in? Will they focus more on academics, or sports, or try to be well-rounded? Will they be active and disciplined, or will they be raised with a free hand? Will you let them to explore, or will you guide them through the dangers?

      The public school system, since it needs to represent the needs and desires of the entire population, can’t really make those decisions. Hence, they’re not going to promote certain gender roles. I’d even put money down that there are pictures of male nurses and female soldiers in those ‘What I want to be when I grow up’ books nowadays…

      The public school system – as pretentious and assuming as they may be – don’t really have a say in what the family does at home or how they raise their kids. They make ‘suggestions.’ You have plenty of opportunity to show your children the Godly way… while still letting them get educated/socialized in a public system where they will learn about other Americans (and foreigners) around them without becoming dogmatic. Of course, you also still have the option of putting them in private faith-based schools as well.

      Let’s face another reality : your kids are going to get their own ideas either way. If you want them to be raised in a Godly image of masculinity/femininity, then present them the option. They may love it and agree. There may also be the possibility, however, of culture-shock. If you raise them with the Godly image of masculinity/femininity or life in general as the only option… how are they going to deal with those around them who don’t subscribe to that? There are people who say they are born-again Christians, but the polar opposite also occurs – Christians who, maybe in your eyes, occasionally ‘fall from God’ and get their beliefs/way of life completely shattered once they enter the real world (dare I say, the ‘public’ world).

      Either way, let’s face facts : unless you mobilize very, very heavily… this is a lost battle and secularization of public systems is winning at a dramatic rate. Whether or not it’s wrong, you either fight it with all your strength to change it, or you adapt and do what you can for your kids to try and provide a Godly image. There are options. “You may not be able to change the conditions, but you can change your attitude.”

      Yes, that is a challenge. Gather your forces, go forth, and change America. And good luck dealing from the reaction from non-Christians and secular Christians (not a contradictory term).

      Your job, as parents (or potential parents), is to raise your kids to the best of their ability and potential, be it a Godly image of their gender or whatever else. And you also have immense power to set the circumstances in which they grow – you, as the parent, NOT the public school, but YOU, equip them with the tools necessary to be their best and really come into their own. Just remember, though… your children also have independent will and free thought. And the world around them, especially a country like the United States or any other Westernized nation, is going to be a very open society with lots of ideas. If you really want them to be raised in a Godly image of their gender, and you cannot defeat the public system, then you really need to focus on how YOU personally can help your children be robust to such public values, and stand strong as an ideal image of Man or Woman in the eyes of God, without them socially/mentally/physically isolating themselves from the world.

      Do not dodge your own responsibility as a parent by blaming the public system for not matching your beliefs. The public system is a compromise between all parties. Diversity is the strength of this country. And we need representatives from God to encourage that. That is YOUR job. Not the school’s.

      Whether or not the kids labeled as having ‘behavioral issues’ are really displaying characteristics of masculinity is probably going to take a deeper analysis than this conjecture. I’d imagine there are many, many more variables at hand. A lot of studies examine the effects of diet, personal family issues, whether or not they’re active outside of school, medications, life habits, etc. and on child behavior. Maybe this is a side-effect of kids being over-diagnosed with depression or ADD, and having medical issues (coming from a family practically drowning in medications, I can totally see this being a possibility). I would also like to know if any of the girls are being labeled as having ‘behavioral issues’ as well. Basically, I am hesitant to draw a line between “hey look, these kids are being repressed because they have behavioral issues” and “this is against the Godly image of masculinity!” without seeing more of these variables discussed.

      • pxsarkany says:

        Pradmiral Anon, I think you make a good call that it’s the parent’s responsibility to teach proper gender roles to their kids. Very encouraging. thanks. =)
        But, even if it’s not the explicit goal of schools to socialize children, it is certainly an outcome. In sociology we often talked about this phenomenon of i forget what they call it, but stuff school does that isn’t the obvious goal. (This….is incoherent.)
        And it’s true, lots of variables are in play. Among everything you mentioned, to give you a better picture, it’s a low income neighbor, and less than a quarter white, and many are English language learners to top it off. And I know alot of our kids have really stressful lives, such as homeless/moving all the time, or unemployed parents, or one kid is one of six, and his mom just had twins (and the dad is unemployed….). So factors abound. But generally, at the pre-k stage, I don’t see many of our guys with diagnoses, which is probably a good thing.

        But, yes, the majority of the time it’s boys. But again, I think that’s how the system is wired, biblical gender roles aside.

      • T3 says:

        For the record, public image notwithstanding, being raised in a Christian household is not equivalent to being raised without any capacity to think for oneself. I was raised in a Christian household, and, at the risk of sounding like a braggart, I think I look at opposing viewpoints and other sides of issues a lot more than most people (Christian and non-Christian).

        Like it or not, with young children spending so much time during the day in a public school, the prevailing opinion on a given issue in a school is going to be presented to a child. It’s inevitable. (Note that I didn’t say this was a bad thing. I’m not opposed to the idea of people making their own choices based on knowing and understanding different viewpoints.)

        I’ll also point out that despite the popular view, not every Christian is opposed to the idea of a man being a nurse (I just spent a month in the hospital, and I was very thankful for the male nurses) or a woman being a soldier. That’s not what anyone should be talking about here because it’s not the issue at hand.

        In my experience most people in the real world (teachers and school administrators included) don’t make decisions by comparing viewpoints and evidence. They pick a side that makes them feel good, and then they dogmatically defend it. Note again that I didn’t say that this doesn’t happen when people agree with me on certain issues. It bugs me just as much when people dogmatically defend my positions with stupid arguments as it does when they won’t bother to think through arguments supporting a contrary position.

        I think you’re trying to set up a straw man by claiming that we’re trying to dodge responsibility for our future childrens’ upbringing. I’m certainly not trying to do that, because you’re right in saying that it would be a cheap cop-out on my part.

        On the other hand I don’t think it’s wrong to desire and argue that the public schools be different. The U.S.A. was designed as a free country for everyone, including Christians.

        I also don’t think it’s fair to try to paint giving a child a Christian upbringing as the equivalent of forcing that child to deal with ADD or ADHD. That doesn’t make any logical sense.

      • anon says:

        I believe you misinterpreted many of my points. I don’t really have the time to clarify much less get wrapped up in a debate, so if I offended you, sorry; if you’re the competitive debater type, then yes, consider this a retreat and me losing, I don’t really mind. Unfortunately the misunderstanding is going to remain between us. That said, let me ask you just one bit here :

        “On the other hand I don’t think it’s wrong to desire and argue that the public schools be different. The U.S.A. was designed as a free country for everyone, including Christians.”

        I don’t believe it’s wrong. And Christians are certainly included in the proverbial ‘Public.’ But then what do you propose would be a suitable public education system that appeals not only to Christians, but people of all faiths, and those of no faith at all? What exactly is ‘Public’ to you?

        Or is your objective to support more specific demographics/interests? I’m interested if you have an idea of what should be a better ‘public’ education system, but wondering if you’re interested in pursuing a grand, macro-level overhall of the public system from a moral/religious/psychological perspective or trying to shape a handful of specific aspects of it.

        Thus far, I have a very limited understanding of your view on public education other than – what could be another misunderstanding here (please don’t get defensive, just explain) – you would like to see more Christian values in the public school system.

      • anon says:

        I’d also like to hear if you have any tactics/strategies in mind in the approach. An idea is one thing, but without the actions to back it up, it’s not going anywhere.

      • T3 says:

        It would appear that I can’t reply to anonymous’ statement to which I actually want to reply, so I’m forced to do things strangely. A bit of a lack in the WordPress comment system to be sure, but there are, admittedly, limitations in such a setup depending on the software and capabilities related thereto .

        Converstations shouldn’t be American Football contests. Ideally each should be a logical exchange of views that leaves both parties more enlightened/informed than they were coming in. As far as conversations go it’s hard to end on something that bugs me more than a continued misunderstanding. I know people disagree with me, but I hate leaving our respective positions unexplained.

        The point I was making about the public school system is that it’s impossible for a public elementary school NOT to expound a certain viewpoint, and I disagree with the viewpoint it’s presenting. Now, admittedly, the public school needs to be able to handle/deal with/educate/etc. people from all backgrounds and with all kinds of viewpoints, and that if the system is to remain unchanged then it’s necessary for the viewpoint demonstrated to our elementary school children to be acceptable to all who must send their children there (for whatever reason).

        I think at this point it might be worth pointing out that I don’t think there’s been enough discussion about this kind of thing, and that parents have little or no control over the teachers in the local public elementary school (along with, in the current system, very little power to send their children elsewhere without paying thousands of extra dollars that they may not have). Hence the parents have little control over what viewpoints their children are forced to listen to every day. (Note, as before, that I’m still in favor of people choosing the most rational viewpoint based on evidence and competition. I just don’t think most people work that way.)

        Now, I’ll admit that like everyone else (yourself, the OP, POTUS, the Speaker of the House, Jon Stewart, Joe the Plumber, Steven Colbert, etc.) I have a bias. And I know enough about myself to know that my bias is toward well-thought-out Christian viewpoints (note the adjectives there; they’re important).

        Ultimately, 1) I don’t believe that the current system serves our children very well, 2) I don’t believe that there’s been enough discussion on what viewpoint children should hear in the public schools, and 3) I don’t believe that as a parent (which I have to admit is currently an aspiration and not a reality for me) I would have a lot of control over what my child hears for 6+ of his/her waking hours every day. My parents paid thousands of extra dollars each year out of their own pockets to send me to a private elementary school when I was younger, and I don’t think that they should have had to do that to get me a non-public-school education.

        You’re right that ideas without plans of attack have very little oomph. That shouldn’t be an excuse for sticking with the current system, though. It should be a reason to re-evaluate the current system. Now, I am forced to admit that I don’t have a good solution to the situation we’re talking about other than more discussion, but that’s kind of my point.

  3. Delany2012 says:

    Ooh, good point.

  4. Peter says:

    Interesting post. Let’s ask a question of construction: How can we change our education system to cater for energetic boys?

  5. pxsarkany says:

    Wow, I had no idea that this would be such a commented on post! Thanks everyone! I really appreciate that you’re all reading it, and even more responding with your own thoughts! Maybe next time I will include and expand on things more, since y’all seem to be into that. =)

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