Barriers to Teaching Boys How to Become Men

While perusing a secular newspaper this morning, my eyes fell upon an opinion piece entitled, “Who will teach our boys to become men?”  The author bemoaned the plague of gun violence among boys, but he did not suggest a way in which this type of violence could be mitigated.  This is not surprising for a mass circulation newspaper since it is not political correct to point out what the sources of this violence might be.  The secular world has made its own bed and has difficulty in coming to terms with why this bed is so terribly uncomfortable.

Some of the contributing causes listed below may be broad and rather philosophical, but they still have their considerable impact.  Since I am not writing for a secular newspaper, and therefore have no obligation to toe the line, I would like to enunciate a sextet of causes, all of which the secular world views, strangely enough, as positive.

The Ideology of Choice
“I believe in choice,” President Obama declares.  It is an odd statement since no sane person believes in naked choice.  We need judges, umpires, referees, teachers, police officials, and various other authorities to draw the line between right and wrong choices.  Nonetheless people will come to believe that choice is self-justifying and can be applied to situations other than abortion, including swearing, bullying, and shooting people.  In promoting choice as a self-justifying moral act, pro-choice enthusiasts do not realize that they are undoing the moral fabric of society, thread by thread.  It is not an exaggeration to say that gun violence, to some degree, stems from an attitude that is pro-choice without being pro-life.

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Closely allied to the pro-choice mentality is the notion that people are naturally good and that the concept of sin is, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau once described it, “a blasphemy.”  The belief in choice rests on the equally misleading belief in people.  Secular humanism is the completely unjustified belief that man is essentially good and should be regarded that way.  It is an astonishing belief that flies in the face of everything we know about human history.  Nevertheless, the belief remains that if weapons were removed, violence would end.  The fault is projected onto the weaponry and away from the violators.  Moral education, therefore, is unnecessary.

In order to secure abortion as a “reproductive right,” feminists had to deny that a father had any right to prevent his child from being aborted.  Not content with reducing fatherhood to a mere political status, many radical feminists sought to do away with the notion of God as a Father.  Such feminists are blithely unaware that in the absence of good fathers, both earthly and heavenly, who can help civilize young boys into becoming men, women will remain targets of male violence.  Thus, feminists work against their own stated aims.  By estranging fathers from themselves, they estrange them from women.  In this way the battle of the sexes goes on unabated.

Liberal Academia
By and large, academia has embraced a pro-choice, neo-Pelagian, feminist philosophy.  Nietzsche, Marx, and Sartre, who have had immense influence in the academic world, were strongly opposed to fatherhood.  In an article in the American Psychologist, the authors urge the “deconstruction of fatherhood,” since, for one reason, it is not essential to the well-being of children. They view fatherhood as a “neoconservative” model that “discriminates against cohabiting couples, single mothers, and gay and lesbian parents.”  It has become commonplace for academics to favor sexual liberty over both sexual authenticity as well as sexual responsibility.

The Mass Media
The mass media is not so much a window to reality as a way of promoting secular liberalism.  Therefore, it presents the virtues (if they can be called that) of “liberals,” while ignoring their faults.  On the other hand, it presents the faults (if they can be called that) of “conservatives, while ignoring their virtues.  Because the media is subsidized by commercial interests, it promotes a philosophy of consumption and individualism.  The media has little internal interest in promoting self-less love, independence, and religious values.  It is not primarily educational, but propagandistic.

The Rejection of God
Blessed John Paul II has stated that original sin is above all the attempt “to abolish fatherhood.”  In rejecting God, society rejects the rightful authority of fatherhood.  It is not surprising, then, that in a world in which both God and Original Sin mean less and less, Philip Pullman, author of the popular book, The Golden Compass, can say:  “My sympathies definitely lie with the tempter.  The idea is that sin, the fall, was a good thing.  If it had never happened we would still be puppets in the hands of the Creator.”  God the Father is rejected because it is assumed that His Authority will crush people’s liberty.

These six causes profoundly affect the culture we live in.  Because they operate in tandem, they have considerable power.  There are courageous voices raised against them, but they tend to be either silenced or ridiculed.  As a consequence, a painful irony remains.  We bemoan violence, especially among boys, while we ignore their causes.  Working toward a solution to the problem requires a strong counter-cultural attitude, a willingness to challenge Sacred Cows.  It is not enough to countenance the naïve non-solutions that are currently being proposed.  Rather, we must understand the whole situation afresh and, in spite of the stranglehold that political correctness has on culture, work to help young boys to become men by opposing the obstacles that have been placed in their path while affirming the values that are needed in order to make this transition successful.


  • Donald DeMarco

    Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus of Saint Jerome’s University and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is a regular columnist for the Saint Austin Review and the author, most recently, of Reflections on the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Search for Understanding.

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