Dr. Bernard Franklin didn’t mince words during his presentation about boys and men last Thursday. After opening with statistics showing boys failing in school, relationships and society, Franklin urged male students to become more authentic and to get more involved in the world around them.
More important than anything else was simply being able to have a serious conversation about what it really means to be a man. “We’re not having it,” he said, “and it has to happen.”
On the laundry list of symptoms in today’s male population that Franklin cited were higher dropout rates and lower enrollment rates in school, passivity of character, immaturity, over-indulgence in fun activities, impatience, and worst of all, an increased propensity for violence towards women and children.
The root cause of the problem, Franklin explained, is a lack of male role-models for boys.
“91% of African-American boys will go to bed tonight without their biological father present. The consequences of that […] are devastating,” he said.
Black men aren’t the only ones suffering, of course. Men of all socio-economic and ethnic groups are falling behind women in grades at every level of education, are 30% more likely to drop out of school than their female counterparts and have a 50% higher chance of ending up in a special-ed program.
During the presentation, Franklin showed a portion of the famed social-psychologist Philip Zimbardo’s TED talk entitled, “The Demise of Guys?”
“‘Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired for change, novelty, excitement and constant arousal,” said Zimbardo. “That means they’re totally out of sync in traditional classes, which are analog, static, interactively passive.” Ultimately, today’s generation of men are suffering from a fear of intimacy, lack of social skills, and overstimulation from the internet, particularly in the form of video games and pornography.
How can we fix these problems? Franklin had a number of solutions to offer. Men should try to reduce the drama in their lives; they should be self-educating and social norm-breaking. More than anything else though, they need to get in touch with their soft side. “Authentic manhood [means] a man can cry, a man can be emotional […] without being told ‘that’s not masculine, that’s not manly.’ It’s living in a way that you feel comfortable in your own skin.”
Self-help is only half of the solution, however – society has to support young boys in their journey to manhood by providing real role-models.
Men need to take responsibility for their own children and spend as much time with their families as woman have traditionally done. “I want to get men to a place where men understand that they might marry a woman who makes more than [they do],” and where men would be as accepting of the role of stay-at-home parent as women.
Dr. Franklin has had over 20 years of experience working as a counselor and advisor for universities, fraternities and the NFL. A self-described “imagineer,” Franklin currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Partnership for Children and is the president of the Delta Upsilon international fraternity. More information can be found on his biography page at highimpacttraining.net.