Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Where Have all the Young Men Gone?

Pete Seeger, my neighbor in Beacon, NY, wrote these words many years ago:

Where have all the husbands gone, long time passing?
Where have all the husbands gone, long time ago?
Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

(“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Words and Music by Pete Seeger (1955)
(c) 1961 (renewed) by Sanga Music Inc.)

Today I might ask a similar question: “Where have all the young men gone?” No, they haven’t gone to war, but a number have dropped out. Today, 57% of college students are women. Women are doing very well, which is wonderful, but where are the men? While some of this disparity may result from the African-American community per the article below, I don’t think that is the only reason. Please read the following article about black males.

Denominations Pledge to Help Black Youth

Three historic black denominations unveiled a new national plan last week aimed at keeping their young males out of prison and in school and church. Thousands gathered at the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia, S.C., for the 2010 Great Gathering. The African Methodist Episcopal Church, the AME Zion Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church came together in a collaborative effort to address what they consider the "plight" of African-American males.

According to Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, more African Americans are in the U.S. correctional system than were enslaved in 1850. "A black boy, if he is born today, has a one in three chance of going to prison in his lifetime; a black girl, a one in 18 chance," said Edelman.

The three Methodist denominations, which have a combined membership of more than 5 million, are calling it the Male Investment Plan and have pledged to fund it annually with $10 million. The program is designed for black males ages 5 to 25 and will address their needs, specifically in the area of the economy, education, health and spiritual enrichment. The goal is "to dramatically change the lives of our participants by exposing them to the awesome gifts given them by God," said Dr. Staccato Powell, pastor of Grace AME Zion Church in Raleigh, N.C., and chairman of the gathering. [,]

(From Pastor’s Weekly Briefing, March 11. Copyright © 2010, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured)

I suspect, and I hope I’m wrong, that the African-American males may be on the leading edge of a societal shift. More males may be becoming “slackers”. Unfortunately many parents accommodate them by allowing them to live at home, often rent-free and without any responsibility for chores. Such parents are enabling these kids to be bums.

Sadly, boys haven’t had good role models, both at home and in the media. Fathers have left their families for another woman or other reasons. Most men in TV sitcoms are portrayed as morons (such as Homer Simpson). Back when I was a kid, we had Jim Anderson of “Father Knows Best” and Ward Cleaver of “Leave It to Beaver.” There were many other similar TV programs showing upright fathers and husbands: Danny Thomas, Dick Van Dyke, and a host of others. Even in the westerns you had moral and dedicated men such as Matt Dillon of “Gunsmoke”. Indeed, where have all the positive role models gone?

If you are a parent, act like one. Be there for your kid, encourage him or her, and don’t enable them to be irresponsible. Our future depends on it.

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