Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

On wargames, history and heroes: “this story shall the good man teach his son”

Memoir '44: Pegasus Bridge setup

Memoir ’44: Pegasus Bridge setup

Reposting this old post because Dina and I spent Friday night playing games again! And this is one of my favorite posts. Last night was Portal 2 and Orcs Must Die! 2.

Last night, I played through the Pegasus Bridge scenario from the Memoir ’44 wargame with Dina a few times. We actually played the online version of the game, using Steam. She was very gracious to play a wargame with me, which I don’t think is necessarily the first thing on most women’s lists of things to do on a Thursday night! I appreciated her agreeing to learn how to play and then playing with me several times. I think that Christians need to plan and execute more “together” activities like that – activities that involve interaction, co-operation, communication and engagement. We try to avoid doing things where we are both spectators. Playing wargames is not the only thing we do – we also do Bible study and cooking lessons (for me), for example.

Anyway, the point of this post is to express the deeper meaning behind playing wargames. I think that it is important to recognize and celebrate those who have demonstrated good character, whether it be now, or in the past. I think that it is important for us to search out the best role models ourselves, so that they will influence the way we act in our own lives. The second world war was a clear example of good versus evil. Anyone on the Allied side who demonstrated bravery and courage should be celebrated for safeguarding the security, liberty and prosperity that we enjoy today. In the case of Pegasus bridge, the hero is Major John Howard of the British paratroops.

Here is a quick re-cap of his exploits that day from the New York Times:

Maj. John Howard, the commander of glider-borne British infantrymen who seized the strategically vital Pegasus Bridge in the first battle of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, died Wednesday in a hospital in Surrey, England. He was 86 and had lived in Burford, near Oxford.

Under cover of night on June 6, 1944, six gliders carrying 181 officers and men of the Second Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry landed on the eastern flank of a 60-mile invasion front on the northern coast of France. The regiment had a heritage going back to the battles of Bunker Hill and New Orleans, to Waterloo and to World War I. Now its soldiers were in the vanguard of the invasion of Hitler’s Europe.

Major Howard’s D Company was ordered to seize two bridges, one over the Caen Canal and the other spanning the parallel Orne River. If the Germans held on to those bridges, panzer units could move across them in a counterattack isolating 10,000 British paratroopers jumping behind the British invasion beach known as Sword, where infantry forces would arrive at daybreak. And Major Howard’s men sought to strike swiftly to prevent the Germans from blowing up the bridges if they were overwhelmed; the British needed those bridges to resupply their airborne units.

British Halifax bombers towed the gliders over the English Channel, then cut them loose.

Major Howard’s lead glider landed at 12:16 A.M., only 50 yards from the Caen Canal bridge, but the glider’s nose collapsed on impact, knocking everybody aboard unconscious for a few seconds. The soldiers quickly emerged, and over the next five minutes the men directly under Major Howard killed the surprised German defenders.

The nearby Orne River bridge was captured by other troops in Major Howard’s unit, and soon the words ”Ham and Jam,” signifying mission accomplished, were radioed to the airborne.

Two British soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in the operation.

Over the next 12 hours, British paratroopers and commandos reinforced Major Howard’s men, and British forces were able to move toward the city of Caen, their flank having been protected by the capture of the bridges.

On July 16, Major Howard received the Distinguished Service Order, Britain’s second-highest award for valor. On the 10th anniversary of D-Day, he received the Croix de Guerre Avec Palme from the French Government, which had renamed the Caen Canal span Pegasus Bridge, for the flying horse symbolizing the British airborne. The road crossing the bridge was later renamed Esplanade Major John Howard.

Why is this important? Well, it’s important to think on the things that are excellent. There are so many things in the culture that are not excellent that we are confronted with every day. We have to make it our business to do things together where goodness is celebrated. Especially when manly virtues like courage are celebrated. We don’t do that much anymore. And I think there’s a connection between wargames and Christian apologetics that we need to deliberately encourage.

Here’s an excellent passage from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” that makes the point:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day. (4.3.43)

This is from the famous speech in which King Henry charges his men to fight well before the famous Battle of Agincourt.

You can read more about the history of the British Airborne division and Pegasus bridge. The famous historian of the second world war Stephen E. Ambrose also wrote a history of the Pegasus bridge battle, called “Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944“. You won’t find many military historians better than Stephen E. Ambrose!

You might be surprised how many men are interested in military history and wargames, precisely because men instinctively look up to men like John Howard who embody qualities like bravery and courage. We have a dearth of moral character in this society. And we don’t do much to teach young men about manly virtues, even in the church. I think that it is important for us to think of creative ways for us to present good character to our young men. Young women should also learn about good character, because they must separate out the good men from the bad when they are courting.

Thanks to Dina for helping me to edit this post!

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Matt Walsh: boys are experiencing at least as many challenges as girls

Matt Walsh is annoyed that the problems of our young men are being minimized by a feminist culture.

Excerpt: (links removed)

Boys — particularly boys in public school – are most assuredly NOT encouraged to be opinionated, assertive, loud, boisterous, or confident. Do you know what happens to boys like that?

We punish them.

We label them.

We medicate them.

Their opinions and their personalities aren’t just discouraged – they’re chemically obliterated.

According to the CDC, more than 20 percent of 14-year-old boys have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lifetime. Twenty percent.

Boys are 125 percent more likely to be stuck with the ADHD label than girls, and 127 percent more likely to be medicated for it.

I suppose we can chalk this up to a mental disorder that mysteriously discriminates based on sex, or we could contemplate the possibility that we have turned boyhood into a disease. Overall, young males are almost twice as likely to be deemed “learning disabled.” Could boys really be this inherently flawed, or is the system itself flawed?

Whether or not a boy manages to exhibit the “correct” personality traits and narrowly avoid a psychiatric diagnosis, he has a much greater chance of being expelled or suspended from school. In fact, boys make up about 70 percent of the suspensions from grades K – 12. They’re also five times more likely to be expelled from pre-school.

And it’s not just that young males tend to “misbehave” more; it’s that we’ve defined “misbehavior” in a way that unfairly targets them. The news is rife with stories of kids suspended or expelled or arrested for making a pretend gun with their fingers, or a Poptart, or a keychain, or a pencil.

These are healthy and normal games of imagination and fantasy — games that boys, not girls, usually play — and we’ve literally made a criminal matter out of it.

Boys are frequently kicked out of school and sent hurtling on a path towards delinquency and failure, even for minor instances of physical aggression. Does it make sense to treat a kid like a dangerous psychopath just because he got into a minor shoving match or — horror of horrors — a fist fight? This is how boys often express their aggression. Girls express it in more damaging and traumatizing ways. They spread gossip and rumors, they shun and ostracize other girls, and these acts can reverberate through a child’s life much further and deeper than getting pushed into a locker or punched in the nose.

But typical male aggression leads to expulsion, while typical female aggression usually leads to, at most, a stern lecture from the guidance counselor. To make matters worse, we’ve banned and outlawed the healthier outlets for a boy’s energy and rambunctiousness. Schools have increasingly prohibited tag, and kickball, and dodgeball , and football.

Of course, the plight of the American male is far more serious and tragic than a ruined recess.

Feeling abandoned, angry, hateful, and confused, guys are about 4 times more likely to kill themselves than girls. It’s true that females attempt suicide at a higher rate, but males are at an exponentially greater risk of completing the horrible deed.

And the story doesn’t end there. While (if) these boys grow into men, it is much more probable that they will become alcoholics and drug addicts.

Everyone knows that men are infinitely more likely to go to prison, but did you know they even receive longer sentences for the same crimes? Indeed, women convicted on the same charges are twice as likely to avoid incarceration altogether.

Is this what you call “male privilege”?

Privileged to be drugged as a child, expelled from school as a teenager, and incarcerated as an adult? Privileged to bad grades, a psychiatric diagnosis, and an early death?

I have blogged about some of the things he mentioned in the post, like the gun play and the longer prison sentences.  But I think the post as a whole is very useful for people who think that young men are doing fine, and we need to keep focusing on young women. We need to focus more on young men, because in general, they really are falling behind, and they are not going to be able to fulfill the expectations that society places on them unless we identify the root causes for their decline.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , ,

Apprenticeship programs help boys develop maturity and job skills

If you have boys, or if you know any, then this article in the left-leaning Atlantic is a must-read for you.

Excerpt:

Young men are more likely to drop out of high school and are less likely to aspire to college than their female peers. Young men who are poor, live in a city, and are black or Latino are at even higher risk of unemployment and unplanned teen fatherhood than their peers in other demographics. As men’s earnings have stagnated, marriage has declined. It’s a vicious cycle: Being unmarried weakens men’s commitment to the work force, but a stagnation in earnings is contributing to the decline in marriage.

Robert Lerman—an economist at American University and fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research center in Washington, D.C.—has a solution. He believes bringing apprentice-based learning to America’s schools would both raise earnings and give young men the skills they need to be good husbands and fathers. Put boys in a real-world situation outside the classroom, with skilled adults as mentors, Lerman says, and students have a chance to engage in on-the-job training in a wide range of fields from baking to boat-building, farming to architecture, public health to civil engineering. This is learning in context and it’s what young men (and women) crave: It feels immediate and real. It is not isolated or abstract; it is refreshingly relevant, and it is taking place in real time, in real space, and among adults who take young people seriously. Youth apprenticeship has an immediacy that engages students who have trouble paying attention in class; instead, they are being given the time and the means to develop genuine mastery in a given field. At the very same time, they are cultivating skills—such as how to communicate effectively, problem-solve, work in teams, and maintain a positive attitude—that help them be reliable partners to their spouses and present, stable fathers to their children.

“If we teach everything entirely in a classroom context, we’re not going to be as effective—even when it comes to academics,” Lerman tells me. “The reality is that people learn best—whether it’s cognitive or technical skills or even how to get along with others—in context.”

Although skill-based training is in decline, the article convincingly show how boys learn better when their education includes real-world skills and real-world behaviors.

Here’s just one snippet:

Robert Halpern, a professor of education at the Erikson Institute in Chicago, whose research focuses on after-school programs for poor children and their families, argues that the best schooling for adolescent developmental needs goes beyond the classroom. During a 30-month investigation of one afterschool apprenticeship program, After School Matters in Chicago, Halpern found that participating youth, who attend the program a mere three afternoons a week for one school year, became more flexible thinkers and undertook tasks with more care. The youngsters learned to persevere and understand the value of working through problems. They became more self-responsible and more patient. Notably, their public behavior changed; they became “more mature, more appropriately assertive,” Halpern explains in his book The Means to Grow Up: Reinventing Apprenticeship as a Developmental Support in Adolescence. These are all skills that serve young people well when they enter the workforce, and when they start families of their own.

These apprenticeships, according to Halpern, gave youth “a sense of different ways of being an adult, what it means to be passionate about a discipline, and what it takes to become good at thinking.” Not only were students learning actively rather than passively for the first time in their lives, the experience enabled many of them to begin to overcome years of thinking of themselves as subpar learners. In so doing, their experiences opened up a future that would otherwise have remained closed, and influenced them at a critical time in their lives. These “very specific learning and work experiences leave a deep imprint on still malleable selves.”

You need to read the whole thing if this is relevant to you. It’s no use complaining about “man up” and other nonsense. The real causes of male decline are systemic. Find the policies that work and implement them. Throw out the failed ideology of feminism from the classroom and do what works for our young men.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Christina Hoff Sommers: how to make school better for boys

Christina Hoff Sommers

Christina Hoff Sommers

One of the most troubling things I see in the modern church is the tendency of church people and pastors to blame men for not being more aggressive about marrying. Often, the blame is placed on men. Men are told that we need to do better in school, work harder at work, and that we need to be more aggressive about courting and marrying. Very often, you hear the slogan “man up” directed at men, and we are told to stop playing video games and looking at porn and grow up.

The first thing to note is that marriage is much less attractive to men these days. First, the value proposition of marriage changed – especially the problem of no-fault divorce and divorce courts. The economic situation facing men has changed as well – the economy is poor, but the debt is very very high. Those are two important factors.

Another problem is fatherlessness, which is caused by welfare incentives. A lot of the behavior of young men is based on whether there is a father present in the home. The fact of the matter is that single motherhood by choice has become commonplace, and the aggravating factor for this trend is support for welfare. Welfare is bad for two reasons. First, it encourages women to raise children without a father. Boys raised without a father are not as likely to pursue courtship and marriage as boys raised with a father, because fatherlessness harms a boy’s ability to learn to do the things needed for marriage.

Another problem is the availability of pre-marital sex. When a man can get sex without marriage, then he doesn’t feel the same desire to get married.

So there are a few examples of things that we can change to nudge men toward marriage. Just speaking slogans like “man up” to men doesn’t really address these problems.

But in this post, I want to look at a problem that I haven’t even mentioned yet – the problem of schools that don’t produce men who can provide for a family.

Education Reform

Here is Christian equity-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute to do that, writing in the left-leaning Atlantic about this problem.

Excerpt:

Women in the United States now earn 62 percent of associate’s degrees, 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 60 percent of master’s degrees, and 52 percent of doctorates.

[...]Boys in all ethnic groups and social classes are far less likely than their sisters to feel connected to school, to earn good grades, or to have high academic aspirations. A recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research documents a remarkable trend among high-achieving students: In the 1980s, nearly the same number of top male and female high school students said they planned to pursue a postgraduate degree (13 percent of boys and 15 percent of girls). By the 2000s, 27 percent of girls expressed that ambition, compared with 16 percent of boys. During the same period, the gap between girls and boys earning mostly A’s nearly doubled—from three to five percentage points.

I was a minority boy before I became a minority man – look at this:

This gap in education engagement has dire economic consequences for boys. A 2011 Brookings Institution report quantifies the economic decline of the median male: For men ages 25 to 64 with no high school diploma, median annual earnings have declined 66 percent since 1969; for men with only a high school diploma, wages declined by 47 percent. Millions of male workers, say the Brookings authors, have been “unhitched from the engine of growth.”  The College Board delivered this disturbing message in a 2011 report about Hispanic and African-American boys and young adults: “Nearly half of young men of color age 15 to 24 who graduate from high school will end up unemployed, incarcerated or dead.” Working-class white boys are faring only slightly better. When economist Andrew Sum and his colleagues at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University examined gender disparities in the Boston Public Schools, they found that for the class of 2007, among blacks and Hispanics, there were 186 females for every 100 males attending a four-year college or university. For white students: 153 females to every 100 males.

Is this a U.S. – only problem? No. The problem exists in many places. But Dr. Sommers lists some of the initiatives those other countries are taking – trying to understand why boys are different and what needs to be done differently in order to get them to engage and succeed.  But we are not doing anything here. Why not?

Well, first – let’s see what works:

In a rare example of the academic establishment taking note of boys’ trouble in school, the Harvard Graduate School of Education recently published a major study, Pathways to Prosperity, that highlights the “yawning gender gap” in education favoring women: “Our system… clearly does not work well for many, especially young men.” The authors call for a national revival of vocational education in secondary schools. They cite several existing programs that could serve as a model for national reform, including the Massachusetts system, sometimes called the “Cadillac of Career Training Education.”

Massachusetts has a network of 26 academically rigorous vocational-technical high schools serving 27,000 male and female students. Students in magnet schools such as Worcester Technical, Madison Park Technical Vocational, and Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical take traditional academic courses but spend half their time apprenticing in a field of their choice. These include computer repair, telecommunications networking, carpentry, early childhood education, plumbing, heating, refrigeration, and cosmetology. AsPathways reports, these schools have some of the state’s highest graduation and college matriculation rates, and close to 96 percent pass the states’ rigorous high-stakes graduation test.

Blackstone Valley Tech in Upton, Massachusetts, should be studied by anyone looking for solutions to the boy problem.  It is working wonders with girls (who comprise 44 percent of the student body), but its success with boys is astonishing. According to a white paper on vocational education by the Commonwealth’s Pioneer Institute, “One in four Valley Technical students enter their freshman year with a fourth-grade reading level.” The school immerses these students in an intense, individualized remediation program until they read proficiently at grade level. These potentially disaffected students put up with remediation as well as a full load of college preparatory courses (including honors and Advanced Placement classes), because otherwise they could not spend half the semester apprenticing in diesel mechanics, computer repair, or automotive engineering.

In former times, vocational high schools were often dumping grounds for low achievers. Today, in Massachusetts, they are launching pads into the middle class.

Who could possibly be opposed to turning boys into marriage-minded men? Look:

Recent research shows that enrollment in high school vocational programs has dramatic effects on students’ likelihood of graduating from high school—especially boys. But efforts to engage more boys in career and technical programs face a formidable challenge. In a series of scathing reports, the National Council on Women and Girls Education (NCWGE—a 38-year-old consortium that today includes heavy hitters such the AAUW, the National Women’s Law Center, the ACLU, NOW, the Ms. Foundation, and the National Education Association) has condemned high school vocational training schools as hotbeds of “sex segregation.”

Because of decades of successful lobbying by NCWGE groups, high school and college career and technical training programs face government sanctions and loss of funds if they fail to recruit and graduate sufficient numbers of female students into “non-traditional” fields. Over the years, untold millions of state and federal dollars have been devoted to recruiting and retaining young women into fields like pipefitting, automotive repair, construction, drywall installing, manufacturing, and refrigeration mechanics.  But according to Statchat, a University of Virginia workforce blog, these efforts at vocational equity “haven’t had much of an impact.”  Despite an unfathomable number of girl-focused programs and interventions, “technical and manual occupations tend to be dominated by men, patterns that have held steady for many years.”

In March 2013 NCWGE released a report urging the need to fight even harder against “barriers girls and women face in entering nontraditional fields.” Among its nine key recommendations to Congress: more federal funding and challenge grants to help states close the gender gaps in career and technical education (CTE); mandate every state to install a CTE gender equity coordinator; and impose harsher punishments on states that fail to meet “performance measures” –i.e. gender quotas.

Instead of spending millions of dollars attempting to transform aspiring cosmetologists into welders, education officials should concentrate on helping young people, male and female, enter careers that interest them. And right now, boys are the underserved population requiring attention.

So. We know what works to make boys into marriage-ready men. And now we know who is standing in the way. What I’d like to see from the man-up crowd, especially the man-up crowd in the church, is a serious assessment of the research on this issue and some action.

But this is what we get from Mark Driscoll: (whom I almost always agree with)

The number one consumer of online pornography is 12- to 17-year-old boys. What that means is he’s home eating junk food, drinking Monster energy drinks, downloading porn, masturbating and screwing around with his friends. That really doesn’t prepare you for responsible adulthood. That’s a really sad picture, especially if you’re a single gal hoping to get married someday. You’re like: “Seriously, that’s the candidate pool? You’ve got to be kidding me.” That’s why 41 percent of births right now are to unmarried women. A lot of women have decided: “I’m never going to find a guy who is actually dependable and responsible to have a life with. So I’ll just get a career and have a baby and just intentionally be a single mother because there are no guys worth spending life with.”

We really need better leadership – informed leadership – on these issues from prominent pastors. They need to start to read some research (e.g. – what Dr. Sommers presented) on these issues. Maybe pastors need to affirm the traditional view of the Bible on sexual morality, and then take on the root cause of the disengaged boys problem: feminism in the schools. We don’t want to take on these problems in a superficial way and then actually make the problem worse by making excuses for views of sexuality that are unBiblical.

By the way, you should subscribe to the AEI podcast, which is on my list of favorite podcasts. And Dr. Sommers has a new edition of her classic book defending young men. If you have ever wondered what is going wrong with men, that book is required reading. It is required reading for anyone who wants to comment on this issue, in fact.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10-year-old suspended for shooting imaginary arrow, threatened with expulsion

CNS News reports.

Excerpt:

On Wednesday, the Rutherford Institute announced it has come to the defense of a 10-year-old boy who was suspended under a school zero tolerance policy for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate, using nothing more than his hands and his imagination.

Additionally, Rutherford Institute says the student has been threatened with expulsion for his make-believe actions, which were a response to another student “shooting” an imaginary gun at him:

“Johnny Jones, a fifth grader at South Eastern Middle School, was suspended for a day and threatened with expulsion under the school’s weapons policy after playfully using his hands to draw the bowstrings on a pretend ‘bow’ and ‘shoot’ an arrow at a classmate who had held his folder like an imaginary gun and ‘shot’ at Johnny. In coming to Jones’ defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys have asked Rona Kaufmann, Superintendent of the South Eastern School District in Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania, to rescind the suspension and remove all references to the incident from Jones’ permanent school record.”

Reason #26,956 to not send your children (especially boys) to public school.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

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