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Boys to Men

January 1, 2004

I recently read an article at
www.claremont.org/writings/crb/winter2003/moore.html that made a strong impression on me because it addresses an issue dear to my heart, the need to raise boys into men. The article is "Wimps and Barbarians, The Sons of Murphy Brown" by Terrence O. Moore.

Moore recounts the Dan Quayle comment in 1993 after Quayle met with a group of black women who were living in San Francisco's public housing, that the then popular TV show, Murphy Brown, was "mocking the importance of a father". If you recall, Ms. Brown bore a son out of wedlock and then went about her life and job as if a father was not required. Of course, Quayle was vilified by Candace "Murphy Brown" Bergen and all the newspapers and Hollywood left as being biased against modern women. (I was in the room when Quayle met with the women and when he first made the comment stating that glorifying the birth and raising of a child without a father was just plain wrong. What the press never reported was that the black women in the room loudly "Amen"ed Quayle's statement.")

Moore asks the question "What has become of Murphy's son ten years later"? From his experience as a K-12 charter school principal (and from past experiences as a Marine officer and college professor), he reports that young women are expressing their concerns at the lack of "responsible young men". The females are not talking of Prince Charmings and "cute guys" but men. Moore says "most women today must choose between males who are whiny, incapable of making decisions, and in general of "acting like men", or those who treat women roughly and are unreliable, unmannerly, and usually stupid." Whew!!!

Moore writes in detail but with great clarity the specific details of his concerns about the lack of manhood development. Go there and read those details. He sums it up with "As Father Walter Org expressed it, the male nature, in order to prove itself, in order to distinguish itself from the potential emasculating feminine world into which boys are born, longs for "againstness" in the natural or moral world which the boy can overcome. But in our culture everything is too easy. Boys are not compelled, indeed not allowed to fight anymore. They cannot fight on the playground. Nor can they fight for grades, for a girl, for God…".

I am a father of an 8-year-old boy and take these issues very seriously. These are difficult times to keep traditional lines straight in our society. I am sure my father felt the same raising four boys in the 40's, 50's, and 60's when he compared it to growing up with my grandfather in the 00's, 10's, and 20's. He, however, figured it out and so will I.

I am sticking to the male rites of passage that my father held for me: ownership of the first knife; how to start a fire; cooking your own meal on an open fire; how to shoot straight and steady; opening doors for women; how to swing a hammer properly; rough play with his male buddies is OK, but not with girls; rough play with Dad is OK, but not with Mom; the talks about duty to God and country; your promise before God, family, and friends, when you get married; … . I know I cannot do all of this alone, so I am thankful for reinforcing surrogate fathers: my son's karate instructor, the fathers of my son's friends, my son's baseball coaches, and male friends of mine.

These ideals may put my son in an awkward position at times in the future when he confronts "wimps" or "barbarians", but I believe he will have the manly tools to handle it. Will his mother and I succeed with this approach? Time will tell, but my goal is that some day our future daughter-in-law will tell my wife and me "Thank you" for our efforts in raising a man from a boy.

Sam T. Harper graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University.  Following a tour in the US Navy and a stint as Operations Manager at Roadway Express, he earned his MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.  He was a contributor to “In Search of Excellence,” the best selling business book of all time.  Sam was also Manager, Economic Planning & Analysis at Sohio Petroleum, Partner and Chief Financial Officer at investment-banking firm Bridgemere Capital, and Chief Operating Officer of the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a San Francisco Bay Area-based think tank and international publishing firm that specializes in self-governing and entrepreneurial public policy.  Sam was a chairman of the San Francisco Republican party and the GOP co-host of California Political Review on KALW-FM in San Francisco.  Sam is currently the co-owner of the Tennessee based Institute for Local Effectiveness Training, LLC – a management consulting, training, and coaching firm.