The Dangerous Book for Boys

Christina Hoff Sommers:

PARENTS and educat ors are wringing their hands over the poor academic performance of boys. Girls are better readers, earn higher grades and are far more likely to go to college. America does a much better job educating girls than boys. But now, out of nowhere, comes a book that may hold the secret to male learning.

"The Dangerous Book for Boys," written by two English brothers, Conn and Hal Iggulden, violates all the rules of political correctness - and males between the ages of 8 and 80 are reading it in droves.

Already a major best seller in Great Britain, the book is now topping the lists in America. Its appeal is obvious - it goes directly for the pleasure centers of the male brain.

"The Dangerous Book for Boys" is all about Swiss Army knives, compasses, tying knots and starting fires with a magnifying glass. It includes adventure stories with male heroes, vivid descriptions of battles and a history of artillery. Readers learn how to make their own magnets, periscopes and bows and arrows. It gives rules and tactics for poker and marbles - and secret moves for coin tricks.

In a radical departure from modern schoolroom readings, the book has almost nothing to say about feelings, relationships or how boys can learn to cry. It valorizes risk, adventure and manliness.

Today's boys inhabit a danger-averse world where even old favorites like tag and dodge ball are under a cloud - Too competitive! Someone might get hurt! The National Parent Teacher Association recommends a cooperative alternative to the fiercely competitive "tug of war" called "tug of peace."

By contrast, "The Dangerous Book for Boys" has detailed instructions on how to hunt, kill, skin and cook a rabbit.

Yet the book doesn't encourage boys to be Neanderthals. It tells them they have to become gentlemen. To this end, it offers lessons in manners, grammar and "seven poems every boy should know." It features an astute essay on that most mysterious of subjects, girls, and how to respect them, make friends with them and not to offend them.


Now that is a scary thought for a lot of boys. My six year old grandson is still puzzled at why guys would want to take a girl on a date. I am sure he will figure it out eventually but the book looks like a good selection for him because I know he is interested in all that other stuff.


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