Friday night the family and I went to our local Barnes and Noble bookstore. The moment I entered, I spotted the bright red visage of the notorious Dangerous Book for Boys.
This is a book that Glenn Reynolds and his wife Helen have been all over. Reactions to the book are visceral. It's political incorrectness is such a breath of fresh air that it's very popular with many but its controversial with everybody else. Few can be on the fence about this book.
I was a little surprised to see it so prominently displayed at Barnes and Noble. Their books run the gamut of political and social ideologies, but their display choices – at least at my location – tilt left. This book must have earned its placement with sales.
I bought the book and gave it to my two oldest boys. It took them a few minutes to get excited about it. Everything about the way the book looks is old fashioned in a way that might not initially appeal to Generation X-box. The photographs have that 50's era look – on purpose. It's part of the retro – let's get back to when kids were allowed to play unsupervised for five minutes - motif.
But the text doesn't pretend its 1955. There aren't projects in here that leave modern kids out. That's a problem with the authentically old American Boy's Handy Book. That book makes suggestions like "first take a buggy whip..." Fortunately The Dangerous Book for Boys talks directly to the 21st century. When it mentioned the cost of lumber that goes into a tree house – about $200 – it points out that parents would spend more on a video game machine.
When my boys really got into this book they went nuts. Before the night was out they had fashioned a battery out of a role of quarters. I'm a little fuzzy on the particulars, but tape and aluminum foil was also involved. They got a flashlight bulb to burn for a few seconds. I was impressed.
Then I got into the act. Early Sunday morning I read the section of the book on secret codes. Armed with that info I invented my own system. Sorry, but I've been told that (on pain of death) I can't divulge the secret code to anyone outside the family. Get the book and you'll be able to invent your own code.
I wrote out an explanation of the code in a leather bound journal I gave the boys. Then I collected a few things around the house to make a buried treasure. I had a silver dollar, a two dollar bill, and a scouting patch. I put all this is a little water-proof container and buried it somewhere on my five acres.
You would have thought it was Christmas morning the way the guys took to this game when they got up. They took almost an hour to decode the treasure clue. After that they ran out to the garage and grabbed a shovel. They were whooping and hollering all the way to where "X" marked the spot.
Some might wonder why a book like this is controversial at all. It really shouldn't be, but our educational system over the last twenty or thirty years has been built on the conceit that boys and girls are basically interchangeable. The fact that this is blatantly untrue to anyone who spends five minutes with an actual child is ignored. If a good feminist ever has a moment of doubt and begins to think that the sexes are different, she at least acknowledges that the differences are a bad thing. If girls are quieter and less violent, then boys should be made to be like them. If a boy has a warrior spirit, it should be discouraged.
But we still need tough men. Women can be good police officers, fire fighters, and military personnel, but given the choice most would rather not be. It's usually men that actively seek those jobs. And frankly, few people (men or women) truly admire a spineless man in any profession. The male spine is not the product of sensitivity training. It's grown on football fields, dodge ball courts, and - as The Dangerous Book for Boys points out - in unsupervised outdoor play.