Thursday Book Review: “Swagger” by Lisa Bloom

Continuing the theme of bullying I asked Lisa Bloom author of the fantastic book SWAGGER for an interview. The book specifically deals with the issues facing young men today. Scroll down to find the purchase link. 

1.
 Why are boys particularly discriminated against in our school system?
I
wouldn’t necessarily call it discrimination.  I would say that boys tend
to be more kinetic, and as we’ve cut physical education and recess and
increasingly “teach to the test,” many boys find themselves wiggly, acting up,
labeled as “bad,” and feeling as though school doesn’t really welcome their
kind.  In addition, parents and teachers have lower expectations for boys’
literacy.  Though the studies show that boys who aren’t reading well by
the fourth grade are likely to do poorly in all subjects, drop out of high
school, and have a difficult time getting decent jobs, many adults shrug off
boys’ school performance as “boys will be boys.”  Lower expectations mean
lower achievement, and the cycle continues.
2.
 Why did you call the book Swagger?
Because
“swagger” is the most popular song lyric in the last decade, across all
genres:  rap, hip hop – even the Jonas Brothers are singing about
it.  All the boys I interviewed for my book knew all about swagger –
they’d laugh and clap each other on the back, puffing up their chests and boast
they had more swagger than their buddies.  But parents were mostly
ignorant about this phenomenon.
What
began as a fun way to boost confidence in boys has morphed into dangerous
levels of arrogance.  Our kids are 21st of out 30
developed countries in math scores, for instance, but they are #1 in one
area:  confidence!  Many parents unwittingly harm their boys by
praising their every breath.  In fact, the latest and best research shows
that instilling an air of humility does far more good to your son.  So my
first rule for parents is to replace your boys’ swagger with an air of
humility, because that will immediately improve his school performance, his
emotional health, he’ll be less likely to fight, drink, and do drugs. 
That’s a lot of benefit from one little attitude adjustment.
3.
 When I (as a female) look around I continue to see males overwhelmingly
dominating our culture. (EG: Given that recently a male beat a female to
(Democratic) presidency) So where is this male identity crisis? And is this a
price females should have to pay?
Men
are still doing exceedingly well at the very top:  they dominate as CEOs
of Fortune 500 companies, the Supreme Court, Congress.  But few of us live
at that pinnacle.  As parents, we are concerned about where our boys are
right now, and where they’ll be when they finish school.  And in school
and the early stages of employment, boys are being outperformed by girls at a
stunning rate.  Girls dominate the top 10% of the class; boys crowd the
bottom 10%.  Boys are far more likely to be medicated, disciplined,
suspended or expelled.  Girls are more likely to graduate from college,
and get the prime jobs in their twenties in major US cities.
And
hats off to this generation of girls who has charged through the barriers their
mothers knocked down for them.  Girls have this stunning success because
they do more homework, have better attendance, are more likely to ask for help,
and spend more time on extracurricular activities.  But we cannot allow
our boys to slip off the radar.  There is nothing innately male about
illiteracy or innumeracy.  At a minimum we all want our sons to have a
life where he has meaningful work, he can raise a family, and make a
contribution.  And many young men are slipping away from this possibility.
4.
 Why are so many young men having a hard time finding jobs?
Because
our manufacturing base, which was once a third of our economy, is now only
about 5%, and because fewer young men have college degrees than young
women.  A college degree is the golden ticket to the middle class today.
 (In the book I show parents how to get your son through college.  It
can be done.) Sixty per cent of new jobs require it.  Nearly every job
requires strong reading, writing and communication skills – skills young women
have mastered, and young men struggle with.
5.
 You call America “incarceration nation” — why?
Because
we incarcerate more of our own people (93% of our inmates are male) than any
other country on earth or in human history, and this mass imprisonment is
decimating families, communities, and ultimately, all of us.  When I
oppose education cuts, for example, the response is always, “Lisa, we just
don’t have the money.”  But it’s a lie.  We do have the money. 
We just choose to spend it on other things.  On the federal level, obscene
levels of military spending.  On the state level, mass incarceration, to
the tune of up to $50,000 per year per inmate.
More
prisons are being built every day, waiting to lock up the next generation of
American boys.  This is a horrific state of affairs, yet so rarely
discussed in our culture.
6.
 What are your top 4 tips for parents of boys?
1.    Teach your son to lose the swagger
2.    Make your home a reading mecca
3.    Eliminate the competition (TV, video
games, wasted computer time.)
4.    Set college expectations early and
often.
Of
course, in my book I explain how to do all these!
7)  You speak to the culture of ‘thugdom’. Do you believe that this
is a socio-economic issue, a racial issue or a generic societal issue? If so,
why?
This
is a problem for all of us.  Rap and hip hop music are the most popular
genres for boys of all classes and races, and the majority of the top selling
songs celebrate violence, especially gun violence, rape, including rape of
little girls, murdering gay men, and illegal drug use.  I have the lyrics
in the book and they are sickening.  In video games, TV and movies most
popular with boys, nearly every problem is solved with violence.  Parents
must oppose these slick, flashy, seductive messages.  In the book I have
suggestions for how to have these important conversations.  Because the
good news is that according to kids, parents are still their #1 role
models.  So we must speak out loudly and often about our values.
Buy the book here: 

About Lisa Bloom:

Host of her own national live daily talk show on Court TV for eight years, Lisa is now a regular legal analyst on CBS News, CNN and HLN, appearing frequently on The Early Show, The Insider, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, The Situation Room, The Joy Behar Show, Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell and many other shows. In addition, Lisa runs a prominent Los Angeles based general practice law firm, TheBloomFirm.com, representing celebrity clients and ordinary people seeking justice in their lives. 
A popular award-winning speaker to business, student and women’s audiences, Lisa has been interviewed by Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, Rachael Ray, Piers Morgan, Montel Williams, Julie Chen, Harry Smith, Matt Lauer, Diane Sawyer, Charlie Gibson,Tony Danza, Star Jones, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Bill O’Reilly, Shawn Hannity, Joe Scarborough, Tina Brown, Nancy Grace and many others in the United States, England, Ireland, Australia and throughout the English-speaking world. 
Lisa’s first book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, published by Vanguard Books in the summer of 2011, became an instant New York Times bestseller and a favorite of critics. In a full page review, Elle Magazine raved: “Provocative, logical, funny, and relentlessly on-topic.” Think was voted one of the top ten best nonfiction books of 2011 by the readers of Goodreads.com.


Buy ‘Think’ here: 

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