In the Trump drama after the Fox News GOP presidential candidates debate last week, the debriefs missed some of the acute problems that never made it into the debate at all.
There is a commission to establish a National or a White House Council on Boys and Men. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the steering committee.) We want to create a clearing house for research and to raise awareness of the boy crisis, that is, those problems so many of us can see for the boys and men in our lives but that get ignored by policy makers. President Obama established a White House Council on Women and Girls in 2009, yet no comparable entity exists for males even though problematic gender gaps are not unique to females.
The commission focuses on five areas with terrible data on boys and men: employment, mental health, physical health, education, and the one from which the others seem to proceed, father absence. Collectively, we refer to these problems as The Boy Crisis. We submitted three questions to the producers and moderators of the Fox debate. The moderators did not use any of them. Seventy-two percent of the public might think that fatherlessness is the most significant social problem facing America, but the debate questions never touched the issue.
We appreciate the difficulty in narrowing down the thousands of questions submitted to a chosen few. But male suicide is 4 to 5 times that of women. Male life expectancy is 5 years less than women. Problems are mushrooming in boys’ education, from primary school to university. The day after the debate the New York Times reported, “there’s the sad reality that everywhere we turn, it seems, there is another news story about men in crisis: mental illness, suicide, terrorism, rape, mass shootings, jetliner crashes or young black men being killed by the police”.
In this reality, how did the powers at Fox think it appropriate that issues focused on women deserved multiple questions during the Republican debates while the boy crisis did not deserve any? Worse, how do they justify that preferential treatment when men’s and women’s well-being are tied together? Father problems are seen as a male problem because men are fathers and sons are more affected by father absence, but women and girls are also devastated by father absence. See some of the writings of Kay Hymowitz in the past few years, starting with “Boy Trouble“; scratch the surface of most societal problems and you quickly get to father absence in the family home.
And how was the question to Mr. Trump about his social-media comments on women a more pressing issue for the country, and more deserving of prime time, than any of the boy-crisis issues?
For reference, here are the questions we submitted:
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE QUESTIONS
We respectfully submit these questions to be asked of the presidential candidates at the debate on Fox News.
1. Federal data shows that girls now outnumber boys in college, 57% to 43%, by a wide and growing margin. From elementary through high school girls academically outperform boys. Why is the education gap between boys and girls widening? What steps would you take to help boys receive the education they need to succeed?
2. An increasing number of children are raised without a father in the home. While there are many individual success stories of children raised in single-parent homes, the risks are greater. Children raised without fathers are more likely to drop out of school, turn to crime, and abuse drugs. What reforms or initiatives would you institute as president to address it?
3. Boys commit suicide five times more than girls. Overall, men commit suicide 4 to 5 times more than women. Men’s life expectancy is less than women’s and the gap has increased since the 1920s. There are nine executive-level departments exclusively for women, but none for men. For example, there are three agencies specifically focused on women’s health but not one focused on the health needs of boys and men. Do you think there should be more done to address the health issues boys and men face? As president, what steps or actions would you specifically take to address the health of boys and men?