- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

“If just one sex wins, both sexes lose.”

These words, presented Tuesday at an event in Washington sponsored by the Boys Initiative, are intended to start a national conversation aimed at improving the outcomes for American boys and men in school, work, marriage and health.

The figures are stark: Compared to girls, boys are less educated and more medicated. One in five men of prime working age is not working. Men have a life expectancy five years shorter than women. Male suicide rates start out equal to females, but steadily rise over the lifespan.

America ranks No. 1 in the world for the number of men in their 50s and 60s with college degrees, but it ranks only ninth for these degrees among men in their 20s and 30s, Thomas Mortenson, education analyst and board member of the Boys Initiative, said in a report released at the event.

This is a “shameful record” and shows that the United States is not preparing its young men to compete in a global economy, said Mr. Mortenson. “For God’s sake, people, wake up.”

“There are a lot of win-win answers here,” said Warren Farrell, a Boys Initiative board member and chairman of a 34-member Commission to Create a White House Council on Boys to Men.

When men are educated with modern skillsets and land good jobs, they are more marriageable, said Mr. Farrell, the author of best-selling books, such as “Why Men Are The Way They Are” and “The Myth of Male Power.” If elderly husbands have better health and live longer, their wives will not be thrown into poverty upon their deaths. If relationship skills or “life skills” are taught in school, both sexes should be able to communicate and problem-solve better - raising the likelihood that more children can be raised in a happy home with their mothers and fathers, he said.

If President Obama were to establish by executive order a White House Council on Boys to Men, just as he created the White House Council on Women and Girls in March 2009, it would immediately raise the profile of these problems, added Mr. Farrell, who Tuesday released a lengthy proposal about such a council from the commission.

“I am convinced today that we have a national crisis, a national security issue, a state-of-emergency issue and a nation at risk. If anybody cannot understand that, as we talk about investments and the return on those investments - which are our boys - then it is very clear we are going in the wrong direction,” said Willie Iles, national director of government relations for Boy Scouts of America.

Mr. Iles, who is one of the 34 members of the bipartisan commission as well as a board member of the Boys Initiative, called for a national youth summit on boys, and state-by-state and city-by-city summits led by governors and mayors on their own populations of boys, in addition to the White House council.

A call for comment from the White House was not returned. However, Mr. Obama has launched a national Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative to promote “responsible fatherhood” and re-engage absent fathers with their families. His Cabinet secretaries have also led discussions about fatherhood and educational achievement, military and veteran dads, fathers in the criminal justice system, and how men can balance the needs of their families with the demands of their jobs.

In 2009, when Mr. Obama created the White House Council on Women and Girls, he asked federal departments to connect with the council. This year, it issued a report on “Women In America: Indicators of Social and Economic Wellbeing,” which details the headway women and girls have made, as well as inequalities they face, in education, employment, health, family life and crime and violence. Women, for instance, are more likely than men to live in poverty, earn less, work in part-time jobs, and work in lower-earning professions like science and technology, according to the White House report.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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