The most marginalized and poorly served group of people in the United States is also the key to our future: young men. The WSJ reports that prospects for male twenty-somethings are bleak:
The unemployment rate for males between 25 and 34 years old with high-school diplomas is 14.4%—up from 6.1% before the downturn four years ago and far above today’s 9% national rate. The picture is even more bleak [sic] for slightly younger men: 22.4% for high-school graduates 20 to 24 years old. That’s up from 10.4% four years ago.
Young men are less likely than women to attend or complete college and are, therefore, less competitive in the jobs market. Even the military can only take a minority of its applicants.Joblessness is only one aspect of a growing social crisis. America is increasingly failing at the most basic task of socializing any group of people faces: helping its young males make the difficult transition from boyhood and adolescent to mature manhood. Raised right and appropriately mentored, young men channel their energy and idealism into building families and making a better world. Hard work, ambition, the desire to serve and protect: young men at their best make indispensable contributions to social health and well being.It is perilously easy for young men to lose their way and our society does very little to help. Between widespread divorce and illegitimacy, many young men are growing up with only tenuous connections with suitable adult role models. Movies, television and popular music offer the most distorted and destructive images of men: either superhuman macho killing and loving machines or ineffectual workadaddy wimps and figures of fun.If our boys don’t negotiate that complex transition and become men, American society will fail. It is really that simple. In some urban communities the transmission of the values and behaviors that help boys become men has broken down altogether; that crisis is spreading out of the inner cities and into the mainstream. Churches, community groups and individual men need to think hard about how to reach and help this vulnerable and vital demographic. Without new generations of upright, God fearing, disciplined, hard working and community minded men, American society will be a poor and violent place. We are already well on the way.