The Edwardian period of history (give or take 20 years or so) saw Freud's introduction of psychotherapy, G. Stanley Hall's almost single-handed development of the notion of adolescence as a separate phase of the life cycle, the enormous popularity of J.M. Barrie's character Peter Pan, modernization in the form of the industrial revolution, and the progress of minorities and women toward equality. The stage had been set a century earlier as the French and American Revolutions redefined the balance between the ruling and the peasant classes, giving rise to modern democracy and the so-called "great middle class". It was a period when young people were prepared for the world, more than protected from it, a period of constructive action, more than defensive reaction. (This Web page contains an essay that describes and compares constructive and defensive motivation in more detail.)
Concerned men (yes, they were all men, as women were still struggling to get voting rights and other forms of equality) began to realize that, while girls were nurtured at home with family, boys -- especially those from families without a lot of money -- had to be prepared early to go out into the world and begin earning their living. These men also realized that many boys were falling through the cracks or otherwise being marginalized. This was the era in which Scouting, the YMCA and YMHA, and other boys' social organizations flourished. Father Flanagan founded Boys Town in Nebraska, and others such as Father Peter Dunne (Newsboy's Home in St Louis) and Cal Farley in Texas did likewise. (Father Flanagan's work was popularised in the MGM films Boys Town  and Men of Boys Town , both directed by Norman Taurog; while Cal Farley's effort was the basis for the 1946 MGM film Boys' Ranch, directed by Roy Rowland.)
"Boyology" -- a term actually used by many authors and others -- was the practice of socializing and educating boys about both the opportunities and dangers of the larger world, in an attempt to set them on the "proper path" before they became delinquents and, ultimately, criminals. (See Kenneth B. Kidd's Making American Boys: Boyology and the Feral Tale, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004, for a comprehensive history.)
Advice for would-be men was appearing in magazines, newspapers, and in books such as the series produced by Rev Dr E.E. Bradford, a noted clergyman in England. I recently obtained one of his books of poetry, simply titled Boyhood and published by Kegan Paul in 1930.
Reading the words of writers like Bradford always makes me acutely aware of just how different are today's methods of child rearing from those of the past. I am not one who would return wholesale to former times and earlier practices. That would be foolish, impossible, and counterproductive. Ignoring the past completely, however -- which is all-too-often the approach taken these days by myopic child-development specialists and society alike -- is, in my opinion, a very grave error.
I propose that we revisit earlier customs, teaching methods, attitudes toward childhood and adolescence, and other issues surrounding development into adulthood, and see if incorporating some of them into today's youth might contribute to their emergence as fully-formed human beings. With respect to boys, I propose The Edwardian Boy in the XXI (Twenty-First) Century.
One important feature of earlier times that must be reclaimed is that men must be involved in the development of young people, particularly adolescents, an idea which is out of fashion (so to speak) at the moment. This suggestion includes intergenerational interaction in social activities, mentoring and education, parenting (including single parenting), sports and artistic endeavours, to name a few. This suggestion does not include nor encourage sexual interaction of the sort forbidden by laws. (A more detailed discussion of the distinction between paedophiles [British spelling] and men otherwise interested in the welfare and development of boys is found in a separate essay on this Web page.)
The custom of the late XX and now the XXI century is that women need to be involved in child and adolescent development at all stages. So far so good. Unfortunately, the rapid rise to prominence of women in our society has offered only an either-or choice, and right now the choice tends to be women only for most positions that deal with education, child and adolescent medicine, day care and tutoring. The virtual exclusion of men from these opportunities provides women with an unfair "advantage" of influencing growing youth in ways that may be limiting and narrow as far as growing boys are concerned. This likely will change and find balance in the long run; for now, however, the consequences of growing up in a women-only world are largely unknown and probably not optimal, given that society (obviously) consists of both women and men.
In the XIX century and for most of human history before that, adulthood began around puberty when childhood ended and when the growing person began to work or attend secondary school. Society began to recognize adolescence as a separate period of life in the very early XX Century. Still not childhood, but not quite adulthood yet, adolescence was a period of preparation through schooling, which more and more was mandatory for all, and apprenticeship. Much more recently, only in the last two or three decades, adolescence has been re-defined as part of childhood, and some even regard college-age men and women still as children, in effect. This trend may be due in part to the entry of women into the work force, leaving little room for adolescent workers, and forcing society to extend their education -- and their childhood -- to later and later points in the life cycle. Everyone knows that one needs a college education today, and sometimes graduate degrees, to get even an entry-level job that once required a high-school diploma for "admission".
The re-definition of adolescents as effectively children is wrong and dangerous, especially with the implication that such "children" are being protected longer, rather than prepared for life sooner. This situation has to change soon. We are raising generations that are dependent and inexperienced, making them very good consumers but very empty human beings.
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© Gerald Jones, Ph.D. [firstname.lastname@example.org]