Scared Straight: A Review of "Swagger" By Lisa Bloom

I thought that I was doing alright in this mommy-gig. I gave tough love to my big boy when he got in trouble in school for wiggling around rather than concentrating. I do my best to build my boys’ self esteem by reminding them that they are smart – every day. I encourage the boys to believe that they are the best. And according to Lisa Bloom and her latest book “Swagger”, I am setting my boys up on the road to failure.

Let me explain.

When the good folks over at What The Flicka sent me “Swagger” to review, my initial thought was that it was yet another book focused on the plight of economically disadvantaged youth in America. The title and its striking call to action doesn’t do much to sway one from that assumption (“10 URGENT RULES for raising boys in an era of failing schools, mass joblessness, and thug culture”).

Lucky for me, I kept reading. And I HIGHLY recommend that EVERY PARENT – particularly parents of boys – do the same. As a matter of fact, stop reading this review, buy the book NOW and then come back…

Bloom begins with a scathing review of the many ways our embarrassingly sub-par public education system, overly-punitive judicial system, crumbling economy and glorification of women-bashing, nihilistic thug culture in popular music are setting our boys up for a dismal future. One of her most gripping points (aside from the fact that almost half of all adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate)? That early on, our naturally kinetic boys are given the message that they are NOT welcome in school – being placed in time out or labeled as a “disturbance” for their often naturally high levels of energy, while recess and gym are all but eliminated as teachers are increasingly forced to teach-to-the-standardized-test.

I have to admit, I found it VERY difficult to get through the first half of the book without falling into a pit of despair. Bloom emphasizes that, while these elements have an impact on both girls and boys, the girls seem to be faring far better – with women outpacing men at all levels of the education system and becoming the driving force of our professional work force as well. Rather than a sign of sisters doing it for themselves (although we do work hard), these ever-expanding achievement gaps are the canary in the coal mine, signaling an ever-deepening crisis facing boys in America.

Fortunately, Bloom ends the book with 10 simple, straight-forward and relatively inexpensive ways for parents to equip our boys to succeed in spite of the ever-increasing odds against them. Some are relatively obvious (respect for girls and women, an emphasis that college is not only an expectation but a requirement, limit TV time, support his teacher). Others are surprising and poignant (value humility above over-confidence, have your child catch you – or more importantly, your husband – reading, travel with your boy to show him that the US way is not the ONLY way).

“Swagger” is a gripping, disturbing, inspiring and urgent account of the forces conspiring to hold our boys back, and the ways that we as parents can help them to achieve in spite of a system seemingly dooming them to failure. As a mom of 2 boys, I am grateful to Lisa Bloom for this incredibly well written and researched book, and look forward to reading her earlier work Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka? "Swagger" Book Review
“Swagger” is available on Amazon.

[Find Sherice on her blog, TheBadAss Mama Chronicles and visit her on Facebook]