Last month, during Yom Kippur, I took the kids to synogogue. Usually we just do our Jewish stuff at our house. My kids are exposed to so few Jews in their life that I am able to celebrate Jewish holidays on my own calendar, on my own time, in my own ways.
But then I started thinking I need to get the kids to some stuff that looks like a Jewish community to make sure they really feel Jewish, because I have read so many articles about how people who are spiritual get the same types of benefits as people who are healthy and people who have friends. Also, meaning and purpose in life do not generally come from the work we do or the children we raise, but rather, from the spirituality we cultivate.
So I got my sons all dressed up and we went to synagogue and it was really boring. I told myself that Ashtanga yoga is also boring, and so is running long distances, but that both force you to go inside yourself to deal with the boringness and quietness.
Then I remembered that there were children’s services because really, synagogue is too boring for kids.
We went down to the basement to look at the classrooms where the kids were, and I couldn’t believe it but there were no boys. Only girls. The classrooms were full of girls. My son asked, “Where’s the room for boys?” and I realized there was no room. They were just sort of missing.
Boys are missing everywhere.
They are missing in college: The New York Times reports that second-tier colleges (read: not Ivy League) are having a hard time keeping 50% of the class male, and girls don’t want to go to a school that isn’t 50% male. And second-tier schools who do have an ability to enroll qualified men, flaunt it as a big differentiator.
They are missing in gifted programs: School is set up for girls. Girls read faster than boys, sit still better than boys, and are ahead of boys in math until middle school. While the girls are testing high, we are medicating young boys in order to keep them in school.
They are missing in religious institutions. I’m shocked but I guess it’s true. And it makes sense. If you set up spirituality to be something that you learn in a classroom, sitting down and listening, it’s going to resonate with boys about as much as long division.
Generation Y says they want to be spiritual but they are increasingly unimpressed with organized religion as a path to spirituality. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing or even if we need to judge it, but I’m sure that it’s a sign that organized religion fails kids in the same way that school fails them: it’s about propping up age-old institutions instead of overhauling the paths we give people to the age-old knowledge.
I wonder what the is the religious version of unschooling?