Here’s my TIME.com column from today:
Experts from around the country gathered at the Aspen Ideas Festival this past week to tackle some difficult issues—the economic crisis, overpopulation, threats to democracy. But the panel I sat on asked perhaps the thorniest of questions, and one that we seem to return to again and again: What is the goal of parenting?
Every society worries about its children, and the recent media storm over the bullied school bus monitor focused our attention on children who appear unmoored in the school system. But the problem of youthful misbehavior is an old one. As Aspen presenter Michael Thompson, author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, pointed out, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer was probably the best illustration, real or fictional, of the frustrating “push-and-pull of boys and schools.” Not that we should fall into the sex differences trap. Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, said that the “big social science story of the 21st century,” is not the difference between girls’ and boys’ brains, but rather their similarities. There is more variation among boys than there is variation between boys and girls, Kimmel and Thompson argued.