Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Review: Boys Adrift

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men
According to Leonard Sax, a physician and psychologist, five factors influence boys to become unmotivated and underachieving young men. Chapters address changes in education, video games, medications for ADHD, endocrine disruptors (caused by plastics) and loss of positive role models.

This is a sobering read, because if what Sax says is true, these factors can turn boys into lazy young men who care little about succeeding in life and even less about helping others. And it may all start in Kindergarten where children now do worksheets and desk work rather than color and play as they did in earlier years.

Sax includes the results of studies relevant to these factors. For instance, a Harvard Medical School study reported that giving stimulant medications to juvenile laboratory animals resulted in those animals displaying a loss of drive when they grew up. There may be a similar effect for children, because these meds damage an area of the brain known as nucleus accumbens. This means that a boy could feel hungry but not be motivated to do anything about it.

Video games may affect the brain in similar ways. Sax is particularly disturbed by the violence of games such as Doom. In violent movies, a boy watches someone else commit the violence, but in video games, he himself inflicts death and destruction. To help parents, Sax includes questions to evaluate a child’s involvement.

The book’s final chapter, “Detox,” focuses on what parents might do to alleviate the results of each of these factors. He offers hope to those who find themselves dealing with unmotivated youth. An “Afterword” updates the book published by Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Extensive notes document his research, and a helpful index closes the 273-page book.

Many case studies from Sax’s files make this an interesting read for parents, grandparents and anyone who works with children. And his insights shed light on far more than these five factors in our ever-changing world.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Book Review: Killers of the Flower Moon; the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

The Osage Indian tribe was pushed around Midwestern territories until they finally settled on the rocky barren terrain of Oklahoma, thinking no one would bother them there. But in the 1920s, when oil was discovered on their land, the Indians became wealthy, and the unscrupulous soon showed great interest in the tribe’s newfound riches. One by one, Osage Indians were murdered, many of them relatives or men and women with ties to one woman, Mollie Burkhart. Shootings, poisonings, accidents--year after year, the killings went on, and investigations turned up nothing.
Then J. Edgar Hoover became head of a new government entity that became known as the F. B. I. He assigned Tom White, a former Texas Ranger, to head up an investigation into the plots against the Osage. And White delivered incriminating evidence. But in researching the story of the Osage, author David Grann found some loose ends.

Killers of the Flower Moon is a chilling account of the depravity of man. The crimes robbed families of fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. If we care about the injustices done in the history of America, this is a book to read. It’s hard to imagine the painstaking research undertaken by Gramm to write the book; sixty pages of back notes and an extensive bibliography document his sources. Pictures show the faces of many of the book’s subjects. Available in large print, the book was published by Random House, 2017.