In working with my most recent student on GED prep for the last six months, many obstacles were faced and much was, and continues to be, learned. It's interesting that all of this has been going on as I've been delving into Lisa Bloom's most recent bestseller "Swagger" and comparing it to Dr. Leonard Sax's long-time winner "Boys Adrift". Both Bloom and Dr. Sax make good cases for many of our young boys' and young male adults' slacking and loss of competitiveness---all the way from environmental factors affecting the male brain to the economy's loss of manufacturing jobs (normally held by men) to high school and college curricula overburdening our young men with "unmanly" approaches to achievement. Both Bloom and Sax seem to conclude that the young male often drops out of formal education and into unmotivated indifference---that our society is losing relevance for them, and they just drop-out. While this may be the case with many of our young men, I can't help but say that there can be exceptions and that if we are just a little patient with them (something that our formal schooling system, with concern for test scores and test production, cannot afford to be), we may see different results.
A case in point is that of my nineteen year old student, S., whose great desire to get his GED and move on to college has him in a "constant war" (his words) with himself. His wars, some may say, are too scary, or too difficult to fight, yet he trudges on. S. is dealing with mood disorders and psychological issues (Obsessive-compulsive and bi-polar disorders, and the onset of schizophrenia) apparently inherited at birth from both sides of the family, as his psychiatrist and psychologist inform us. He realizes that he needs special medications to stay "in the groove", as he often says, but would like not to have to battle with their side effects, which may range from a loss of appetite, to drowsiness, to a loss of libido. Lately, this latter has become a most pronounced concern, given his age and his fairly decent ability to stay socially active with long-time supportive friends and family members---essential in helping him deal with his many issues.
At the end of this month, S. takes the GED, after much preparation and various obstacles often interrupting our work and scheduling. Now, it seems that all engines are go. There has been no slacking here---just hard work, not only in test-prep, but also in self-evaluation, in self-understanding, and in self-control, very often the most difficult prep of all. There will, no doubt, be more to learn. As S. puts it: "the war goes on, and I'm not stopping. With a little patience, I'm gonna' make it..." It seems that Dr. Sax and Lisa Bloom conclude the same thing, as they get to really know some of the individual young people they've worked with in formulating their theories. Drastic measures will only compound the problem, and as tutors, often working one-on-one with our young boys/men, we may be among the very first to recognize these issues and to show a little patience, please. Good luck, S. Go get'em!