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BY Robert Brennan
girls are different. A shocking exposé, I know, but in a topsy-turvy world
where marriage between a man and a woman has to be vigorously defended, it now
commands a certain profundity.
An educator named Michael Gurian, who has taught at Eastern Washington University, along with Gonzaga University and Ankara University, has made a career out of proclaiming the
differences between boys and girls. He has written extensively, citing solid
scientific data, on how boys and girls have different brain anatomies and so
process information specific to their sex. He is also quick to temper these
findings with the caveat that there will always exist variations and exceptions
to rules. But any parent who has male and female children already knows much of
what Gurian’s scientific evidence reconfirms.
The reason I know about this
educator is because we have sent our sons to an all-boys Catholic high school —
one that has embraced the teaching strategies promulgated by Gurian.
That the school would embrace the
Catholic faith with the same vigor is a thing devoutly to be wished. But I
The teachers at this school are
instructed in specific techniques, the goal being to manage an all-male
classroom in such a way that the teachers bring out the best in their students.
My wife and I have seen the results
in our own sons and have become true believers in this method. I don’t get a
kickback for saying this, but if you want to know more about just how clearly
different a boy’s brain operates from a girl’s brain, read Gurian’s books. His
latest is called The Purpose of Boys: Helping Our
Sons Find Meaning, Significance, and Direction in Their Lives
(Jossey-Bass, 2009). I highly recommend it.
A few weeks ago, Gurian visited our
high school to give a lecture to the parents. The gym was packed and the
evening enlightening. The lecture wasn’t just part of a book-promotion tour; it
was packed with sobering statistics documenting that boys are falling behind in
our culture — and fast. Why? Because so many social engineers and holders of
power in the elite institutions of America cling to the notion of the
gender-neutral “nurture over nature” fallacy.
We learned that, although teenage
girls attempt suicide more often than boys, boys are much more likely to
succeed. Their attempts are more than cries for help. Boys (and then men) are
incarcerated at much higher rates than girls and women, and boys are much more
likely to be diagnosed with an attention disorder than girls. It all adds up to
the bracing statistics showing that more girls than boys go to, and graduate
As the father of a daughter, I’m all
for educational opportunities for girls and young women. Still, the thought of
a large segment of the future population being young, male and undereducated is
But this isn’t about the education
of boys and girls. If you want to know more about that, read Gurian’s books.
(As this is the second plug I’ve given him, he should at least send me an
autographed copy of his complete oeuvre.) No, this is about an epiphany I had
while I was listening to Gurian’s lecture.
Gurian spoke about the chemical
mechanics of female and male attraction as his talk veered into another
important subject for parents of teenage boys and girls. The professor wasn’t
here in the guise of a moral theologian or sexual ethicist. He was strictly
giving us a primer on how chemicals in the bodies of girls and boys react so
differently to create a bond.
That’s when I had the epiphany: God
really did know what he was doing when he instituted the sacrament of
I know that more than ever after
hearing the scientific explanation of that pesky little hormone oxytocin. Women
are loaded with it; men, not so much. When a woman hears a baby cry, her levels
of oxytocin increase. It is, according to the expert Gurian, a bonding hormone.
We’d seen it in action even before the lecture began. When the 6-month-old baby
of a teacher began to squawk, my wife made a beeline for the little guy. She
instantly started fussing over little Dominic.
I didn’t think much about it then.
My wife is always doting on a baby. But then I learned all about oxytocin. Men
get shortchanged in the oxytocin department. We tend to produce a lot of
testosterone, and when that goes unchecked, anything can happen. But that’s
another story, too.
According to Dr. G, there is a time
when the levels of oxytocin in women and in men reach equilibrium. To put it
delicately, it is the moment after intimate congress. At that moment in time,
women and men are flush with this incredible bonding chemical. Here comes the
tricky part. In women, these elevated levels can last for months. In men, they
can disappear in an hour. Testosterone takes over. Again.
Now, God made testosterone and so it
is good. It comes in handy when you’re trying to land your first woolly mammoth
or nail your PowerPoint presentation for the head honchos. But it can get in
the way of a healthy man-woman dynamic.
Enter marriage — sacramental, holy,
committed matrimony. It’s the only sacrament where the people receiving the
sacrament are actually their own ministers. Just the bride and groom in front
of an altar making a promise to each other before God: simple and to the point.
Covenant. It’s what God uses to keep
something worthwhile together through good and bad times. It comes in handy
especially when people you have seen through deprivation, slavery and
humiliation begin worshipping golden bovines only a short time after you
arranged a covenant-bound deliverance. And it must have been equally important
to have a covenant in place when the only begotten Son God sent down to earth
was left battered, beaten and hanging on a cross between two criminals.
And since God designed us with these
peculiar and necessary chemicals that create attraction and bonding, he likewise
instituted something sacred and profound to tide us through when the chemicals
run low or the times get tough.
I live in a state that has recently
passed a proposition declaring marriage to be the bond between one man and one
woman. That same state is in the process of developing another proposition in
the not-too-distant future to overturn that vote. These follies
notwithstanding, the more science we understand, the more beautiful God’s plan
for his creatures — especially male and female in the bond of holy matrimony —
seems to be.
Thanks, Dr. Gurian, for telling us
what most of us already knew.
Robert Brennan writes from Los Angeles.