Book Review – Swagger

Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug CultureSwagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug Culture by Lisa Bloom

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

In the spirit of critique I will list the few things I found good about this book before the several I found that were not so good. The information about the school systems in the US; the futility and terrible repercussions (especially towards people of color) that the ‘war on drugs’ has had over the years; being critical of advertising and media; and that reading to your children is one of the best things you can do for them. The suggestions about helping your child reach their potential were aimed squarely at upper middle class Americans. Those who can reach libraries with ease, have plenty of time and money to take their children to life enriching events, and a job that allows them to be around to censor their teenagers habits.
The rest of this book was flim flam. I had high hopes that it would not be everything it was. Sensational, reductionist and extremely judgmental. Reading it I could tell the author had no actual knowledge of the pop culture phenomena she was talking about. A few choice quotes –
“Not all rap music today is thuggish-Common and Black Eyed Peas are notable exceptions”
In what world is Black Eyed Peas considered rap music? And there are plenty of actual hip hop artists who don’t fall into the category of thuggish music. Eyedea, POS, Atmosphere and Blueprint. It was readily apparent that she was searching for music to fit her perceptions. The one metal band she mentions? Cannibal Corpse, who are SO over the top only those who are entirely ignorant of the genre take it seriously. My suggestion to parents would be that if your kid likes rap music, find some that doesn’t exemplify that kind of life and give it to them. Instead of banning it which will get you nowhere, guide towards something better.

“What about video games, the bane of every modern mom’s existence?’
Speak for yourself and only yourself ma’am. I’m well aware that we moms who play video games aren’t in a majority especially at the age group this is aimed at but holy hell what kind of gender essentialist bullshit is that to put in a book? And while I may not enjoy her favorite target of ire Call of Duty I’ve played enough Halo to make up for it. Video games can range from terrible to wonderful just like anything else and even if you don’t play video games, all it takes is about 5 minutes on the internet to get a review and know whether or not it’s something you want your kid exposed to.

“George Orwell’s 1984 has arrived, just a few decades behind schedule.”
My question for her would be if she has ever actually read 1984. Because if so, she fails.

There were 2 other issues I take with this book, the total hatred for TV and the idea that college is the one and only way to a successful life.
First things first, television. The things she is saying now is what people were saying a hundred years ago about pulp novels and it was just as false then as it is now. TV can be a great thing and it can be trash. It all depends on what you watch and how much of it you consume.

College can be great, it can get you a good job and lead to a better career and life but that has to be what you want. It can also be a $30,000 piece of paper that leaves you in debt for the rest of your life. Making tons of money is not every persons goal in life and if your child wants to be a classical painter, a writer, or a musician college may not be the way to go for them. My goal as a parent is not to push my child to be the most successful person ever. It’s to help him find fulfillment in life doing something that he can make a decent living at while still enjoying his life. If that means a trade school to become a computer programmer, great! If it means helping him go to college to get a law degree, also great! I want my kid to be happy and teach him how to balance his life equally among responsibility and fun. Not to push him to make money at all costs because it’s the only thing that matters.

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