Saturday, August 23, 2008

Are Teenage Boys Just Stupid?

A 15-year-old teen was shot and killed at Central High School in Knoxville last Thursday:

The bell rings again this morning at Central High School, a day after the shooting that killed a sophomore, panicked more than a thousand Knox County students and their parents, and left a freshman student charged with murder.

Classes hadn't begun Thursday morning when a single shot struck 15-year-old Ryan McDonald in the chest as students gathered in the cafeteria just after 8 a.m. Doctors pronounced him dead less than an hour later at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville Police Department Deputy Chief Bill Roehl said.
Police said the bullet came from a gun in the hand of Jamar B. Siler, a 15-year-old with a troubled past. He faces a charge of first-degree murder.

Katie Allison Granju, a blogger at KnoxNews has a post on the shooting with the title, "Teenage boys are stupid" (Hat tip: Instapundit). Here is what Ms. Granju had to say:

By the time a male is about 16 years old, he has the body of an adult male, an adult male with a brain under assault by a dramatic rush of hormones the likes of which he'll never again see during any other period of his lifetime. Teenage boys are more impulsive and aggressive than any other group. WItness their penchant for crashing cars, diving headfirst into rock quarries, experimenting with drugs, and deciding to "play chicken" by draping themselves across dark country roads in an attempt to prove something to their similarly stupid peers.They are driven by sexual curiosity to the point of insanity, and they hold a misguided sense of immortality.

Yes, I'm generalizing. Many teenage boys are polite, respectful, accomplished individuals, but those of them who are are pulling this off are doing so by fighting the natural impulses to be idiots that threaten to overtake them every day.

Having dealt with numerous violent teens in my career and understanding the complexities that go into the making of a killer, I have to say that I find the sweeping generalization that teen boys are stupid about as helpful as a band-aid on a gunshot wound. What I find interesting is that this boy's own sister is on the run for allegedly killing a woman and yet, where is the similar story with the headline, "Teenage girls are stupid" by Granju? We don't know why this particular boy took another teen's life at this point. But one thing I do know, saying that "boys are stupid" is not the answer to the very complex and emotional problem of teen murder. It is merely a sexist and ineffective response to a very troubling and complicated issue.

You can read more about the complexities of teen murder in my book, The Scarred Heart : Understanding and Identifying Kids Who Kill at or download it for free here.



Blogger Trust said...

Honestly, Dr. H., we have a image in our society about women similar to that we used to have Catholic priests, and we like to think they are incapable of certain behaviors (unless they are sick or driven to it). It's almost sacreligious to say anything about women.

Numerous children were molested by priests, and there was little reaction, not because society condoned it, but because they didn't want to believe it because it went against their "image." That is not to say priests were bad--there were countless wonderful priests, but that was no excuse to turn a blind eye.

Today, women can get away with great evil because of the image people have of them. It is not that all women were bad, it's just they have access to cover up and excuses. Sure, men commit great evils, but people call it what it is.

Hat tip: Michelle Langley. I got this information from her book Women's Infidelity 2.


9:31 AM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

One commenter at KnoxNews said: Is she not aware that the old southern racists used to try to demonstrate their open-mindedness by admitting, that oh sure, there were many clean, polite, law-abiding colored-people...

Kind of sums it up. Any amount of bigotry and hatefulness towards boys is acceptable.

11:11 AM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger PeteRR said...

As an old PnP roleplayer, I would say that teenagers, male and female, don't lack intelligence, but experience. They don't have the foundation of past failure and success to draw on when it comes time to make decisions. It leads to adrenaline fueled stunts by males, and to poorly chosen tattoos placed on the small of the back and dating 28 year old "musicians" by females. Both of my sisters dated small-time criminals when they hit the age of 18. One a burglar and the other strong-arm robber. Both of them(my sisters) avoided prison by skin of their teeth and went on to lead productive non-felonious lives.

11:24 AM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Jason said...

Granju? That name sounds familiar... Oh right, this is the woman who wrote a book on attachment parenting, and was crowing about how wonderful "the family bed" was just a year before her husband found another woman's bed to sleep in.

I wouldn't trust her insight into the weather.

12:48 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Elusive Wapiti said...

If boys are so stupid, what does the Gloucester 17 debacle suggest as to how well grounded teenage girls are?

In my limited experience, girls are just as impulsive and hormone-addled as boys.

12:54 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger SteveinTX said...

"with a brain under assault by a dramatic rush of hormones the likes of which he'll never again see during any other period of his lifetime"

Somehow I don't think that he will be able to use the hormone defense - unlike PMS or PND.


1:17 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

Well, both the shooter and his sister are murder suspects. What does that say? That maybe they are criminals, and not normal teenagers?
And, why isnt it a hate crime, when Blackfolks shoot/kill/kidnap/rape/torture/rob white or Asian-Americans?( remember the Cannon-Newsome case)

1:55 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger lovemelikeareptile said...

I dropped a couple of bombs on this smarmy feminist-- and she got a lot of criticism from men ( women almost never come to the defense of men... but the ones that do tend to have a lot of dates and male help when its time to move or fix the car or smash the bug ).
She has added a response-- that is just an evasion-- and then compounds her sexism... as by adding that
we should "accept teenage boys for who they are"...

SHe doesn't "get it"-- if she did, her entire political philosophy-- and much or her personality-- would go out the window.. so further retrenchment will follow.

Its good to see men kicking ass though...

2:51 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...


Here is the definition of "hate crime". The shooter in this case would have had to target the victim because they are a member of a specific social group. The prosecution is going to have interview this young man to see if that was the case before this incident could be labeled a hate crime.

2:55 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger max's skunk works said...

Granju is a professional bigot. Her MO is pretty consistent - feign good faith, stick in the knife, wrap-up with some vacuous therapeutic moral, obfuscate when confronted.

I have the suspicion that she's actually a very very angry person but, for whatever reason, chooses to portray herself as being of good will and impartial. She might be a little off.

* take a look at some of her writings on the McCain's for an example of what I'm getting at.

3:57 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Cappy said...

As a man and divorced dad, my opinion is no. As the father of a teenage daughter, the verdict is yes. And they will remain stupid and uworthy until proven otherwise (send SAT score and medical records) or until she's out of the house.

4:02 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...

To all,

I did not mean to pick on Ms. Granju, she is a fellow Tennessee blogger and a very nice person. I am not the blog police here so I can't tell anyone what to say but I do want to suggest that people be polite when getting your points across.

4:19 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I do think it's important to remember that over the years plenty of nice people perpetuated racism, sexism, etc. One of my best friends from high school, and one of the nicest guys I've ever known, frequently referred to Oriental people as "slant eyes" well into adulthood. Ironically, he now works for Nissan.

My first wife's father was an agriculture professor with racist attitudes. While he would speak of many non-whites with condescension, he would go out of his way to help them because they were inferior and needed extra help.

Another older man I know, extremely nice and very well traveled, did volunteer work in a Jewish nursing home. When talking about Jews, he always had some condescension because, unlike him, the Jews weren't saved and wouldn't be going to Heaven.

I could go on forever. While I fully agree with civil discourse, I don't think someone should get a pass because they are nice. Indeed, it highlights the depth of the problem that "nice" people think, say and write such things.

5:28 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


Point taken. However, I did not say to give her a pass because she was nice, I said we could make points without being rude. There is a difference. I have noticed that you are able to do that quite easily. You are civil, yet cut to the chase and let people know where they stand and why they are wrong or misinformed. I appreciate that.

5:36 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger lovemelikeareptile said...

Lets all be "polite" and "make our points without being rude"-- extremely ironic, because she labelled ALL teenage boys as idiots--- stupid, bubbling cauldrons of raging hormones intent on mayhem and violence-- thats not very nice. But let us be careful not to hurt HER feelings...

No-- detonate an intellectual nucleur weapon on the the bigot's head. Let her know its unacceptable. No one has been "impolite" over there-- they have just ripped her. No one is "picking on " her ( as if she was a victim by the mere fact of her gender !) and if she is "a very nice person" let her retract her statement and apologize for her anti-male bigotry. There is zero chance of that.

Bashing male children-- pathetic.

What a treat it was to see an anti-male bigot get scorched on her blog... for the first tiem in my experience..... then this betrayal...

6:51 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Acksiom said...

"Ms. Granju. . .is a. . .very nice person."

No, she is not.

Because "very nice" people do not say such things in the first place.

In fact, Ms. Granju is at best an about averagely "nice" person.

That's because she fails to achieve even just "better than average" niceness through admitting to her error and apologizing seriously for it -- rather than the all-too-average chauvanistic weaseling she engaged in when called on her behavior.

Not "very nice". Not even "nicer than normal".

Just ignorantly, irresponsibly, infantilely average.

What Ms. Granju exemplifies is the male-dehumanizing status quo.

7:34 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger SteveinTX said...

"My first wife's father was an agriculture professor with racist attitudes. While he would speak of many non-whites with condescension, he would go out of his way to help them because they were inferior and needed extra help."

So, he went on to become a democrat party policy-maker then?


8:07 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Acksiom said...

Posted to KAG's grossly insufficient response here:

Are you ever going to take proper, adult responsibility for your ageist and sexist objectification of boys?

Boys are not just what they make of themselves; they are also, to a very significant degree, what WE make of them. And when you write the sort of things you did, you make them worse people than they could be, and contribute to their making themselves worse as well.

Do you know what the suicide rates are for teen boys and young male adults in this country? In your state? In your local area?

Are you capable of even just considering the possibility that boy-bashing statements such as yours might very well contribute to those rates of teen and young adult male suicide?

And can you understand that your public devaluation of boys reinforces the very same self-devaluation behind so much of their self-destructive behavior?

Can you comprehend the basic human wisdom that boys do stupidly self-destructive things in no small part because of how we encourage them to devalue themselves -- which we do in no small through comments like yours?

And can you realize that your refusal to simply admit that what you wrote was wrong -- sexist, objectifying, and dehumanizing -- only serves to make the situation even worse?

Can you get your head around the idea that maybe, just maybe, if we treated boys just a little bit better, if we stopped devaluing them as much as we do, they would become far less likely to engage in such self-destructive actions and violence against others?

And can you start to perceive that when you run boys down the way you did, and then further compound the error by denying that you did anything wrong, you create and support exactly the kind of conditions and environment around boys that make tragedies like this more likely?

8:17 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Whiskey said...

I am not concerned about PC and "sexism" but rather is the OP correct i.e. are teenage boys "stupid" in some way.

I would say, on balance no, since teenage boys in the past, as close in time as the early 1960's, would routinely carry rifles to school for participation in ROTC and shooting clubs. In NYC!

Clearly, something has changed in how teenage boys interact with their social environment. Teenage girls as well, while in recent years we have seen the age of first sexual experience tick up a bit for teenage girls, it is still significantly lower in age (around 16.x IIRC nationally) than it was in years past (around 19.x IIRC in the late 1950's). Difference in just a few years can make a critical difference. There's a huge difference between an 18 year old girl having sex and a fifteen year old one, in terms of maturity, emotional impact, selection of partner, and so on.

IMHO the consumerist/liberal personal conduct culture ("do what feels good now") leads to behavior that insures no deferred pleasure, instead a constant churning sexual competition among both sexes.

That competition IMHO is driving a lot of the "stupid" behavior. Why do teen boys behave in high-testosterone indicating stunts? Because girls select on testosterone alone, all too often.

Other things (absence of fathers, positive male role models in culture, and personal interactions, consumerism) may make things worse, but that to me is what is driving the change in behavior over time (1950s-60's to today).

9:31 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


As I told Dadvocate, point taken. You are correct, but when people get overly angry, sometimes people tune out. I think that male bashing is horrendous, for the reasons that many of you give, and especially because it hurts boys who have no understanding of why they are being treated in such an inhumane way. I saw a lawyer on Fox News the other day who is suing Columbia University for discriminating against men because women have a center that is taking up public resources and men don't. He was obviously furious and Neil Cavuto? the host, instead of asking questions about the case kept talking about how mad the lawyer was. If he had kept his cool, he might have been more persuasive and gotten across to more people. Does anger have its place? Of course it does, it is justified in this case --but discussion that leads to change is imperative and in order to do this, the message, rather than the anger must be heard.

6:00 AM, August 24, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

Are teenage boys stupid? No.

Are teenage boys distracted? Indubitably.


9:24 AM, August 24, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Granju's article was just another in a long line of "Life would be great if it weren't for THOSE people" and in this case, THOSE people are teenage boys. Her dumpster-diving for statistics to back up her bitter, whiny invective is as sleazy as anything I have ever seen. And her "raging hormones" argument is precisely the same argument I could make to keep all women out of high office (because as we all know, PMS and the nuclear button just don't go well together).

10:48 AM, August 24, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops. I forgot to mention that my "PMS and the nuclear button" remark was "obviously hyperbolic."

11:16 AM, August 24, 2008  
Blogger Larry J said...

To see just how offensive such statements are, let Ms. try substituting any other group for "teenage boys" and see how quickly she gets fired from her newspaper gig.

"X are stupid"...

"Yes, I'm generalizing. Many X are polite, respectful, accomplished individuals, but those of them who are are pulling this off are doing so by fighting the natural impulses to be idiots that threaten to overtake them every day."

Where instead of teenage boys, X could be:

1. Any racial or ethnic minority
2. Teenage girls
3. Muslims
4. Gays


2:22 PM, August 24, 2008  
Blogger Pablo the Mexican said...

Dear Dr. Helen,

You are a babe. Your husband is lucky to see that big beautiful smile everyday.

I happened upon your blog as I was contemplating the horrific killing/molestation of a young boy by a hiddeous creature who told the court Satan did it.

What is your opinion? How conceptual do you allow your analysis to get? Can you bring other areas of thought and belief into your analysis? (other than book learned psychology).

Thank you for having a good, thought provoking blog.

8:01 PM, August 24, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me see if I have this straight.

Some kid gets hold of a pistol and murders another kid. Brain-dead liberal blogger inescapably concludes teenage boys are stupid and shares her moronic viewpoints with the world. No thought to the lack of responsibility of the gun owner who should have safeguarded the weapon so an obviously disturbed kid would not get hold of it. Teenage boys are idiots she says.

Some gun owner leaves a deadly weapon where a kid can get hold of it and your typical liberal holds teenage boys responsible for the outcome.

Typical. Stupid. Liberal. Idiot. Bitch.

11:23 PM, August 24, 2008  
Blogger Doom said...

Having been a teenage boy, I must say, we can be stupid. As far as hormonally charged, guilty as charged. This is so true that males, at all age groups, die in larger numbers per population, compared to females. We take greater risks, from the time we leave the womb until, finally, we find peace.

The pay-off is that those of us who survive have a fantastic capacity to function in a dangerous world. Whether we face a bear, a lawyer, a burglar, or some other new (and especially old) experience, we have a better, per incident, chance of survival. I would not call that stupid, overall, however. It just is. And, for my part, I like that.

5:46 AM, August 25, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The pay-off is that those of us who survive have a fantastic capacity to function in a dangerous world. Whether we face a bear, a lawyer, a burglar, or some other new (and especially old) experience, we have a better, per incident, chance of survival"


I agree with you on a one-to-one basis vis-a-vis women, but you have to also factor in the very real fact that women can simply get men to work for them. They can tap the experience men have built up.

In other words, if a bear is after a woman, the man can try to take care of the bear while the woman runs away.

Pretty good setup if you think about it.

6:10 AM, August 25, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:10 AM, August 25, 2008  
Blogger Words Twice said...

Some teenage thug violates his probation by assassinating a kid in the cafeteria and your typical liberal holds gun owners responsible for the outcome. Because nobody is ever responsible for their own actions, unless they are someone liberals don’t like.

Typical. Vapid. Disingenuous. Smarmy. Fool.

7:33 AM, August 25, 2008  
Blogger Trust said...

@Doom said... "Having been a teenage boy, I must say, we can be stupid. As far as hormonally charged, guilty as charged. This is so true that males, at all age groups, die in larger numbers per population, compared to females. We take greater risks, from the time we leave the womb until, finally, we find peace."

We're no doubt wired for riskier behaviors than girls. On the flip side, girls are far more prone to the highly emotional. Whereas a man must keep his physicality in check or risk harm to himself and others, a girl who does not keep her emotionality in check wreaks havoc on her own life and the lives of those closest to them. Funny think about boys and girls is they have similar challenges in different aspects of life (such as physicality vs emotionality). One could just easily make the case that girls are stupid, but that would be as sexist and inappropriate as the title of this article.

I've yet to meet a man that is as sexist as a feminist.

8:17 AM, August 25, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

How many of the commenters here have been attacked by a bear?

12:45 PM, August 25, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cham sez:

"How many of the commenters here have been attacked by a bear?"


I've been attacked by a money-hungry manipulator - does that count?

She shore was purty, tho.

12:58 PM, August 25, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cham gets real specific when a point is being made on a figurative level and she gets real general when a specific example is given. And she wouldn't know WHAT you are talking about if you point that out.

That style of argumentation is called "being an irritating weasel".

1:00 PM, August 25, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

No, jg, you mention that you believe that a man would "try to take care of the bear" where as a woman will run away.

I would like to know more about this. What does "take care of a bear" mean? Have you ever taken care of a bear? And what study to you use to back up your claims regarding the different way men and women deal with bears.

I've been charged by a bear a few times and just last week by a moose. I'm fascinated by your expertise on the subject.

1:54 PM, August 25, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

As a single mom of 3 boys (11, 16 & 23) I can vouch that they are stupid on occasion. But no more stupid than some of the girls they've known.

My two older ones are often times disgusted with the behavior of some females these days. My youngest is just beginning to see it.

It isn't just one gender thats to blame for problems, it never is.

4:24 PM, August 25, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Taking care of the bear" may mean shooshing it away from the food or ultimately shooting it if it gets too aggressive.

I realize that you are just bursting with the news that you rassle bears while the wimp boys around you cower in the corner. Great, Elly May Clampett, you are not the usual woman.

I'm not going to provide personal anecdotes because they are just too easy to ... make up ... on the Internet.

Now I'll let you get back to your moose.

4:29 PM, August 25, 2008  
Blogger kjbe said...

Are boys just stupid?

No, of course not.

Next question.

4:41 PM, August 25, 2008  
Blogger Decoupled Debit said...

They are bundles of energy, risk taking, and curiosity. Who need Male mentoring. Who need an Older Male to teach them Anger Management, discipline, respect for Self and others. To teach them how to control their emotions, how to properly treat Women and Girls.

This wisdom was imparted to Boys for Generations by their Father. This method of cultural transmission has been broken. Men are losing their Chip in the Familial Game. And are losing interest in participation whatsoever.

Conservatives and Churches instead of seeing this. Are in fact siding with the Feminists. Who insist that Men must be held accountable while Women are held blameless.

This is vacuous nonsense and destructive of a sane culture. Our Prisons are full of the products of Single Mother Homes. And our Cemeteries are filled with the suicides of our Young Men. And our Fathers who have been wrongly and unjustly removed by the Millions from their Families.

Feminism is evil. There can be no other conclusion.

5:03 PM, August 25, 2008  
Blogger Doom said...


Two things. First, men will only work for a woman if their is an interest. Quite honestly, I will not work for most women. Even a girlfriend has to choose to be helped and then convince me that the effort is worth the risk. Most risks I have taken have been for my own purposes.

As well, whether I have been attacked by a bear or not, which I haven't, does not change the fact that I have put myself in a position to be attacked by a bear (or other man, John Law, etc.) far more than any sister I have ever met. Few women put themselves into any risk at all, almost ever, barring poor choices in partners, based mostly upon emotional improbability and self deprecating natures. Even then, it seems, if there is a real perceived risk of death, the relationship is escaped (when it is deemed safest to do so).

Any other questions or doubts you have you will need to answer on your own. Most likely, however, you are wholly incapable of that analysis. Still, good luck. Luck it probably all you have, weak as it is.

1:50 AM, August 26, 2008  
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