Thursday Book Review: SWAGGER by Lisa Bloom

The story of Karen Klein, the bullied school monitor, touched the nation's heart-strings and ignited a firestorm of debate about unruly behavior. So I asked Lisa Bloom author of the fantastic book SWAGGER for an interview. The book specifically deals with the issues of anti-social young men today. Scroll down to find the purchase link. 

1.  Why are boys particularly discriminated against in our school system?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it discrimination.  I would say that boys tend to be more kinetic, and as we’ve cut physical education and recess and increasingly “teach to the test,” many boys find themselves wiggly, acting up, labeled as “bad,” and feeling as though school doesn’t really welcome their kind.  In addition, parents and teachers have lower expectations for boys’ literacy.  Though the studies show that boys who aren’t reading well by the fourth grade are likely to do poorly in all subjects, drop out of high school, and have a difficult time getting decent jobs, many adults shrug off boys’ school performance as “boys will be boys.”  Lower expectations mean lower achievement, and the cycle continues.

2.  Why did you call the book Swagger?

Because “swagger” is the most popular song lyric in the last decade, across all genres:  rap, hip hop – even the Jonas Brothers are singing about it.  All the boys I interviewed for my book knew all about swagger – they’d laugh and clap each other on the back, puffing up their chests and boast they had more swagger than their buddies.  But parents were mostly ignorant about this phenomenon.

What began as a fun way to boost confidence in boys has morphed into dangerous levels of arrogance.  Our kids are 21st of out 30 developed countries in math scores, for instance, but they are #1 in one area:  confidence!  Many parents unwittingly harm their boys by praising their every breath.  In fact, the latest and best research shows that instilling an air of humility does far more good to your son.  So my first rule for parents is to replace your boys’ swagger with an air of humility, because that will immediately improve his school performance, his emotional health, he’ll be less likely to fight, drink, and do drugs.  That’s a lot of benefit from one little attitude adjustment.

3.  When I (as a female) look around I continue to see males overwhelmingly dominating our culture. (EG: Given that recently a male beat a female to (Democratic) presidency) So where is this male identity crisis? And is this a price females should have to pay?

Men are still doing exceedingly well at the very top:  they dominate as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, the Supreme Court, Congress.  But few of us live at that pinnacle.  As parents, we are concerned about where our boys are right now, and where they’ll be when they finish school.  And in school and the early stages of employment, boys are being outperformed by girls at a stunning rate.  Girls dominate the top 10% of the class; boys crowd the bottom 10%.  Boys are far more likely to be medicated, disciplined, suspended or expelled.  Girls are more likely to graduate from college, and get the prime jobs in their twenties in major US cities.

And hats off to this generation of girls who has charged through the barriers their mothers knocked down for them.  Girls have this stunning success because they do more homework, have better attendance, are more likely to ask for help, and spend more time on extracurricular activities.  But we cannot allow our boys to slip off the radar.  There is nothing innately male about illiteracy or innumeracy.  At a minimum we all want our sons to have a life where he has meaningful work, he can raise a family, and make a contribution.  And many young men are slipping away from this possibility.

4.  Why are so many young men having a hard time finding jobs?

Because our manufacturing base, which was once a third of our economy, is now only about 5%, and because fewer young men have college degrees than young women.  A college degree is the golden ticket to the middle class today.  (In the book I show parents how to get your son through college.  It can be done.) Sixty per cent of new jobs require it.  Nearly every job requires strong reading, writing and communication skills – skills young women have mastered, and young men struggle with.

5.  You call America "incarceration nation" -- why?

Because we incarcerate more of our own people (93% of our inmates are male) than any other country on earth or in human history, and this mass imprisonment is decimating families, communities, and ultimately, all of us.  When I oppose education cuts, for example, the response is always, “Lisa, we just don’t have the money.”  But it’s a lie.  We do have the money.  We just choose to spend it on other things.  On the federal level, obscene levels of military spending.  On the state level, mass incarceration, to the tune of up to $50,000 per year per inmate.
More prisons are being built every day, waiting to lock up the next generation of American boys.  This is a horrific state of affairs, yet so rarely discussed in our culture.

6.  What are your top 4 tips for parents of boys?

1.    Teach your son to lose the swagger
2.    Make your home a reading mecca
3.    Eliminate the competition (TV, video games, wasted computer time.)
4.    Set college expectations early and often.

Of course, in my book I explain how to do all these!

7)  You speak to the culture of 'thugdom'. Do you believe that this is a socio-economic issue, a racial issue or a generic societal issue? If so, why?

This is a problem for all of us.  Rap and hip hop music are the most popular genres for boys of all classes and races, and the majority of the top selling songs celebrate violence, especially gun violence, rape, including rape of little girls, murdering gay men, and illegal drug use.  I have the lyrics in the book and they are sickening.  In video games, TV and movies most popular with boys, nearly every problem is solved with violence.  Parents must oppose these slick, flashy, seductive messages.  In the book I have suggestions for how to have these important conversations.  Because the good news is that according to kids, parents are still their #1 role models.  So we must speak out loudly and often about our values.

Buy the book here:

About Lisa Bloom:

Host of her own national live daily talk show on Court TV for eight years, Lisa is now a regular legal analyst on CBS News, CNN and HLN, appearing frequently on The Early Show, The Insider, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, The Situation Room, The Joy Behar Show, Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell and many other shows. In addition, Lisa runs a prominent Los Angeles based general practice law firm,, representing celebrity clients and ordinary people seeking justice in their lives. 

A popular award-winning speaker to business, student and women’s audiences, Lisa has been interviewed by Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, Rachael Ray, Piers Morgan, Montel Williams, Julie Chen, Harry Smith, Matt Lauer, Diane Sawyer, Charlie Gibson,Tony Danza, Star Jones, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Bill O’Reilly, Shawn Hannity, Joe Scarborough, Tina Brown, Nancy Grace and many others in the United States, England, Ireland, Australia and throughout the English-speaking world. 

Lisa’s first book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, published by Vanguard Books in the summer of 2011, became an instant New York Times bestseller and a favorite of critics. In a full page review, Elle Magazine raved: “Provocative, logical, funny, and relentlessly on-topic.” Think was voted one of the top ten best nonfiction books of 2011 by the readers of

Buy 'Think' here:

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