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Jewish World Review April 25, 2000 / 20 Nissan, 5760

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports


Something just for boys -- AS A MOTHER OF THREE, I am a connoisseur of children's catalogues. So I know that it's often hard to tell one from another. You can get an idea of their amorphous contents by their titles, things like "Playfair Toys," "Safety First," "One Step Ahead" and "Learn and Play."

Rare is the catalogue entry that speaks to building objective measures of character into one's child. Rarer still is the idea of marketing toys, reading material and other items specifically to one sex or the other. Rarest of all is the notion that boys and girls have distinct needs in their formative years. And that in our culture today, boys in particular need to learn that it's OK to be, well, a boy. And a boy's boy at that.

Enter "The All-American Boy's Adventure Catalog," a delightful antidote to this trend. The catalogue is a project of "The Vision Forum" based in San Antonio, Texas, an organization dedicated to building strong families, which is the brainchild of Doug Phillips. (Full disclosure --- I've known Doug, who is the father of both boys and girls, for years.)

The Adventure Catalog is about "Rebuilding a Culture of Virtuous Boyhood" because, the catalog reads, "There is a sacred window of time in a boy's life when everything is possible: He can rescue the damsel in distress, explore uncharted lands with Columbus, or ride with Stonewall Jackson. But this window is shrinking. Fewer boys care about the heroes and histories of the past. The joyful dreams of boyhood have been replaced with a darker and more violent vision . The boys of our culture have forgotten what it means to be a boy and to dream the noble dreams of youth."

The Boy's Adventure Catalog wants to help restore those possibilities --- apparently along with plain old fun --- to a boy's life. So there's "The Boy's First Toolbox" with real tools because "in centuries past," the catalog says "boys grew up beside their fathers. . . the most important man in their lives. A father with a hammer or saw in his hands was a hero to the little boy who watched him perform his task with skill."

There's the "Leather Crafting Kit" because "leather is the unrivaled material of choice for the all-American boy." There's the "Colonial Signal Whistle" and the "Patrick Henry Hat." There's a bag of Indian arrowheads, a "Classic Coon Skin Cap," a crystal kit, a telescope, a boomerang, and a rock tumbler that turns regular rocks into "smooth beauties" --- all just for starters. (Appropriate age ranges are suggested.)

There are even things like "The Bushman Adventure Knife," the "Trumark Slingshot, " and a "Swiss Army Shovel." In fact, the very first entry in the catalog says that "A boy will never forget the first real pocket-knife his father gives him." There's even a "Frontier Tomahawk" (for boys 16 and older) with a 4" cutting edge of forged steel "honed sharp."

Scandalous? Appalling? Some would think so. But the point is that if a boy is infused by his father with proper notions of bravery, chivalry and responsibility, he can and will appropriately handle such things which are, in the end, really just tools.

The catalog is infused with the call to build such virtue and faithfulness into a boy. Again and again the Bible, and great Christian and American heroes, are emphasized. So there's the "Best Patriotic History Set for Young Readers," a set of books on "evangelism and adventure" in the Old West, and a volume on Sergeant York, who won the Congressional medal of honor in World War One. As Adventure Catalog notes, "There was a time when every school boy in America knew the story of Alvin York, but like so many patriotic heroes, his story has been relegated to the back of the library shelf." There's a whole section devoted to the Titanic, and the nobility of the men who put women and children first on the night of her fateful sinking.

Sadly, of course, more and more boys are today missing fathers who can or will teach them such lessons. But that is all the more reason for boys to learn about the heroes of the ages.

Yes the girl's catalog from Vision Forum (I'm guessing it will not include the "honed sharp" "Frontier Tomahawk") is in production. In the meantime, the Vision Forum and the All-American Boy's Adventure Catalog can be reached by calling 1-888-322-8718 or on the web at ""

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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03/06/00: McCain not what he seemed at first
02/29/00: An effective answer to social problems
02/22/00: The feminists' newest target: Toys
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01/31/00: It doesn't take a village to raise a child --- it takes a scheduler
01/25/00: Psuedo science and global warming
01/18/00: Socially responsible nonsense
01/10/00: Monica may be onto something
12/27/99: Sometimes it matters quite a lot what government thinks
12/17/99: Teens have no inherent 'right to privacy'
12/10/99: Buying a minivan and tossing the SUV
12/03/99: On the mommy track
11/05/99:The waste of recycling
11/01/99: Welcome to Harvard pre-school
10/22/99: No disaster for women that Dole is out
10/19/99: 'Humanitarian' hypocrites
10/15/99: On a first-name basis with a three-year-old

© 2000, Scripps Howard News Service