Men and Women
The trend has been noted for years and it is now impossible to deny the vast and growing gap between male and female achievement in higher education. Even professors who have been more inclined to emphasize the inequities for women have had admit the problem. What may be worse, however, is the vast over-representation of men among campus judicial offenders. I have no statistics suggesting that male offenders have not always outnumbered female offenders (and I doubt that one could find them if he tried) but the story seems to suggest an uptick in the number and intensity of the crimes. There seems to be more violence and, of course, more crimes of a sexual nature. Recognizing facts is one thing, however. Understanding reality is always another.
Predictably, this conference trotted out the usual refrains that now seem to me to represent something more of a "stereotype" than the old stereotypes used to do. Two "studies" (described as "qualitative") formed the basis of much of the discussion at this conference and most of the substance of this article. In these studies, men at public university on the east coast and men at a private university on the west coast were asked a series of questions about their feelings on being a man. As one of the researchers put it, "The men in both studies really described external pressures to perform hegemonic masculinity." In English, this means that these boys are finding it difficult to be both manly men and succeed in an academic environment. But instead of questioning whether these young men are getting any guidance about how to do that--whether there is anything about the college experience of today that gives positive outlet to a manly instinct--these geniuses are suggesting that what these guys need is more "women's studies" courses! They need to find ever more and clever ways to pound square pegs into round holes? Does it ever occur to university types that the the bad behavior and underachievement we're seeing on campus after campus across the country may be, precisely, in reaction to (largely successful) attempts to make college life less "manly" or masculine? Does it ever occur to any of them that all of their efforts to take aggression and competition out of the academic and extracurricular activities on campus have only succeeded in making them unattractive to a good number of students who ought to be among our best and brightest? So as colleges and universities have softened things, they have not (as they had hoped) succeeded in softening or rooting out these manly men. They have only succeeded in pushing them away and giving them an excuse to ignore alleged "authority" and wreak havoc in a completely undirected and unintelligent ways. Would it not have been wiser to have come to grips with the nature of these exuberant young men, accepted it, and allowed them productive outlets? But that would have required their professors (many of whom have a notable lack of thumos at their core) to admit the fact (and the salutary necessity) of it in others.