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Men and Women

Men and Boys in Today's University

This story from Inside Higher Ed reports on a conference held recently at the University of Pennsylvania--ostensibly for the purpose of addressing the question of decreasing male enrollment and achievement in higher education. It is a perfect example of what happens when otherwise intelligent human beings operate on ideological assumptions and to the exclusion of evidence that confirms older notions about human nature that they wish to keep discredited.

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.

Categories > Men and Women

Discussions - 9 Comments

Crab people...Crab people...Crab people. If you are a southpark fan you will get it.

In reality, I think this is an important issue, but most of the people that I knew in school were jaded to a point that they just ignored the stuff you are talking about and made fun of it. If someone comes in naive, thinking that the school is some sort of grand service that exists to mold them into the leaders of the future then they will be having issues. If you understand that the university views you as a means to an end of a loan check then you have a better chance of not getting into this conflict of virtues.

Crimes being up on campus probably does have something to do with the frustration. I think it has to do with a larger trend in society though of people just thinking they are owed XYZ. People put personal photos online all the time and it is sort of a paparatzi mentality of people wanting to feel that they are famous, as our society promotes this above all else. Movies and TV portray college as "gettin laid" and having crazy parties and such. I think the upswing in sex crimes has to due with the preceived pressure to live up to this movie image of the cool college guy and the frustration when this does not come easy.

A son sent me this. It is truly and inadverently hilarious. As an example of college life, it is pathetic. It also makes me want to mention that my son who went to the Citadel got an education; my son who went to Kent State participated in the same kind of intellectual absurdity you can hear in that video and after more than two years knows nothing, maybe less than when he went in. The one school resists feminization, the second one embraces it wholeheartedly. Is that pertinent? I am not sure, but am just noting the fact.

Yet, aren't there all sorts of reasons why there are fewer men on campuses than women? Look to Peter Schramm's posts about the satisfaction of working with your hands. Employment for women comparable to being mechanics are nursing or dental hygiene and for those you need a degree of some sort. I know young women who are seeking college degrees in fashion design and some taking English degrees intending to get jobs as secretaries and office workers or as sales reps. Consider also that military service is a positive option right now, more for men than women. Trade schools that will make you an electrician or plumber are not considered higher education, although they provide further education and do not seem pointless. There are many employment opportunities for men without college degrees that do not exist for women. In addition, the fact that many people have graduated from college and find their degrees useless in getting jobs has to be discouraging to practical people.

I liked that video...the non conformists who all had ibooks, ipods, and speekers in their back packs. Way to stick it to corporate America.

I think the secret will be to stop feminizing our boys but also to shed them of their puerile boorishness at the same time and make them true men. Giving them true manly heroes in history and literature to study at an earlier age may help them become real men by the time they even get to college and they might just know a lot more academically as well.

Tony Williams, that was part of what I meant by the one son knowing less now than he did. He was raised on manly heroes in history and literature. All of my children were. My daughter finds the males of the real world pale and disappointing as a result.

Yes, Brutus, but those guys don't drink the corporate water (whatever that means).

When a society has been so bombarded by negative stereotypes in all media for over 40 years, is it any wonder? Listen to television series and advertisements of all kinds everywhere but especially on TV because everywhere the male of the species is denigrated despicably. I wish now that I could take back my demand for "equal" rights for women....women that have largely disappeared in our society leaving only females!!

Kate: Great video--"don't taze me bro!" and great comments. There is much in all you say. The whole question of vocational education is something that is begging to be revisited as higher education, as such, must change in response to the demands of the market and of technology. It will either become something truly special and unique as it was in the days before it became a "need" or a "right" for everyone or it will become even more confused, watered down and pathetic than it has already become. The sad outcome, it seems to me, of equating vocational education or making it a part of liberal arts education has been the denigration of both.

The kids in that video were ridiculous, but don't confuse that one with the famous don't taze me bro. That guy asked John kerry about he and bush being bonesmen and was forced from the room for asking a question when he protested this they tazed him. In a free and open society that sort of thing should seem repugnat.

"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?"

That's the nature of liberalism- it does not come to grips with the nature of man, accept it, and work with it- it denies man, attacks him, and tries to kill him. Liberalism is an inhuman philsophy that only makes society worse- I can't believe anyone votes for liberal candidates in our society.

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