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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Boys vs. Girls in Education

Michael Gurian has an excellent article on how the educational system in America fails boys, and how a generation of focusing only on the problems of girls has left boys behind, perhaps critically.

The trend of females overtaking males in college was initially measured in 1978. Yet despite the well-documented disappearance of ever more young men from college campuses, we have yet to fully react to what has become a significant crisis. Largely, that is because of cultural perceptions about males and their societal role. Many times a week, a reporter or other media person will ask me: "Why should we care so much about boys when men still run everything?"

It's a fair and logical question, but what it really reflects is that our culture is still caught up in old industrial images. We still see thousands of men who succeed quite well in the professional world and in industry -- men who get elected president, who own software companies, who make six figures selling cars. We see the Bill Gateses and John Robertses and George Bushes -- and so we're not as concerned as we ought to be about the millions of young men who are floundering or lost.

But they're there: The young men who are working in the lowest-level (and most dangerous) jobs instead of going to college. Who are sitting in prison instead of going to college. Who are staying out of the long-term marriage pool because they have little to offer to young women. Who are remaining adolescents, wasting years of their lives playing video games for hours a day, until they're in their thirties, by which time the world has passed many of them by.

Over at Girl in the Locker Room, Robin Herman criticizes Gurian's article for one phrase: well-documented disappearance of ever more young men from college campuses, calling him "flat wrong" and citing statistics showing an increasing percentage of men in college (but not increasing as much as women). Here are my thoughts on that criticism:

I think Mr. Gurian is not necessarily "flat wrong," as the baseline from 1983 to 2003 is a greater percentage of people in college. Consider that there are fewer good jobs that require only a high school education, and that students are getting more advanced degrees and taking longer to finish bachelor degrees. The first point is harder to quantify, but what percentage of the observed increase is attributable to the other points? If time spent in college is just 30% higher now, then men are in effect decreasing their representation. (There's the perspective that four year college has become five years for most people; that's a 25% increase right there.)

A decreasing percentage of men in college, especially relative to the percentage of men in full-time work, is worrisome to me. Unless you think that husbands and wives are both going to want the poorer-earning husband to stay home, it's problematic that in twenty years, so many male workers won't be college educated and will be trying to support a family on a smaller salary.

I observe that Herman's logic fails on the subject of Title IX. I note that showing an increasing participation of women in college athletics, but at a percentage less than their percentage of the student body, is not enough to satisfy many Title IX advocates.

Another commenter, Bill, made the same point on women earning less than men: "But if you really want to be clever, argue that just because men, who on average have more job experience and work longer hours, earn 1 dollar for every 73 cents woman earn, that doesn't mean that women earn too little. After all, the real purchasing power of women's wages is higher than it was thirty years ago!"


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