Northern Valley Beacon

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Monday, December 05, 2005


Where are the boys?

Boys have become an endangered species at colleges, and are setting themselves up to fail socially and economically as a result. That is the summary of an article in the Sunday Washington Post by Michael Gurian. The article hit hard because I have been fussing and fretting about what i s happening to our young men for some time.

Michael Gurian recounts teaching college classes in which women predominated both in numbers and in the attention they paid to the classes. The boys present, he said, tended to sit dazedly through the classes without registering interest or purpose in being there.

During my last years of active teaching, I noted the same phenomenon. In addition, for a time I was faculty adviser to the student publications and often commented that there would be no publications if we had to depend upon male staff members. We had a few, but the large majority of editorial jobs were filled by women. Few men saw any inherent value in a campus newspaper or yearbook or saw any opportunity to pick up and develop skills that could be of use. This puzzled me. In one course I taught on publications production, the class did hands-on work in editing and laying out the student newspaper. Of the 15 students, two were men. However, every one of those students ended up with a job that was media related. That fact still did not entice young men interested in the communications field to participate on campus publications.

I thought it was a matter of regional culture. The brightest young men left the state to go to college for the most part. There were more women than men enrolled at NSU in general. The young men attending NSU, as is true of much of the student body, had heavy work schedules to finance their educations. I assumed that they found little time or energy to particpate in extra-curricular activities and did not regard campus activities as an important part of a college education.

However, over the years as I talked with professors from other campuses, I found them also puzzling over the declining numbers of young men in their classes and in the tepid interest shown by men who were atttending college. As I have a son who will graduate from high school this May, I am concerned about the diffidence he and his friends show toward education. Something is missing.

But that something is also missing among my daughter's friends. I am dismayed at how many young women are being treated for depression and other mental problems that interfere with their studies. I also note a huge and often bitter and angry division among groups of young women. There are hostilities in the social situation that kids show but do not articulate. I strongly suspect that our school system is unwittingly applying labels of rank and class to kids and that the currents of alienation and rebellion are running strong and deep.

But it is the young men who are most noticeably choosing not to participate in the opportunities afforded by education. For higher education systems facing declines in enrollments because there are fewer students in grade and secondary schools, the lack of interest is an additional cloud on the future of education. Education used to be the gateway to life. Many young people, particularly young men, don't see it that way. We have notions why, but it is time to obtain some real answers.

I am providing the full link to Michael Gurian's article for those who want to pursue this matter:

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