The War on Male Students

Editor’s NoteThis article has been reprinted here with permission from Johnathan Taylor, founder of A Voice For Male Students (AVFMS). AVFMS is an excellent resource for concerned parents and college students that are (un)aware of the persecution facing young men and boys in a Western educational system. This excellent article covers the high points of the crises men face in education, and there are references available for anyone willing to dig. -VZ

Introduction

America’s colleges and universities are, in theory, indispensable institutions in the development of critical minds and the furthering of individual rights, honest inquiry, and the core values of liberty, legal equality, and dignity. Instead, they often are the enemies of those qualities and pursuits, denying students and faculty their voices, their fundamental rights, and even their individual humanity.

– Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Mission & Background statement

First, a brief note about war

I would like to preface this page with the disclaimer that I do not think the rhetoric of war is appropriate in all situations concerning men’s issues. “War” is a strong term, and while I do believe it should be used boldly and unrepentantly (where warranted), I also believe it should be used with discretion.

It also bears mention that what society normally and narrowly conceptualizes as “war” might discourage people from properly classifying such phenomena when such a term is appropriate. Wars are fought in a variety of ways. Sometimes they are fought by overt aggression and characterized by grand displays of power. At other times they are fought by subtle policies of attrition, invented and enforced behind closed doors.

Phrases like “The Cold War” were created for this purpose: to shore up our limited definitions of broad-scale conflict, and to help the public come to terms with a war that was indisputably present, nontraditional though its methods were.

There are a great many inequities men and boys face in academia that have become deeply entrenched in the last few decades. I divide them into three main areas: educational attainmentinstitutional bias, and rights and protections. While this site sometimes deals with each issue in isolation, it would be dishonest for me to pretend as though these problems were created in a vacuum or randomly fell out of the sky.

And while I do place great value upon educating society out of maladaptive policies and attitudes (which we must always continue to do), it would also be dishonest for me to pretend as though everyone – including those who stand to lose from the institutionalization of more equitable practices – are amenable to reason. This especially includes those who have sold themselves to money, established ideology, and politics.

That is why, among other functions, part of this site’s mission is to promote the equal human rights of men and boys in education by “thoughtfully, tactically, and aggressively foster a culture of accountability toward those who display and promote institutional bias against men and boys.” It is also why this site recommends and supports, when appropriate, provocative tactics and direct action (source: AVFMS Mission and Values).

I will now illustrate some of the dynamics of the present conflict as they relate to each of the three main areas of educational equity described earlier. These illustrations are not intended to be holistically representative of the problem, but should serve as a modest introduction.

Educational Attainment & Well-Being

Also: see main page regarding this topic.

Consider these data on college graduation rates:

Four Graduation Rates, Degrees, Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate, by Sex and Percentage, United States (new version)

Notice in the graphs above that these disparities in educational attainment are not new at all; on the contrary, they have existed for decades and grown to chasmic proportions. The only thing that is new is the willingness of a principled few to create a conversation about them.

Thomas Newkirk, author of the book Why Boys Fail, also authored the article “Stop avoiding the issue of failing boys.” In this article he reminds us that students in the United States “rank at the bottom of the developed world” in terms of college graduation rates, and that “Hardly a month goes by without another major foundation or education advocacy group reminding us of the peril our country faces if we don’t send more students to college.” He then says:

Interestingly, however, there’s something all these groups studiously avoid talking about. These U.S. education numbers look bad primarily because the schools are failing boys…the gender angle never gets mentioned.Popular, well-thought-out solutions, which include strengthening the high school curriculum, building better after-school programs and making college more affordable, skirt the obvious solution of reaching out to failing boys specifically…those omissions are striking, given that boosting the number of men earning college degrees should be the low-hanging-fruit remedy. Why the silence?

– Thomas Newkirk

Indeed, why the silence.

Whether through tuition or taxes, we pay rather comfortable salaries to administrators with such titles as “President of Diversity,” “President of Student Success,” “President of Student Engagement,” “Diversity Coordinator,” and so forth, along with all their attendant vice-presidents, co-presidents, Title IX Coordinators, etc. – not to mention the Department of Education – to be the watchdogs for broadening trends of inequity. In essence, it is their job to know, and we pay them well with the expectation that they should.

During the three decades following 1978, when women began graduating college at greater rates than men, when faculty and administrators have sponsored programs, practices, studies, and reforms on gender equity, it has virtually always been for the benefit of women and girls. This has been the case even when female students were flourishing (1990s onward) while the problems distinctively afflicting male students – underperformance, suicide, emotional disturbances, boy-averse curricula and educational environments, lack of positive male role-models, learning and behavioral disorders, misdiagnosis and overmedication, and so forth – were becoming deeply entrenched.

Even today, this late into the game, if you visit the Department of Education’s page on grants and programs for gender equity, it will list only programs, grants, and initiatives for women and girls (see more here and here and here). Absolutely none are listed for men and boys.

If the disparities in educational attainment were new, if they were small, if they were not attended by a wide array of afflictions distinctive to male students, and if there was no evidence of institutional bias against men and boys in education, we might reasonably conclude that some leeway in academia failing to address these problems is understandable.

But when the problem of educational underattainment is attended by a wide variety of other problems distinctively affecting boys, when these problems persist not just for years but decades, when the inequities deepen from a trench to a chasm, and when they have been coupled by over thirty years of radio silence from our educational institutions, there comes a time when it is no longer reasonable to conclude that well-intentioned people are making honest mistakes.

As stated earlier, we pay people to know these things and work toward creating a conversation about institutional inequity. And they have done so, for everyone except men and boys. If this is the first time you have seen this data, consider asking why you are hearing it first from me. Why aren’t our topmost educational institutions sounding the alarm? Why aren’t you hearing it from them?

Which brings us to the next section.

Institutional Bias

Also: see main page regarding this topic.

Our educational institutions are quick to embrace new ideas and worldviews that become socially or politically fashionable. Unfortunately, one of the worldviews the academic community began to widely adopt in the late 20th century was misandry – prejudice and hatred against men and boys – although they did not recognize it as such at the time, let alone call it that.

In the 1970s and 1980s, a new culture emerged in our educational institutions. This culture divided men and women into separate and antagonistic political classes, and perverted the movement for gender equity into a zero-sum game in which acceptable faculty, administrators, and some students must only advocate for one “side” – that side being women and girls. Equality no longer meant creating a balance, and no longer would it be permissible to say that both sexes have issues; according to fashionable politics, women alone had collective needs, and men and boys only “needed” to be taken down a peg.

In 2006, the front page of Newsweek magazine read “The Boy Crisis: at Every Level of Education they are Falling Behind. What to do?” In response, Dr. Sandra J. Anderson of Ohio State University, had this to say:

Boys in a ‘crisis’? in my grandmother’s day, only men could vote. When I was a girl, only boys could play sports. In the Roman Catholic Church, only men can be priests. In certain societies today and throughout history, girls can’t attend school, and women can’t work or show their faces in public. In China, girl babies are discarded because boys are favored.

In America, glass ceilings block females from access to power, money and leadership. On playgrounds, a common taunt among boys falls along these lines: ‘You cry/act/talk/throw like a girl.’ So for the fraction of a nanosecond in human history that boys are perceived to be on the short end of the stick compared with girls, you call this a ‘crisis’? C’mon, guys. You take a turn at second-class status for once.

– Professor Sandra J. Anderson, Ohio State University

Consider what would happen if the situation were reversed and girls were falling rapidly behind, and a professor in higher education had said this:

Girls in a ‘crisis’? In my grandfather’s day (and still today), only men were drafted into war. In his day, when the Titanic went down, the crew called for “women and children first” to be saved while men were left to die. Before child labor laws were passed, countless boys were subject to heavy manual labor that often resulted in their injury and death. Prior to the 1900s, husbands were often punished for the crimes wives committed. Newborn boys all around the world are genitally mutilated as part of a religious “right.”In certain societies, men cannot be stay-at-home fathers. In America, men are and have always been overrepresented at the bottom of society, and are the majority sex among the homeless (85%), prison inmates (93%), workforce injuries and deaths (93%), suicides (80%), and die 5-10 years earlier depending on their race and more often from every major disease. So for the fraction of a nanosecond in human history that girls are perceived to be on the short end of the stick compared with boys, you call this a ‘crisis’? C’mon girls, you take a turn at second-class status for once.

Men at bottom

What you have just witnessed is one of the many denials, rationalizations, deflections, self-serving reinterpretations, and blatantly misandric statements that many in the academic community employ to dehumanize men and boys – and by extension male students as a group. As I have demonstratedelsewhere, and as is alluded to in the picture above, men and boys have always been overrepresented at both the top and the bottom of society (whereas women are more clustered in the middle), and both sexes have been historically limited and empowered, and privileged and disadvantaged – each in different ways.

We should not use men’s overrepresentation at the top of society as a means to dismiss the educational needs of men and boys any more than we should use men’s overrepresentation at the bottom of society to reflexively dismiss the educational needs of women and girls. In other words, as is said in this site’s mission and values statement, “gender equality is not a zero-sum game; the mere existence of issues or needs for one sex does not automatically invalidate the existence of issues and needs of the other.” But unfortunately, this is not what many in academia believe.

It has never been a one-sided state of affairs, and men and boys – and male students by extension – are hardly deserving of the “payback” that seems to be so widely accepted in society, but perhaps most distinctively in the culture of our educational institutions. There is no reason to suspect that Dr. Anderson has never heard of the male-only military draft, the circumstances surrounding why child labor laws were drafted, or what happened when the Titanic went down. There is no reason to suspect Dr. Anderson thinks the carpeted, air-conditioned offices where she works in comfort every day magically fell out of the sky, or were built by anyone other than lower-class men expending the sweat and blood that Dr. Anderson takes for granted.

But even if it were the case that most men historically lived lives of genuine ease while women fought in their wars, worked and died in coalmines, went down with the ship, paid all of men’s expenses, and were punished for all the crimes men committed, wouldn’t it be better for both sexes in the long run for those concerned with women’s issues to rise above the cycle of hatred rather than perpetuate it? Wouldn’t it be better than waiting until a problem builds up to disastrous proportions?

Dr. Anderson’s apathy toward men and boys – indeed, her denial of their humanity – is not a result of her ignorance of the widespread suffering and sacrifices of men and boys. No, it is not because she does not know; it is because she does not care. Educating her will do nothing to help her adopt a more egalitarian position or develop empathy toward men and boys; she has already made up her mind, and is set in her ways.

And since she holds a very powerful position, she is effectively standing in the way of progress.

Here is a statement by Catherine Comins, Assistant Dean of Students at Vassar College, regarding two young men who were falsely accused of rape on campus:

They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions.

– Catherine Comins, former assistant dean of students, Vassar College

Imagine if a man – especially a male assistant dean of students who oversees student affairs – had acknowledged that female students who were raped experienced a great deal of pain, but declared that it is not a pain that he would necessarily have spared them. How much longer would he have been employed in his position? Male professors and administrators have incited outrage and firestorms of protestors, and have been forced to apologize, or have been fired, for saying much less.

But when Catherine Comins made her statement, there was no outrage. There was no apology. There was nothing. It was one of the many anti-male statements that the culture of academia just passed over, as if nothing unexpected had happened. And again, it is not as though Ms. Comins does not see that her male students are experiencing a great deal of pain. It is not because she does not know. It is because she does not care. No amount of education, no amount of facts, and no degree of asking nicely will change her mind; she is a bigot, and bigots – being “true believers” – are not amenable to facts or the humanity of others.

Although Dr. Anderson and Catherine Comins are addressing two different issues – educational attainment on the one hand, and rights and protections involving false accusations of sexual misconduct on the other – what is consistent between the two is a zero-sum approach to gender issues that denies the humanity of men and boys as a group. In Men’s Movement circles, we call this misandry: prejudice against men and boys.

Unfortunately, Dr. Anderson and Catherine Comins are not alone in their beliefs. Academia is simply filled with people just like them.

Rights and Protections

Also: see main page regarding this topic.

Hand-in-hand with the deepening culture of misandry has come the erosion of the rights and protections of male students, especially freedom of expression and due process for those who are charged with sexual misconduct. This is especially true concerning sexual assault, which all public colleges and universities are now required to adjudicate.

Many people question whether academic institutions should be in the business of adjudicating felony offenses when they clearly lack the investigative power to do so effectively. But more disturbing than the prospect of incompetent bureaucrats adjudicating serious crimes is the systemic lack of substantial due process and procedural protections that are now afforded those wrongly accused, as well as the vague, broad, and sometimes discriminatory definitions of sexual assault that many institutions adopt, which go far beyond the legal definitions of sexual assault. A brief list of them is provided in the Summary of Issues page.

As prejudiced worldviews are premised upon ignorance and lies, suppression of dissent is necessary to maintain the establishment of such a worldview. Thus along with a deepening academic culture of misandry has emerged an atmosphere of censorship and intolerance. When students put up posters at Arizona State University to form a men’s issues student group, their posters were ripped down.

At a Canadian university, when student Sarah Santhosh attempted to create a men’s issues group on campus, the Ryerson Student Union quickly rewrote the rules on student organizations to prohibit the formation of any men’s issues student groups that did not make women’s issues central to their activities or that acknowledge the concept of misandry, effectively shutting down her ability to form a men’s issues group.

At the University of Toronto, protesters pulled fire alarms, barricaded doors, screamed, stomped, shouted, used noise-enhancing devices, and banged on walls right outside the lecture hall in order to prevent Drs. Paul Nathanson and Kathryn Young from speaking on men’s issues. Campus administrators and campus police, when they are not themselves actively taking part in violating the free speech rights of their students (see “The Penis Monologues”), often transform into spineless invertebrates and look the other way when students and faculty violate their rights to expression. See the truth for yourself:

Conclusion

Our academic institutions have in many areas become bastions of deliberate inequity, willful prejudice, and self-righteous intolerance. Ideas like equality and tolerance of diversity are now just words many say, rather than values they actually believe in.

As I have said elsewhere, the cause of educational equity for men and boys cannot be just an academic movement because the barriers to widespread institutional change are not primarily academic, but cultural and political. Solving boys’ academic problems requires far more than just a change in education policy. It also requires a simultaneous transformation of the moral fabric of the academic culture.

And the reality is that many people do not want that kind of change. Many careers are dependent upon the status quo. Many people are simply too far gone to change. They will not, as poet Dylan Thomas would say, “go gently into that good night.” They will put it off, ignore it, set up stumbling blocks in front of it, lie about it, attempt to defund it, physically assault it, and so forth.

As with all wars, there will be risks and sacrifices. That is the unfortunate yet inescapable nature of war itself. Websites like this one, among others, exist to mitigate these risks by providing important news, commentary, resources, and advice based upon experience and long observation. There once was a time when men and boys in academia were truly alone.

But thankfully, that is no longer the case.

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