Starting at the Beginning

Anyone with eyes and mind open knows that male advantage and female disadvantage has been over-stated and conversely male disadvantage and female advantage, understated—-more at minimized, ignored or denied.

Male disadvantage is substantial, yet there is little comment passed on it and essentially no effort made to end it by the sources of power in western society: intellectuals (and universities more generally) political parties, courts or the mainstream media.

The disadvantage ranges from males being more likely to be caught in the maws of the criminal justice machinery like every disadvantaged minority from African Americans to Aboriginals, to males having a significantly shorter lifespan—-like every disadvantaged minority.

One would think those two items alone would bring considerable awareness to male disadvantage, but most people are unaware of it and  even fewer seem to care—-perhaps due to the sources of power being so uncaring about, even hostile to, males; particularly males who don’t just accept the male lot in life and “suck it up”.

If males early demise is the end point of their disadvantage, what is the beginning point? The answer is ‘the educational system.’ The disadvantage for males on college campuses is apparent from the dramatic reduction in male enrollment to well below 50 % and dropping in many faculties, particularly the humanities, to sexist “sensitivity training” for males, to a demonization of male sexuality combined with a celebration of female sexuality amongst other actions creating an environment hostile to masculinity—-but just in males.  Not to mention some ‘female only’ scholarships or bursaries.

But sadly, the disadvantage seems to begin at the beginning years of school and continue throughout.

When I attended first year university, lo those many years ago, the first psychology text I had, made the observation that our society was failing boys. How? By making schools such “feminine institutions”,  valuing above all else, students sitting still, being quiet and colouring between the lines. An agenda ill suited for energetic, squirmy little boys. Then feminism came along and made things worse for boys. Educators discovered that boys could do relatively well with the pressure and excitement of final exams, while girls shone on day to day activities. The upshot was many schools moving more of the final grade to day to day work,  which further advantaged girls.

Accordingly, with an endless obsession about “what works for females” in  our culture and a conflation of the distinct concepts of “getting more for females” and “creating gender equality”  our educational institutions changed a system already imbalanced in favour of girls learning and made it more imbalanced in females’ favour by focussing on the relatively small problems faced by girls and ignoring the big problems faces by boys.

The unwillingness to help boys can become a sexist pathology. And not just from power sources.  Sadly, disturbingly, from more ‘every day’ people as well.  There was a case in the news a few years ago, from I believe the Province of Nova Scotia (although perhaps elsewhere in the Maritimes) in Canada. A school principal was aware that boys in his school (elementary, I believe) were doing poorly in English and so he set up, as an option, an all boys class.

They showed a clip from an all boy classroom (I assume from his school, although they didn’t say). It was a sight to behold. A male teacher, at the front of the class, went through the multiplication tables with them. The idea was to make learning exciting. So the boys were supposed to shout out the answer if they knew it. Some boys were standing up; other even standing on their chairs, all shouting out the answers—-excited to be learning.  On their feet.  Shouting, laughing, learning.  A different learning style from most girls. One that seemed to work for the boys.

The pathological sexism? Some parents of girls complained about the ‘all boys’ classes. All the these parents were women, the principal noted, rather bravely. All these women accused him—-remember, all he is doing is giving under-performing boys an option—of trying to get the girls to want to be ‘barefoot and in the kitchen’. The other bizarre and pathological part, is that this school already had given girls the option of ‘all girl’ classes, based on the girls lower performance in math. That program had already been instituted and was put in place without also doing the same for boys at the same time, even though at that school, the under-performing girls were doing better in math than the under-performing boys were doing in English.

So we start with a system more designed for most girls than for most boys. Make it more sexist yet, through means such as tweaking the grading system, then make it more sexist than ever by having a special ‘girls only’ class, without simultaneously having a special ‘boys only’ class—and then when finally something is done for the boys, a number of women complain that somehow something bad is being done to girls.

This accords entirely with my own experience with the educational system with my son, as he was growing up. In elementary school or it might have been the low middle school years, he and a group of other boys got detention. What did he do, I asked him? “Threw snowballs at some girls” he replied honestly. “Why” I asked? His reply: because they threw some at us yesterday. Hmm. Did the girls get detention too, I asked? No, he said. Why not, I asked? “Girls tattle. Boys don’t.” he insightfully informed me. At one level I admired his young chivalry, but at another level I knew it to be a bad thing. Times have changed. Chivalry is inappropriate in a age of putative equality. I should have called the school, but my son dissuaded me. But you’d think a teacher or principal would have had enough sense to ask the ‘why’ question without a call from a parent. There can never be gender equality as long as females remain so free to run crying to authority—even over actions they’ve participated in, or as in this case, been the instigators.

Another significant sexist thing in middle school and high school, were ‘same sex’ phys ed classes—for girls only. Almost too obvious say—-but offer both sexes or neither sex the opportunity for a same sex class. Even a proposition that basic can get sexist push back these days, however.

The one sexism that annoyed me the most however, was seeing school teachers approach a group of misbehaving teens, “Ladies—” they would say. Then “boys—” they would continue.

One can say to females ‘you’ve come a long way baby’. One can’t say that to males. Although I suppose we could say to males re eliminating areas of female advantage and areas of male disadvantage, “you’ve come a long way—-backwards”.

Let’s change all that for the next generation of boys.

Let’s start right now.


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