Friday, April 28, 2006

A Dream Deferred

So, I’m scanning my regular newswire and I came across Dr. Helen's latest post. It is an interview with Mike Lasalle, who runs a website called Mens News Daily. The parts of the interview I find interesting are about men’s run-ins with the legal system (especially regarding divorce) and the parts about male – female relationships as it relates to marriage and companionship. As a single guy, I enjoy reading about those things.

But then comes the part where I start rolling my eyes. This part always has to do with the ‘education gap’ between men and women. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that such a gap does not exist - I know it does and that gap is indeed a problem. But the reasons for it that are repeated over and over and over again on the right side of the blogosphere just smack of politicizing an issue that isn’t really political. It is like listening to conspiracy theories. “The feminists!!” “The Politically Correct!!” “The Echo Chamber!!” “The Lack of Academic Freedom!!” They exclaim.

“Fewer men are going to college because the fast track to education is reserved for the 'disadvantaged' sex - women. Men are thus squeezed to fit the new agenda, thereby themselves becoming a disadvantaged underclass: college graduation rates for men are fast approaching a lopsided 40% compared to women. Title IX is a clear example of gender-conscious social engineering.”

Isn’t that type of behavior supposed to be a ‘whiny liberal’ attitude? I thought conservatism meant standing up for yourself and not blaming others for setbacks. I thought conservatism was about doing it smarter and better than the other guy (or girl).

Many fellas I know who didn’t go or didn’t finish college have a higher earning income than I do. Right now, the guys I know who are in college are mostly going back to school or going to school for the first time years and years after graduating from high school. They all earn serious money, and many of them have families. They aren’t traditional students and they aren’t going to traditional schools. Unlike many high school grads, they actually appreciate the college education for its potential, and have a much better idea what they want their degree to be in. They have focus, they have drive, and the things that are more burdensome to them than the political philosophies of instructors are the redundant high school mentality of the ‘General Studies’ sections of their academic programs.

Maybe I’m just an idealist, but BIO 1101 + Lab seems a little more important than “oh, my instructor voted for Kerry.”

These men are working on their educations later because they had other priorities back in the day that had nothing to do with the political agendas of the academic class – they just didn’t have the cash or the inclination to take 4 years off from earning real money. I call this a ‘deferred reward’ that college promises, and I think it is a much bigger problem than feminism ever could be.

The idea is simple: I just got out of high school, my options are 1) go to college or 2) work for a living.

Option 1) College: I either lucked out significantly and Daddy can pay for me to have me go to a really expensive summer camp for four years, at the end of which I will still have my head up my ass, know nothing about the real world and have little self earned respect. OR: I can take out loans and indebt myself beyond 5 years of earning potential, meaning I’m going to be in the financial hole for at least 9 years, with no real guarantee that my major will be in an employable field. Either way, I will work at a restaurant and learn about real earning potential and work ethic, or I can work in a coffee shop and become part of the liberal echo chamber.

Option 2) Work for a living: I can use the contacts I’ve made and my competency in my high school job to work for a few years right now, live on my own, pay my own bills and have a great deal of self earned respect. I can party for a little while, maybe get into a community college (I do, after all, want to better myself someday) but I’m learning a trade and earning valuable experience right now. Then, when the time is right, I can move over to the nearest college town for two years, get a degree in something that interests me or directly helps me advance my career. Barring that, I can work while the wife goes to school to increase her earning potential and therefore the earning potential of my family.

Wow. What a bargain that first choice sounds like!


Dante said...

Well here's a really real conservative's viewpoint on the topic. More females get admitted to colleges because females on average have far better grades out of high school. On top of that, females tend to get better grades throughout college. This is leading to a pretty skewed graduation rate. If males don't like that, they can get off their duffs and figure out how to do things like the females are doing them. Title IX has nothing to do with this. Title IX applies to sporting event, not admissions or graduation.

And Pat I'm surprised that you seem to think that education should be equivalent to career preparation (especially considering your choice of major). Education prepares you for a career about as much as reading a book on bicycles makes you Lance Armstrong. It's up to you to decide what career you want and to prepare for it. Some majors will be more beneficial than others when it comes to job preparation, but only having the skills you learned in college will leave you woefully unprepared for any real profession.

Maybe instead of waiting tables you should spend your time working somewhere that will further your career goals. It'll usually mean less (or no) money in the short term but in the long term it'll mean a lot to a prospective employer. Taking a minimum wage student worker position in my field paid off a lot when it came time to write up my resume.

Despite education's shortcomings at job preparation, that dimploma is still worth a wad of cash in most circles. Get a degree in what you enjoy. At worst case, it's arbitrarily worth an extra $10K/year working for the phone company. Then go learn a trade on your own (maybe getting a certification or two of some sort along the way).

patsbrother said...

Pat, you have wasted a spectacular post title. Your bizarrely indignant self-loathing causes pain to my pre-frontal lobe and the lack of cogency and linear thinking is astounding, even for a blog.

Now, I may be wrong, but the second string of this post appears to me to want to address the first. It fails to do so. Entirely.

After reading a few paragraphs, I was going to chime in with a simple, if it's social engineering, why did the Male checkbox get you extra points on UGA's admissions system back before white girls with low SATs started suing?

But as I read on, your discursive ramblings instilled in me an awe that someone as intelligent as you could write something so inchoate and disjointed. As Ruby once remarked, you made my head 'splode.

Please either a) tell me you had no intention of addressing the disparity of men in collegiate populations with this deferred education hoo-ha; or b) reread and promise not to do this again.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Dante: I don't think education is equivalent to career preperation. If I came across sounding like that, it was not my intention.

I also think that specific fact has a great deal more to do with the Male - Female college ratio than any political leanings of instructors or admissions personnel, feminism or political correctness in the classroom.

The short of it is, I think that fact (college is not career preparation) is why men choose not to go to college. I think that fact has more impact even than grades: as men who want to go to college are far more likely to get good grades. Those men who don't want to go to college have much less incentive to get those good grades.

petallic said...

No offense, Pat, but I think you're rationalizing poor behavior. I really don't think the average teenage boy is looking at his options and planning in such a forward-thinking pioneering manner. I think, rather, that it is a lack of planning that lands him in a state of directionless wandering.

Not that there isn't something to be said for wandering. I wish I had wandered a bit. Twenty-one was far too young to be so securely ensconced in my chosen profession, though it will be nice when I retire at 51 with full benefits.

"If males don't like that, they can get off their duffs and figure out how to do things like the females are doing them."

I have to agree with Dante here. Figure out how the victors are behaving and behave accordingly.

Dante said...

"I think that fact has more impact even than grades: as men who want to go to college are far more likely to get good grades."

Now you're playing chicken and egg, Pat. Males who show an interest in college do indeed get better grades but maybe they only have an interest in the first place because they can get good grades. The point is that they're not getting the good grades despite whatever reason makes them feel better about themselves. If they're letting "political leanings of instructors or admissions personnel, feminism or political correctness" get in the way of acheiving their goals (if going to college is indeed a goal), then they are fools. I've written some pretty left-leaning papers to get a good grade in my college days. My brother has discovered that while he is an atrocious writer, he can wrangle some pretty nice grades as a faux-Marxist.

Political leanings, PCness, admissions policies, etc are all affecting higher education but that should be no excuse. Pointing out the problem and saying we should do something about it is one thing. Blaming the problem on your (in the general sense) lack of education is another.

And you may be right. Maybe these males don't want to go to college so they don't see the point of getting good grades but we'll never really know what someone can and cannot do until they try to do it.

Laddi said...

"Figure out how the victors are behaving and behave accordingly."

I agree here, but...

I believe how kids approach to education is strongly influenced by peer and parental pressure, especially in high school. If you hang around a bunch of slackers (for whatever reason), you will likely choose the path of your fellow slackers. Sometimes that's college, other times it's not. How many times have you seen a really intelligent kid who "ruins it" by either dropping out of school or not going on to college because he wanted to stay with his buddies in his hometown?

petallic, I believe you are a teacher? Won't you agree that there aren't many schools where half of a graduating class to go college and half don't? Usually, it's a high number that either go on to college or a high number do not. Very few if any schools have 50/50 splits, and which school is which is usually determined by social class first and foremost, followed by gender and parental pressure. I truly think parental pressure can override any other factor, but the role peers play is a big role.

So while finding how the victors behave and follow their example is a good lesson to try to teach the younger teens, that is a lesson they may be beyond their grasp, especially if their version of a "victor" differs to the more experienced, older crowd's version.

Patrick Armstrong said...

One thing I also like to mention has to do with something Laddi just said: peer pressure. I hear a lot about the 'anti-intellectual' cultures in hip-hop and I hear often about how 'white culture' encourages education.

Having been labeled a 'geek' early on, I can tell you that the anti-intellectual culture is alive and well in demographics across the board.

It still has little to do with feminism, political correctness, the echo box or professors' agendas, it has to do with little boys getting a 'leg up' on other little boys: lionizing the stupid (Larry the Cable Guy) and demonizing the intelligent.