Friday, November 6, 2009

Boo Hoo for the Lost Boys - NOT!

Blatant sexual discrimination in favor of male admissions to college because - get this - it's patriotic! From the online edition of The Wall Street Journal/Opinion NOVEMBER 5, 2009, 10:47 P.M. ET The Lost Boys By RICHARD WHITMIRE This week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced that it will investigate whether colleges discriminate against women by admitting less qualified men. It will strike many as odd to think that American men would need such a leg up. From the men-only basketball games at the White House to the testosterone club on Wall Street, we seem surrounded by male dominance. And yet, when looking to America's future—trying to spot the future entrepreneurs and inventors—there's reason to be troubled by the flagging academic performance among men. Nearly 58% of all those earning bachelor's degrees are women. Graduate programs are headed in the same direction, and the gender gaps at community colleges—where 62% of those earning two-year degrees are female—are even wider. Economists at both the Department of Education and the College Board agree that, to ensure high future earnings, men and women have an equal need for college degrees, and yet only women are getting that message. The numbers are startling. This summer the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University published the results of a study tracking the students who graduated from Boston Public Schools in 2007. Their conclusion: For every 167 females in four-year colleges, there were 100 males. In theory, the surge in the number of educated women should make up for male shortcomings when we're looking at the overall prospects for the economy. But men and women are not the same. At the same levels of education, women remain less inclined to roll the dice on risky business start-ups or to grind out careers in isolated tech labs. Revenue generated by women-owned businesses remains less than 5% of all revenue. And while the number of women taking on economically important majors is rising, women still earn only a fifth of the bachelor's degrees granted in physics, computer science and engineering. Why males don't seem to "get" the importance of a college education is a mystery, especially considering the current collapse of jobs that traditionally don't require post-high-school study. (Even "cash for clunkers" isn't going to mark the return of car companies as a major employer of uneducated men.) And who could miss the message of the recession, where as many as 80% of the workers laid off have been male? Too many boys arrive at their senior year of high school lacking both the skills and aspirations that would get them into, and through, college. At a typical state university, a gender gap of 10 percentage points in the freshman class grows by five points by graduation day, as more men than women drop out. All this explains why colleges have been putting a thumb on the scale to favor men in admissions. There just aren't enough highly qualified men to go around. Determining that colleges practice discrimination doesn't take much detective work. Higher acceptance rates for men show that colleges dig deeper into their applicant pool to find them. The final proof: Freshman class profiles reveal that the women, with their far higher high-school grade point averages, are more academically qualified than the men. Interviews with admissions officers reveal that the girls' essays sparkle compared to the boys', and girls far outshine boys in extracurricular activities as well. The Commission on Civil Rights cited an example written about in U.S. News & World Report in 2007: Virginia's University of Richmond was maintaining its rough gender parity in men and women only by accepting women at a rate 13 percentage points lower than the men. It would be patriotic to report that this discrimination against women is carried out in the national economic interest of boosting graduates in key math and science fields. But, in truth, it's really a social consideration. Colleges simply want to avoid approaching the dreaded 60-40 female-male ratio. At that point, men start to take advantage of their scarcity and make social life miserable for the women by becoming "players" on the dating scene. The case to abolish male gender preferences is problematic. Most of those male preferences are granted by private colleges, which consider themselves on solid legal ground. (Some public colleges and universities also grant those preferences at considerable legal risk, an indication of the depth of the fear about broaching that 60-40 threshold.) In truth, these gender preferences are a sideshow. The real issue is the flagging academic interest among boys, a phenomenon that dates back only about two decades. It's a new issue to most Americans but hotly debated in countries such as England. So far, nobody has solved the boy mystery, but some countries are years ahead of the U.S. Australia has had some success with literacy-boosting programs for young boys. Until the code gets cracked, there's a national economic interest in keeping those preferences in place—just for a few more years.— Mr. Whitmire is the author of the forthcoming book "Why Boys Fail." Hey Mr. Whitmire - here's a hint - if you want to change the boys, change the culture that allows them to be lazy self-absorbed wimps or gansta wannabes. If they don't want to be tomorrow's engineers and physicists and chemists, train up the females to do the work. It CAN be done by - you guess it - changing the underlying cultural mores and expectations for females. Mr. Whitmire's thinking is soooooo 19th century, just as is the American male expectation that they should earn a living wage without having to actually acquire any skills and knowledge to get ahead in this 21st century world we are now, actually, living in. Ha!

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