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Old 02-15-2006, 03:34 PM   #1
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Affirmative Action -- for men

[q]The campus crusade for guys
By Sarah Karnasiewicz

Feb. 15, 2006 | Child psychologist Michael Thompson has devoted his professional life to advocating for America's boys. As the bestselling author of "Raising Cain," he's logged thousands of hours as an educational speaker and makes frequent appearences on national television as an authority on troubled young men. But Thompson is also the father of a 20-year-old daughter. And when asked if, given their much-maligned status in schools these days, boys ought to be given a leg up in college admissions, his answer is blunt: "I'd be horrified if some lunkhead boy got accepted to a school instead of my very talented and prepared daughter," he says, "just because he happened to be a guy."

But that may be just what is happening. Amid national panic over a growing academic gender gap, educators have begun to ask, might it be time to adopt affirmative action for boys?

The statistics are revealing: Fewer men apply to colleges every year and those who do disproportionately occupy the lowest quarter of the applicant pool. Thirty-five years ago, in the early days of widespread coeducation, the gender ratio on campuses averaged 43-57, female to male. Now, uniformly, the old ratios have been inverted. Across races and classes -- and to some extent, around the Western world -- women are more likely to apply to college and, once enrolled, more likely to stick around through graduation.

Even in a vacuum, discussions of gender-based affirmative action would be deeply political. But the possibility of a full-fledged battle appears especially likely these days, as we find ourselves in the middle of what's popularly known as the "war on boys." If you watch the news or read the papers, you know the soldiers: Last year, Laura Bush launched a federal initiative focused on boys who have been neglected by their schools and communities; Christina Hoff Sommers, George Gilder and Michael Gurian have swarmed the talk show circuit and editorial pages, bemoaning the lack of male role models in American schools and accusing educators of alienating boys by prizing passive, "feminized" behavior such as sitting quietly, reading independently, and focusing on sedentary rather than dynamic projects. (Though Thompson, for the record, says "education has actually become more dynamic and teaching gotten better for boys" -- and, I quote, "We used to have to hit them to keep them still.") New York Times Op-Ed writer John Tierney made waves in January with an essay warning that educational success will come back to haunt women as a dearth of educated, eligible husbands turns them into miserable spinsters -- and in a rebuttal, Nation columnist Katha Pollitt asked why, years ago when she was in school and men made up the majority, no one was worrying about whether they'd find wives. Finally, a few weeks ago, Newsweek joined the fray with an eight-page cover story by Peg Tyre, breathlessly captioned "The Boy Crisis," and laden with oversize color photos of doleful white boys, seemingly adrift in a sea of competent, well-adjusted girls.

With all this coverage, you'd be excused for thinking the debate is a recent development. But the truth is that affirmative action for men, like the gender gap itself, is simply not news. Back in 1999, a young woman filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the University of Georgia in Athens, after it was revealed that the school had attempted to balance gender on campus by awarding preference to male applicants, much the way it might build racial diversity by assigning extra admissions "points" to minority students. At the time, the school, in its defense, told the Christian Science Monitor that it was trying to reverse male flight from campus (at the time the ratio was 45-55) before it "became something bad." Unfortunately for the university, the district court judge assigned to the case wasn't convinced, ruling instead that "the desire to 'help out' men who are not earning baccalaureate degrees in the same numbers as women ... [was] far from persuasive."

Talk to admissions insiders today, though, and they'll tell you that the University of Georgia case did not so much end affirmative action for men as drive it underground. "My belief is that there are already many informal affirmative action policies," says Thompson. "It is entirely possible that a better qualified girl has not gotten into a school because admissions officers were trying to create a more even ratio." Tom Mortenson, senior policy analyst at the Pell Institute for Opportunity in Higher Education and creator of the Postsecondary Education Opportunity Newsletter, who in the mid-'90s was one of the first scholars to draw attention to the gender gap, agrees. "I know [affirmative action for boys] is being practiced, especially on liberal arts campuses where the gap is biggest," he explains, "because I've had administrators tell me so."


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Old 02-15-2006, 03:38 PM   #2
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Re: Affirmative Action -- for men

Originally posted by Irvine511
[q]The campus crusade for guys
By Sarah Karnasiewicz

And when asked if, given their much-maligned status in schools these days, boys ought to be given a leg up.

I have devoted my life to giving girls a leg up. but, that is just me.

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Old 02-15-2006, 04:53 PM   #3
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I can't really say with confidence what goes in admissions offices, but it is true that anyone in academia hears a lot of fretting over the growing gender "gap." It's not true that it's been "inverted," though--the cumulative ratio is nothing like 57:43 in girls' favor. And these imbalances are much worse at non-elite community and "satellite" colleges, where large numbers of "nontraditional" women students (mostly, women whose children have reached school age and are now returning to their career ambitions) swell the ranks. That is a demographic factor which is often overlooked, and I would be interested to see how much it feeds into this "imbalance."

Still, undeniably I think, boys are suffering to a greater degree than girls from a dearth of same-sex role models to be close to and play off of. Not at the college level where (ahem) men continue to decisively dominate the tenured professor ranks, but in primary and secondary schools. I don't know that "affirmative action" would really address these problems, though. If they don't arrive in college--an environment which demands far more individual intiative--eager to be challenged and confident in their potential to achieve, I doubt many of them will pick it up there.
...accusing educators of alienating boys by prizing passive, "feminized" behavior such as sitting quietly, reading independently, and focusing on sedentary rather than dynamic projects.
And THIS is a crock. Knock knock, who deemed such behavior "feminine" to begin with? Schooling has ALWAYS demanded a large measure of self-discipline, this is nothing new. While I'm all for teachers going out of their way to explore creative new ways to energize and draw in restless and distractable students, "boys will be boys" is a questionable attitude to start from in developing such approaches. Smacks of dangerously low expectations to me.
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