26 May 2016

The Betrayal Of Our Boys: They’re Falling Behind Girls In Almost Every Way

...And, says Sarah Vine, the feminisation of society, especially our schools, is to blame 
By Sarah Vine: The numbers are unequivocal. In every respect, today's girls seem to have the advantage over boys.
Boys are less likely to go to university. If they do get there, they are statistically much more likely to drop out. And all but the most high-flying have fewer job prospects when they leave.
The stark evidence comes in a report published by the Higher Education Policy Institute.
Boys To Men: The Underachievement Of Young Men in Higher Education and How To Start Tackling It, tells us that girls have 35 per cent more chance of entering higher education - a staggering figure that translates into almost 100,000 more young women than men applying to university this year.
But it gets worse. The poorer you are, the more dire the situation. Among pupils on free school meals, girls are 51 per cent more likely than boys to continue their studies after school.

And the group that fares worse than any other is low-income white boys. Just 8.9 per cent of them make it to college.

It's no coincidence that so many of this group are represented in our justice system, in young offender institutions and prisons. Young men from deprived backgrounds with very few opportunities to start off with, but whose options now seem narrower than ever.

So not only are we failing our boys; we're failing those who need our help the most.

Nick Hillman, co-author of the report and a Higher Education Policy Institute director, calls this a national scandal. 'Nearly everyone seems to have a vague sense that our education system is letting young men down,' he says. 'But there are few detailed studies of the problem and almost no clear policy recommendations on what to do about it.'

He suggests more male teachers, combined with other incentives designed to appeal to poor working-class males, would help redress the balance - and save future generations of men from terminal marginalisation.

Meanwhile, Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, the body that processes applications to higher education, issues a warning.

'If this differential growth carries on unchecked,' she writes in her foreword to the report, 'then girls born this year will be 75 per cent more likely to go to university than their male peers.'

That is an imbalance every bit as skewed as the one that existed towards women in the first half of the 20th century - only that it's men who are suffering now.

Predictably, the truths of this report have ruffled some hard-line feminist feathers.

Sorana Vieru, the vice-president of the National Union of Students, said that the report 'takes a complex and nuanced issue and turns it into a 'battle of the sexes'.'

In particular, there was outrage at the suggestion that gender imbalance in the teaching profession - with classrooms dominated by female teachers - was part of the problem. But such knee-jerk, politically motivated defensiveness is pointless.

The facts don't lie: young men are becoming increasingly disenfranchised within society. And that process begins precisely where it should be eradicated: at school.

For the mother of a small boy such as myself, this is grim news. And although my son does not, thankfully, belong to the group most at risk, he is nevertheless growing up in a world where masculinity and male traits in general are increasingly devalued.

It's the same everywhere in the Western World, from the beaches of California to the barbecues of Western Australia - man's place in society is no longer clear.

Of course, some kind of shake-up was long-overdue. But, increasingly, it's starting to look as though society has overshot itself in its eagerness to even up the odds.

The truth is that over the past few decades the common-or-garden male has been in slow but steady decline. Men such as my father, who grew up working on building sites during school holidays - and who, when I came along, knocked up a cot and a set of cupboards from a few bits of plywood - are all but extinct.

Their unashamed male-ness - a sense of responsibility for their families, an expectation of being the main bread-winner, the ability to change a plug - has long been mocked in modern culture as a neanderthal throwback.

New man, the strange, sandal-wearing creature that emerged from the feminism of the Seventies and Eighties saw to that, joining the women at their coffee mornings, eager to discover his feelings and making a virtue of his inadequacy in all areas of traditional masculinity.

It became impossible to open a door for a woman, or pay her a compliment without being accused of rampant sexism.

But a number of factors - all of them interlinked - since then have combined to accelerate the emasculation of men into a full-blown cultural crisis which, as this new report makes plain, could be disastrous for us all.

Key was the arrival of complex technology in the workplace and the advent of the internet.

It meant working became less about brawn (a natural male advantage) and more about brain - opening up all sorts of previously male-dominated areas to women.

In my own newspaper trade, for example, it was the male compositors and printers who went by the wayside; in heavy industries, it was the coalminers and steelworkers. From the farmlands to the shipyards, men began to lose their grip on the labour market. As these changes progressed and demand for skilled male labour fell away, many men were left economically and socially redundant. At the same time, opportunities were opening up for women everywhere.

For the first time ever, the scales started to tip in our favour.

Of course, men don't do all that badly today. The white middle-aged male still dominates at the top of the tree, in the professions and politics. But that is not true of the younger generations.

And among the working-class communities that this report highlights, things are much tougher for your average male.

Heavy industries that require muscle and stamina are in terminal decline. In their place, the creative and service industries - all areas in which women thrive - are booming.

This changing economic landscape has devalued traditional male characteristics that for centuries have been highly prized - physical strength, aggression, determination, grit - in favour of a 'softer' more feminine approach. There is even talk of James Bond becoming Jane Bond.

Thanks to the internet, working from home is much more common -and this, too, favours women over men. Research published this week by the TUC shows that more than 1.5 million workers are now based in their homes, and that the biggest increase in homeworkers is among women - up by 157,000 since ten years ago.

Now we women can run our homes, have babies AND run the world. It's not easy, of course. But plenty can, and do - as the rise and rise of the so-called 'mum-preneur' shows.

In fact, several generations of boys have grown up now with working mothers who not only contribute substantially to the family income, but are in many cases pivotal to financial survival as the pool of traditionally male-dominated jobs dwindles.

Boys and young men look around them and what do they see? A world they can no longer expect to inherit. A world where women not only have the same opportunities as men, but in some cases more.

This is no bad thing; but equality should not come at the expense of the losing side.

Our boys and young men desperately need to find their feet in this brave new world. And to do that they need support, a new set of goals to which they can aspire - and modern role models.

Mr Hillman's point about more male teachers is very important. Women make great teachers; but the fact remains that boisterous young boys of a certain age and stage will not respect a woman teacher in the same way they will a man.

They need strong males they can fear and respect - and on whom they can model their own behaviour.

But it's not just at school where the problem lies. Generations of boys are now growing up with an entirely different perspective on the role of men in the world.

Many see their mothers fulfilling roles that their fathers would have taken in the past. This cannot help but change their view of themselves as males.

Some will become apathetic and directionless; others introspective and depressed.

The social group that the recent survey identifies as being most at risk - the white working classes - has witnessed more than any other the erosion of their own fathers' identities as traditional working-class male jobs have disappeared.

But while no end of thought and effort has gone into helping women and girls get better access to education and opportunity, little has been given to helping boys adapt to this shift - and to the loss of the certainties their grandfathers enjoyed.

Past generations of men never had it easy; but their roles were at least clearly defined. They would become protectors and providers, defenders of the traditional family.

Academic success and ambition were, therefore, important to them. It was drummed into them from a young age that they would be responsible for the financial welfare of the next generation. There was strength in that certainty. On top of all this, there is another factor fatally undermining young men. The rise of a highly toxic and vindictive form of radical - some might say sadistic - feminism in colleges and on campus makes being a boy ever harder.

Today's male students must negotiate a minefield of extreme political correctness in schools and universities. At a crucial time when they are developing their all-important sense of self, they are being overwhelmed by negative messages about masculinity.

You see it all the time: the all-must-have prizes approach of so many in the liberal teaching establishment who frown on competitive achievement in academia and sport; the university undergraduate accused by the sorority of being a foul rapist when in fact the sex was consensual; the 'silencing' of anyone who dares challenge the destructive feminist status quo.

As a woman, I don't know what to make of these things; as a young man it must be nigh on impossible. How can they possibly know which way is up?

What we are witnessing here, it seems to me, is a form of revenge.

What right have men to whine? For centuries they had the upper hand - surely it's only fair now that they get a taste of their own medicine? Shouldn't they just - if you'll pardon me - man up and accept that all this has been a long time coming?

Part of me rather agrees with this view. There was a huge imbalance in society and it needed to be redressed. But once the scales start to go the other way, there is a real risk that the entirely legitimate fight for freedom and equality can turn sour, and become every bit as nasty as the one it seeks to overthrow.

The fact is that our boys are being punished by a society so anxious to atone for the sexism of the past that it cannot see how it is destroying innocent lives. They are quite genuinely paying for the sins of their fathers.

Boys such as my son have done nothing wrong. They shouldn't have to deal with all this baggage being heaped on their young shoulders.

And it's clear that it is starting to effect their so-called 'life chances'.

Garth Stahl, a sociology and literacy lecturer, spent a year researching the educational aspirations of 23 white working-class boys aged between 14 and 16 in three London schools.

He found that in all cases, the schools they attended worked hard to promote the idea of university education. But the problem wasn't the schools; it was the boys. They were culturally worried about the idea of academic success.

In fact, the idea seemed to make them rather uncomfortable.

As Stahl wrote: 'One participant, George, said: 'I do want to be someone that stands out, but I don't want to at the same time ... I want people to see me as a smart person, but I don't want to be like someone who's embarrassing.'

If the past few decades of post-feminist cultural domination have taught boys and men anything, it's this: to be embarrassed and ashamed of who they are. To suppress their natural instincts, to run less, fight less, shout less - to just be less like themselves.

Granted, no one wants a return to the bad old days; but neither do we want to see half the population reduced to a quivering, snivelling puddle. It's time to stand up for our boys, and teach them how to live in the modern world - as proud, unabashed men.


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