Yesterday, we noted that critics like Kay Hymowitz are noticing young men today are “angry”. They attribute it to the usual dog’s breakfast of feminist conceits; the young men are a little misogynistic, a little bit childish, a little bit full of inchoate rage over “poliitcal correctness” and changing gender roles.
I pointed out that while those roles are certainly changing today, they are no more jarring to the male sensibility than they were at any time from the 1960′s through the 1980s; I might argue that after three generations of “women’s liberation” and the broad acceptance of what used to be “Feminism’s” goals, young men today aren’t suffering any culture shock that men didn’t have, and much worse, a few decades back.
And we noted a scholarship program for “white” (more than 25% caucasian) males, which the Southern Poverty Law Center will no doubt classify a “hate group” before long.
And at the beginning of it all, we noted that subcultures that are attacked, persecuted, segregated or singled out over the long haul tend to adapt to it, in ways that address immediate-term survival over long-term good.
Why are 20-30-something males ostensibly turning away from dating, mating, and our society’s “courtship ritual” as it’s evolved in recent decades, in a way that their older brothers, uncles and even fathers and grandfathers didn’t?
Back when I was in fifth grade, I had my first male teacher. Mr. Buchholtz was a big guy, a former football player who’d done a hitch in the Navy in Vietnam. He was the first male teacher any of us had had.
And he did all sorts of things – showed us how to tackle, how to to do karate kicks, let us play “tackle pomp” and “cops and robbers” and “army”, complete with “guns” we made out of sticks, the whole line-up of things that might have mortified the women who’d taught us through fourth grade, had those women not come up through an educational system that let boys be boys.
And when I said let boys be boys, I meant “let them both exercise those “boy” traits – physicality, aggressiveness, spatial literacy – and learn to control them and use them appropriately. You could play “cops and robbers”; you couldn’t accost Mary Jo Helmbarger with the toy gun and scare her.
Of course, the classroom itself was pretty well designed for girls, who develop verbally before boys do. It all evened out.
And that was the system, thirty years ago. Maybe even twenty-five years ago.
Mr. Bucholtz would be the subject of administrative discipline today, and most likely ostracized by his colleagues.
It was about twenty years ago that the theories of Harvard professor Carol Gilligan started to gain currency. It was Gilligan’s theory that young girls suffered in school because boys, being more aggressive, were quicker to raise their hands and get attention; that young girls were neglected, and the neglect caused them to suffer – because the education system was just too masculine. The theory – publicized in countless books by scholars, pop-psychologists and ideological feminists – was that boys’ innate aggression intimidated girls into being quiet and not getting their questions answered in class (among other charges), which in turn beat down young girls’ spirits, which was a form of systemic discrimination that had to be overcome.
And the educational academy reacted immediately. Schools moved to start clamping down on “boy” things – aggressive play, games like “cops and robbers” and playground football and all the other ways boys have worked off their energy during recess since the dawn of the “sit your butt in the chair and learn what we tell you to learn” model of education.
Now, psychology has known for decades that if you make a person bottle up “who they are”, it’s going to cause psychological damage . It’s one of the reasons schools have bent over backwards, for example, to support gay students; because, they just know, if you make a person deny what they are for long enough, it’s going to cause damage.
Enlightened people would never think of demanding a gay student stop being gay.
But virtually overnight in pedagogical terms, it became the fashion to force boys to do just that; to bottle up who they were. I’ve been noticing this for almost as long; I remember having this conversation when my stepson was in school, in the early nineties. In one memorable conversation with a woman who was a teaching assistant at the University of London’s graduate educational psychology program back in 1998, I put that basic premise out there; her response, straight from the textbook of the day, was “yes, boys acting like boys is a pathology that gets in the way of good education”. Direct quote.
Of course, Carol Gilligan was wrong. Christina Hoff-Summers, in The War On Boys, pointed out that Gilligan’s “research” was not only almost completely exempted from peer review, but Harvard wouldn’t release any of the raw data or methodology that led to her conclusions – which was, in those days before “man-made global warming”, considered pretty bad form. Hoff-Summers pretty well shredded Gilligan, and the outcomes of the mania that had by this time swept the educational academy…
…but it was really too late. School became a fairly dismal place for boys. Especially the boys that couldn’t “go along to get along“. Acting too much “like a boy” – being too aggressive, not channelling their energy into acceptable forms, which meant “being verbal, not physical” – could get a boy drugged into compliance. Most outrageously, teachers started demanding boys get drugged into compliance, and making the system make those demands stick. In other words, raduates of the least academically-rigourous programs offered at most universities felt themselves empowered to act as practitioners in a field that took graduates of the most rigorous field, but one that even those practitioners know is still only vaguely understood.
Can you imagine what’d happen if science came up with a drug that could suppress a homosexual child’s identity? The very fact that the idea had been researched would be condemned with vein-bulging fury, to say nothing of the actual act of producing and prescribing the drug. And the furor would be right.
And yet our education system has been forcing half the student population to be something other than what evolution, brain chemistry and their physiology make them, and being drugged into submission and classified as “special ed”, and plopped onto the failure track if they don’t go along.
And it’s having an effect. The number of girls in college increased – from right around to slightly under half in the ’80′s, to closer to an estimated 60% of the population in the very near future. It’s even more pronounced in the humanities and soft-sciences. It’s gotten to the point that the mainstream media who trumpeted Gilligan’s “research” twenty years ago are fretting about the lack of men on campuses today. If 12 years of school have been turned into an ugly ordeal, why should they stretch it out to sixteen years – even assuming that their drug-addled, special-ed sodden academic records allow them to get into a college.
So the question I’d like to ask Kay Hymowitz – the author of the book Manning Up that I went after yesterday – is “why are you asking why young men are shunning the dating life, when the real question is why do you expect young men who’ve had traditional masculine roles beaten down and treated as pathologies to be overcome for their entire educational career and young lives to suddenly turn into Prince Charming when they turn 22?”
As long as we actively suppress, and oppress, boys acting like boys – especially by way of learning how to be responsible boys, and thus responsible men, the way they always have – then Kay Hymowitz’ dating malaise is just the tip of the iceberg.