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May 01, 2014

The Supposed Boy Crisis in Education

The Editorial Staff have written many times about the narrative, popular in righty and right-leaning circles, that "feminized" schools are to blame for the supposedly declining educational performance of male students over time. In this post, we pointed out (with data to back up our assertions) that many of the arguments being made on this topic are just plain wrong. Not slightly wrong, but fundamentally, deeply wrong (as in, "there's not really even any evidence that problem you're complaining about is a problem"):

1. College attainment is UP, not down for both sexes over time. The rate of increase is stagnant (in other words, male college attainment is still increasing at the same rate over time).
2. Male HS dropout rates have declined over time by almost 50%.
3. Boys' average GPAs have actually gone up over time. Oops.
4. So have boys' math SAT scores.

But for some people, no amount of data is powerful enough to overcome the pull of a sensational news story or a handful of anecdotes. We count our ownself among those who uncritically accepted what we were reading on conservative blogs and conservative op-eds...

...until we looked into the data and found what we were reading was both wrong and misleading, that is. We don't have time to find it right now, but we're pretty sure we also researched grades over time and posted about this with the same results: the facts simply do not support the narrative that "feminized" schools are keeping our boys down.

And then there are articles like this one, from AEI, that claim that (mirabile dictu!) it's not schools at all (feminized or otherwise) that drive male academic success - or the lack thereof - but the involvement of fathers!

This new research brief from the American Enterprise Institute indicates that teenagers with involved or highly involved dads are 98 percent more likely to graduate from college than teens who report their dads are not involved in their lives. The figures below also suggest that paternal involvement is especially important for teens whose mothers have at least a high-school education.

Gratified as we were to see conservatives refusing to adopt the whiny, only-the-government-can-solve-our-personal-problems mantra of the radical left, we couldn't help noticing in all these charts that there were actually two strong influences on the academic achievement of teens.

One is undoubtedly the involvement of fathers.

The other is the mother's education level, which oddly enough was barely mentioned in the article. Guess that doesn't fit the desired narrative. Having written about this for over a decade now, we don't need to be convinced of the importance of active, engaged dads in our children's lives. But it sure would be nice if we didn't continually cherry pick our arguments, ignoring this and promoting that.

A basic tenet of conservative ideology has always been that individuals have the power to overcome obstacles, perseverance matters, and individual responsibility is a vitally important foundation of any free society. But when it comes to this issue, all of a sudden we absolve students and parents of their responsibilities and call for top-down changes to "the system" because it's keeping boys down? Where is the evidence of this? Most evidence we've seen seems to be of the disparate impact variety - notably an argument conservatives have soundly rejected on the merits.

Eh... we don't need no stinkin' merits.

We're also a big fan of research that looks at long term trends, so we found this quite interesting:

In 2006, Newsweek magazine declared it, loud, on their cover: America's boys were in crisis.

Boys were falling behind their female counterparts in school. They were getting worse grades, lagging on standardized tests, and not attending college in the same numbers as girls. "By almost every benchmark," Peg Tyre, the author of the cover story, wrote, "boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind."

And so it began—the end of men, but also an ongoing conversation on how to better boys' performance in the classroom.

This "boy crisis," however, was based on an assumption: that males had previously been on top. Granted, there was evidence to support that idea. For one, educational institutions for most of modern history have been openly sexist, favoring boys. And traditionally, males had outperformed girls in standardized tests and in math and science. But "by the mid-1990s, girls had reduced the gap in math, and more girls than boys were taking high-school-level biology and chemistry," Tyre wrote.

The assumption that boys had been the better students didn't seem right to (married) researchers Daniel and Susan Voyer of the University of New Brunswick in Canada. "I've been collecting grade data for a long time," Daniel Voyer says in a phone interview. "Typically if you find gender differences, they are in favor of girls—it doesn't matter what it is. So it started to kind of puzzle me." And so the pair set out to test, collecting every study they could find on grades and gender since 1914 and crunching the numbers in a mega-meta analysis, the first of its kind.

What resulted was a data set totaling more than 1 million students and this conclusion: Not only are girls the better students in every subject tested, that has been the case for at least 100 years. Boys may very well be in crisis when it comes to the classroom, but if so, that's the way it's always been.

The Voyers read through more than 6,000 articles to arrive at their final sample of 369 studies. It was an exhaustive process. "I just called it the bane of my existence," Voyer, who embarked on the work in 2011, says.

The Voyers limited their sample to studies of teacher-assigned grades and excluded those of standardized tests. Tests can exhibit a phenomenon called stereotype threat, in which stereotypes (let's say, girls don't do well on the math portion of the SAT), become self-fulfilling prophecies. The grade data are also richer: encompassing the entirety of academic experience, not just one afternoon test date. Plus researchers have shown that grades in high school are as good or even better indicators of college success than standardized tests.

While the girls' advantage is largest in reading and language studies, it exists for all subjects, even math and science. And though they tested data from across the world, the Voyers found the gender gap was largest in the United States.

What's most striking is that the gender gap held across the decades. If the boy crisis existed, they would have seen boys' performance peak and fall over time. That wasn't the case. "Boys have been lagging for a long time and ... this is a fairly stable phenomenon," the paper concluded.

The Internet has a nasty way of stoking confirmation bias. We frequent sites whose authors share our values and tend to avoid those whose authors despise us and our principles. But data - especially long term time series data - is pretty neutral.

A fairly common theme here at VC has been that we need to be careful of embracing the flawed, identity politics rhetoric of the radical Left. We can't complain about disparate impact arguments and then use them ourselves. And we should care what the data say. We should care about the facts.

The Editorial Staff remain deeply concerned about the refusal, failure, inability (whatever we choose to call it this week) of so many young men to assume adult responsibilities, become self supporting, marry, vote, be active in their communities and plan for the future. We have NEVER bought into the notion that in our age of ease, prosperity, and perpetual excuses, everything is just "too hard" for men: the engine behind Western Civilization.

What fathers so often add to the parental mix is challenge and uncompromising standards. Most men of older generations understand that teenaged boys in particular often require a swift kick in the tuckus before their attention is fully engaged. Ours did, and it didn't kill them. Boys are not as easy to motivate as girls, they're not as inner directed, and the forces that drive them are sometimes different as well. The military knows this, and the most successful parts of the military are those where excuses for poor performance or lack of effort simply are not tolerated.

I'm growing increasingly worried about the identity politics wing of the libertarian/right-leaning coalition. We won't change the immensely destructive and divisive effects of race- and sexism- mongering by adopting their tactics and flawed reasoning.

Posted by Cassandra at May 1, 2014 07:25 AM

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I’ll grant it is, or is not, a problem depending on the biases that one brings to the table but all that is on the table is not all there is. The research and resultant findings, statistics, data, are also subject to confirmation bias. It should come as a surprise to no-one that numbers are manipulable and the sum of them may be subjective. I take it as given that nearly everyone who’s aware of the currents is aware of the tsunamis, e.g., the corruption of 'science', leaving it with a reputation as deserving as that of, e.g., 'government'.

The facts of #s 1, 2, 3, 4 at the top of the post are also subject to confirmation biases. Herewith my biases:

1. College attainment is no great shakes for any sex, nevermind the myriad genders. If you come out of the experience with a BA in "Gender Studies" or "Identity Grievances" what good are you and how 'educated' are you? If one has been to the upper floors of Harvard and descends with a pedigree degree in hand, well inculcated but poorly educated and as inarticulate as e.g., as our last two chief executives, G Dubbya and Ophilia, then the hell with it all. Burn down the schools.

2. Drop out rates are subject to opportunities. The economy stinks and a great portion of the 15 million illegal adults in the country can underbid the cost of their labor.

3. see #1

4. see #1 and, this.

I would contend that males continue to get the short end of the stick but the stick’s just not worth the argument. To argue the point obstructs the second point – females are not well served by a ‘higher' education; and the third – the vast academic complex of 'higher' education is too costly and too corrupt. A cost/benefit analysis would prove me right.

Posted by: George Pal at May 1, 2014 11:35 AM

1. The fact that you can point to one instance where data are misinterpreted does absolutely nothing to establish that *this* data has been misinterpreted, George.

That's a categorical logic error.

2. As for college attainment being no great shakes, the data here could not possibly be more unsupportive of your position. Whether you look at unemployment or lifetime earnings, college grads on average leave non-college grads in the dust. And not by a small amount, either.

3. Most students DON'T come out of college with degrees in identity grievances. It is just plain ludicrous to suggest that because some small number of kids get stupid degrees, therefore a college education is not valuable. I've shown you already that the unemployment rate is MUCH lower for college grads and always has been.

Again, you're doing something conservatives do a lot, and it drives me nuts: you simply assert a belief, wave your hand, and claim you're correct without bothering to make the arguments for why you are so or presenting any evidence.

I get it. You really want to believe these things.

When in point of fact MORE (a higher proportion of) males are going to college these days, MORE males are getting higher grades these days, MORE males are finishing both college and HS these days, it requires either willful blindness or a very good argument not yet presented to maintain that males are doing *worse* in school because.... feminists!

And to say that females are not well served by higher education is even more bizarre and afactual. Educated women are the ones getting and staying married, George. Their families are stable and their kids are mostly thriving.

But that's another fact you're determined to ignore because it seems to conflict with your personal feelings.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 1, 2014 12:02 PM

I'll assume that I would find no real gripe with the methodology or the data in this study, since I haven't actually seen it. And no, I'm not going looking. :)

If that's the case then all the handwringing of boys holding girls back in math and science classes is equally bushwa. As well as some other long cherished views.

Fortunately for me, my long held view still holds: some of the things we think we know, just ain't so.

Posted by: Allen at May 1, 2014 01:17 PM

If that's the case then all the handwringing of boys holding girls back in math and science classes is equally bushwa. As well as some other long cherished views.

Couldn't agree more, Allen.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 1, 2014 01:19 PM

"...some of the things we think we know, just ain't so."

I'd take that one step further, Allen, and posit that, "Some of the things we know we know, just ain't so", either.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at May 1, 2014 01:23 PM

Well, he did say those were his biases not his objectivities. :-)


Myself, I'm not convinced that college is a cause of success as much as both are results of character and ambition. The same for marriage.

It doesn't seem unusual to me that people who value hard work and commitment (successful careers) also engage in another activity that requires hard work and commitment (marriage) or yet another activity that requires hard work and commitment (college).

At the same time, I think college is something of a catch-22. A great many jobs (especially the ones that don't require long experience) don't require the skills learned during college, meaning that a college degree isn't practically required. And yet, employers demand it anyway, meaning that a college degree is quite literally required even if you won't ever use it. And likely, by the time you would, you'd have learned it on the job anyway.

And if you hadn't, then you likely would have had a better appreciation for the subject matter when you did take the college courses later in your career (for which you likely wouldn't have needed the full 4-5 years of). A family member told me that had she had to take accounting in HS, she would certainly have not even seen the point. She did take it in college and while she got good grades, and could produce the correct results, didn't really understand it. It wasn't until she actually had a few years into a real job that she actually had a frame of reference, a perspective, to make it click. Consistently non-traditional students self-report as having gotten much more out of college than traditional students who are likely to go to college "because it's what you do after high school".

I really think, as a society, we do a disservice by requiring college degrees so early. When only 20% of people got a college degree it really did mean something. But you really aren't special when you can do something that 80% of everyone can do. College is becoming little more than a ritualistic rite of passage. (I don't know what the actually percentages are, they're just for illustration)

Similary when we look at test grades over time. We near universally find that grades in college have gone up over time. But I find it hard to swallow that the top 20% of people in 1950 were dummer than the top 80% of people today. Simply including so much of the low end should have lowered test scores (in much the same way that expanding the workforce to include previously unemployed women and immigrants would decrease the average wage even if no person ever took a pay-cut). The only explanation is that grades haven't measured the same thing over time (in as much as grades have only ever measured what they measure, which isn't necessarily how to apply knowledge correctly).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 1, 2014 02:16 PM

"Consistently non-traditional students self-report as having gotten much more out of college than traditional students who are likely to go to college "because it's what you do after high school".

The VES has been a victim of the constant drumbeat to "Go To College" since she was in the third grade, so it's been a rough haul trying to de-program her these last few years. However, I think I'm starting to make progress. She's now talking about getting a local job and doing some JuCo courses for a coupla years before looking into a four year college. I've still got a few years before she graduates, too, so there's still time to work on her.

"But you really aren't special when you can do something that 80% of everyone can do."

In other words....
0>;~]

Posted by: DL Sly at May 1, 2014 02:45 PM

As I have said before, it is my belief that for a great many jobs (NOT including highly technical professions) a degree does not indicate a level of expertise that an employer is looking for. Instead it only signifies that the graduate is trainable, goal oriented, has some degree of discipline, and is generally willing to work to achieve something. Technical expertise is rarely taught in a university (again, excepting for degrees like Law and Medicine where advanced degrees are still required). It certainly was not in my chosen degree (Computer Science). Sure, leaving college I could code in C++, but there were very few employers looking for that particular skill. Sure I could absolutely code in another language given time to learn its idiosyncrasies and syntax, but demonstrable talent? None.

How this applies to men vs women? Not at all. I don't even really have a dog in the fight either way. I generally don't hold to "it's anti-[insert gender here]" unless it's either so obvious (e.g. I think it's no stretch to say that there's an anti-female education bias in Nigeria currently), or backed by some pretty strong evidence.

Posted by: MikeD at May 1, 2014 02:53 PM

That's a categorical logic error.

I have yet to see, hear of, and can’t imagine socio-scientific 'data', by it’s nature interpretive, interpreted solo voce. Someone’s made an error but it’s not categorical.

Whether you look at unemployment or lifetime earnings, college grads on average leave non-college grads in the dust.

This is not unsupportive of my position. My position remains that even the highest achievers are most often not well educated. Trained in their subject of interest? – yes; but abjectly stupid otherwise – recall Messrs Bush and Obama as the one’s I’d pointed at.

you're doing something conservatives do a lot... wave your hand, and claim you're correct without bothering to make the arguments for why you are so or presenting any evidence.

If by conservative you mean “traditionalist” or “reactionary,” I’ll cop to that; if politically conservative, i.e., GOP Inc. and such, not a bit of it.

But that's another fact you're determined to ignore because it seems to conflict with your personal feelings.

I refuse to believe you a lone mutant human who operates only on facts. Surely you’ve experienced a feeling, a sense, a foreboding, a discernment without attendant facts. Surely, they have not let you down or been a disappointment every time. Yes, I have feelings, I feel a nation that had fallen twice for the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on Family Hominidae is not too bright. I have data that the best and brightest and most educated, and women, fell hardest for the hoaxer. I feel 'education' has gone the way of 'marriage’ – it’s been redefined – down.

Posted by: George Pal at May 1, 2014 03:17 PM

George, I heartily agree that "well educated" and "have a college degree" are not always the same thing. I have a degree, but would not say I'm "well educated" by any means.

But the facts are that "have a college degree" alone seems to result in lower unemployment, on average. If we're debating the value of a college degree, that's a big deal. The lifetime pay thing also is tied to "have a college degree", not "well educated".

I have never claimed that I operate only on facts, so that's a straw man argument. In fact, I admitted right in my post that I uncritically accepted a whole lot of really dumb stuff I read on conservative blogs... UNTIL I did some research of my own and found out even the their *factual* claims were just plain wrong.

And then, as I would hope most reasonable people would do, I starting questioning all these appeals to emotion unsupported by any evidence.

I have strong feelings about marriage, but presented with evidence that no fault divorce was NOT the cause of rising divorce rates - missed that target by *decades* - I reassessed my opinions in light of the evidence.

I operate on intuition a lot. But I also pay attention to facts. If they directly contradict my intuition, (and by the way, I'm not sure it makes much sense to base one's assessment of things that can be objectively discerned on intuition anyway) I pay attention instead of just dismissing anything that contradict the way I feel.

I think that's a pretty good way of doing things. It is, after all, the point of a good education: to get some facts into the brain housing group so we don't rely solely on feelings and intuition.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 1, 2014 03:44 PM

As I have said before, it is my belief that for a great many jobs (NOT including highly technical professions) a degree does not indicate a level of expertise that an employer is looking for. Instead it only signifies that the graduate is trainable, goal oriented, has some degree of discipline, and is generally willing to work to achieve something.

Yes, yes, yes! This goes to YAG's excellent point that the causation doesn't necessarily run from "finish college/get married" to "be successful/happy" but rather, that people who persevere and delay instant gratification are the ones who are most likely to succeed at whatever they attempt.

99% of life is just showing up dressed to play. That, and not taking your ball and going home every time people fail to discern your innate amazingness.

This matters when so many people are arguing that everything's too haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard and boys are too shallow, impatient, and foolish to sit down and shut up for anything longer than 5 seconds, or do their homework, or follow directions, or be expected to read anything they're not naturally interested in.

Good Lord - my boys could sit still when they were just toddlers (and one of them was borderline ADHD). They could concentrate too, and behave themselves. They were expected to do these things, and the reductive view of masculinity that makes excuses for pretty much everything and views men as hapless, grossly inferior beings from whom not much can reasonably be expected just frosts my cornflakes!

I know too many intelligent, incredible men whom I greatly admire to buy into that nonsense. Every day they get up, get dressed, show up, work hard, get knocked around, and get up again and are back in the fray. They don't lie down and cry when they run into an obstacle. They mow it down.

I hate when feminists talk about girls as though women are fragile flowers who can't possibly thrive unless we're coddled and pampered and given a 100 point handicap at the game of life. And I have the same reaction to conservatives talking smack about men and boys.

Sorry for the rant but this stuff drives me nuts.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 1, 2014 03:55 PM

She's now talking about getting a local job and doing some JuCo courses for a coupla years before looking into a four year college.

Worked for my oldest, and I didn't get my degree until I was in my late 30s. I've never regretted doing so. I don't miss being blocked from jobs I knew I could do because I didn't have those letters on my resume.

But as someone who hires people, those letters also matter. I hired someone with an associate's recently and she's WONDERFUL. I was asked whether that might be a problem and I replied, "Based on what I've seen of her communication and writing skills, nope."

As a general rule, I have very little problem with the fact that most white collar jobs require a degree. That doesn't mean everyone with a degree is qualified, and it sure doesn't mean everyone without a degree is UNqualified. But in general, it's an indicator of a lot of the qualities I want in an employee: perseverence, willingness to fit into a larger scheme, ability to follow directions (and follow through), ability to see beyond the end of your own nose to the bigger picture.

Some of my oldest friends don't have degrees. My Mom doesn't have a degree because she was literally told over and over, "You're just a woman. You don't need a degree".

And she didn't need a degree to be a smart or good person. But she wanted to go to college. She loves to learn. And I loved my time in college. It's so easy for people who would never dream in a million years of letting someone else tell them what to do have so many bright ideas about how women should live our lives.

Why not trust people to make their own decisions?

Posted by: Cassandra at May 1, 2014 04:04 PM

Heh, pretty much every significant statement that follows:
'Newsweek magazine declared'
is more than likely WRONG.

Posted by: CAPT Mike at May 1, 2014 04:14 PM

It is, after all, the point of a good education: to get some facts into the brain housing group so we don't rely solely on feelings and intuition.

I am here at a loss and we at a Mexican standoff.

I suspect by 'good education' you haven’t anything of the sort in mind as what today passes for it.

I suspect you realize that getting some facts into the brain housing has a great appeal but limited value.

There’s very little in the way of facts and even less data in the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Burke, and the entirety of Jefferson’s recommended reading list.

If ever it was my assignment to teach the apes, I would start first with “above all, THINK” and would flunk every damn one of them that thought only to jot that down in a notebook.

Posted by: George Pal at May 1, 2014 05:03 PM

Well George, one of my sons graduated from St. John's in Annapolis (at great expense), so I don't doubt the value of learning to think.

The value of even today's college education (and mine is fairly recent, and yet it was both good and useful though I didn't go to a fancy school) is that it forced me to study all sorts of things I wouldn't have on my own. Including Plato. And German, and Calculus, and law. And accounting.

And computer programming and economics. All very good for the mind.

It forced me to stretch my mental wings a bit - to do things I didn't enjoy, to learn that things I'd previously thought were "boring", weren't. Once you got into them, they were actually quite fascinating.

I learned to see connections that had been hidden from me before and appreciate just how much thought goes into things I've always taken for granted. I worked VERY hard to get my degree and I'd do it again in a heartbeat because education made me a better person, wife, and mother.

Sorry, but I'm not about to buy into the notion that there's no point in formal education beyond HS. A HS education these days is barely adequate. The majority of HS grads can't do any job I would need done in my office - they can't write well enough, or think their way through a problem.

So yes, nothing's as good as what used to be (except of course for all the things that are better than they used to be) :p

Posted by: Cass at May 1, 2014 05:35 PM

As a matter of fact, the job I got because I earned my degree paid for *both* my son's degrees, contra your assertions that women don't need and shouldn't want all that fancy book-larnin'

My husband and sons see the value in this and I'm happier than I was before. But all this is - apparently - insignificant in the face of your personal opinion that "females are not well served by higher education".

Posted by: Cass at May 1, 2014 05:39 PM

contra your assertions that women don't need and shouldn't want all that fancy book-larnin'

I have never asserted that nor insinuated it.

Posted by: George Pal at May 1, 2014 06:25 PM

I refer you back to your first comment:

"females are not well served by a ‘higher' education"

Posted by: Cass at May 1, 2014 06:30 PM

The 'higher' in quotes was obviously a marker suggesting the term had a self-contained editorial in keeping with my opinion of today's education. I have no problem with classically educated (in any field) women.

Posted by: George Pal at May 1, 2014 07:14 PM

that there were actually two strong influences on the academic achievement of teens. One is undoubtedly the involvement of fathers. The other is the mother's education level...

...A basic tenet of conservative ideology has always been that individuals have the power to overcome obstacles, perseverance matters, and individual responsibility is a vitally important foundation of any free society.

The second quote is in tension with the first. What the first seems to establish is that not individuals but families are able to overcome obstacles, etc. Those who are truly individuals are at a severe disadvantage.

Posted by: Grim at May 1, 2014 09:47 PM

What the first seems to establish is that not individuals but families are able to overcome obstacles, etc.

Well, that's another tenet of conservative ideology, but from where I sit, families are still composed of individuals. And it's not a deterministic or binary scenario (if Dad is involved, then kids WILL finish college). It's more of an odds thing (if Dad is involved, kids are more likely to finish college).

Some kids finish college even with broken families, uneducated moms, and uninvolved or absent fathers. My daughter in law proves that, but it's not as likely.

Some kids with all the advantages don't go to school, don't prosper, etc.

Being an individual doesn't mean you don't have a family, or that no one has ever helped (or hindered) you. We're all affected by the deeds of other people, and every single one of us is an individual - even those in close families.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 2, 2014 07:16 AM

The 'higher' in quotes was obviously a marker suggesting the term had a self-contained editorial in keeping with my opinion of today's education.

Well, that wasn't at all obvious to me, even after reading it again when I wrote my comment.

I'd still like to reinforce the point that I wasn't classically educated in college, yet college was immensely valuable to me and I learned many, many things I would not have learned otherwise.

I attended 4 different schools in 4 different states to get my bachelor's degree. They ranged from a tiny community college to a nationally known private university (but I attended a satellite campus on base) to an Ivy league school. That's the price of being married to a Marine - you don't stay in one place. And all 4 schools - some to a greater, some to a lesser degree - did a fine job of requiring me to take a wide assortment of classes outside my major.

I think I received a fine education. Perhaps not so fine as yours, but we can't all have everything we wish in life. All I know is, I am a better person and a far better thinker for the experience.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 2, 2014 07:22 AM

I waited so long, and wanted college so very much, that it appalls me to hear people suggest it's impossible (or even unlikely) for a student to get a decent education these days.

I completely agree that college immediately after HS isn't right for everyone. Maybe even for most people. How could I not? That's the road I chose.

But citing non-representative examples like Women's or Black studies that aren't anywhere NEAR the top ten or even top 20 majors is just ridiculous. And reading the books alone and writing papers and working math problems, even if one never attended a single class, is an education. Textbooks vary in quality but I generally found mine quite informative.

I studied math for 6 months before going back to school all by my lonesome so I wouldn't need remedial classes. It's just not that hard.

Everyone wants to make excuses, but there's really very little excuse in America for not getting an education if you really want to learn. There are community colleges and grants and scholarships and work-study (that's how I paid for my school: I worked 40 hours per week and then took an overloaded course schedule).

It may take some of us longer and it may entail some sacrifice, but I have no patience with the liberal mantra that we're all just helpless flotsam waiting for the government lifeboat to rescue us from this cruel, cruel world.

Sooner or later this country needs to buck up.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 2, 2014 07:30 AM

Hm. It seems to me that yes, some people have greater native intelligence, and that some people are luckier than others, and that,etc,etc.

Our educational system needs to be able to serve all those groups, civilize them and perhaps make them useful to society.

Back in the day, we were "Tracked" to College Prep, Business or Vocational about 8th grade based upon classroom performance, aptitude and intelligence tests. Lateral movement was possible up to about 11th grade. That, and a healthy apprentice system served us well. Everyone is NOT equal in all attributes and even special snowflakes should have to earn a living.

So yes, boys (but not all) tended to gravitate to shop, math and hard science at a greater rate than did girls, So what? So long as a girl (and I knew several that did) wished to be a Math Major, she could. I ought to know, I married one!

Plumbers and electricians make more than most college graduates and have the further value of actually being useful.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at May 2, 2014 10:28 AM

It is true that families are composed of individuals. Likewise, water is composed of oxygen and hydrogen. But oxygen and hydrogen won't get you wet.

Posted by: Grim at May 2, 2014 10:31 AM

But oxygen and hydrogen won't get you wet.

And yet individuals with no family support and no independent means of their own do manage to graduate from college.

My DIL was the first in her family to do so. I have several friends who managed the same feat with no family support (and in some cases, active opposition). So chemistry analogies aside, individuals who persevere do succeed all the time.

And people in families are still individuals.

You are wrongly conflating being an individual with being completely independent of other human beings, but everyone - each one of us - is an individual (as opposed to a crowd).

Posted by: Cassandra at May 2, 2014 10:52 AM

Back in the day, we were "Tracked" to College Prep, Business or Vocational about 8th grade based upon classroom performance, aptitude and intelligence tests. Lateral movement was possible up to about 11th grade. That, and a healthy apprentice system served us well.

I couldn't agree more.

I was so bored during most of school. In 4th, 6th, and 7th grade I was admitted to a gifted program of sorts (they didn't call it that back then). I learned more in those 3 years than I did in most of the rest of my school days.

It was a mistake to do away with tracking, I think. Europe has tracking, and they are more progressive than we are politically. Of course Europe also has no formal separation of church and state (several European nations have a state religion) and their police have powers we would never accept.

It is a puzzlement...:p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 2, 2014 10:56 AM

Well, that wasn't at all obvious to me

I hereby promise all attempts to obviousness will be Herculean.


I wasn't classically educated in college, yet...

I congratulate you on having escaped the great maw of postmodern education not only unharmed but better. But I believe it speaks better of you than of education that you had so robust a resistance to bullshit.

I think I received a fine education. Perhaps not so fine as yours...

You have the better of me in education and I’d wager a bottle of Martell Cordon Bleu that every regular in the Villainous Company has also. My formal education consists of one year at a juco and in all honesty I didn’t go for an education – at least not a conventional one.


citing non-representative examples like Women's or Black studies that aren't anywhere NEAR the top ten or even top 20 majors is just ridiculous

Very well ridiculous. But nearly every department has been subjected to PoCo delicacy, right thinking, deconstructionism, and an unconditional conformity so virulent as to make German Gleischaltung in the time of the NSDAP seem liberal.

Posted by: George Pal at May 2, 2014 11:03 AM

The evidence isn't that individuals without family support can't go to college successfully, but that those with family support have a substantial advantage. So the argument from that evidence is that the principle of seeing people as individuals first (or only, if you try to reduce families to mere collections of individuals) is a bad principle.

Thus the water example. The relationship has properties that its components do not have. (These properties are called emergent properties, as you probably know.). In the case of water, wetness and liquidity at room temperature. In the case of families, much improved success rates at any endeavor (not just college).

So the individualism principle should be amended or discarded. Metaphysically, too, it is important to recognize that relationships are real things with properties of their own. Wholes don't reduce to their parts; the kind of whole is important.

Tex was talking in a similar way at the Hall, about systems. Systems aren't just the people in them. There are important qualities that arise from the system itself, from how it is ordered and structured. It is an error to speak as if the system was merely its human members, or a family merely the individuals in it. Relationships are real.

(You might like a theological argument, so here is one: the Trinity is supposed to be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit? It is supposed to be the love between Father and Son, that is, the relationship between them. So, though a relationship, it is said to be the 'third person' of the Trinity. The relationship is as fundamental as the relata.)

Posted by: Grim at May 2, 2014 11:34 AM

The way you frame it (that people are individuals first and foremost) isn't really conservative, IMO.

Conservatism stresses the influence of families, churches, civic organizations, and culture as well as the power of one person - the individual - to overcome the odds. You're writing as though conservatism says that the odds shouldn't be against any individual, but that's really more of a progressive idea than a conservative one.

Nothing in life is equal. No two individuals are equal in their talent, their background, the amount of help they have. Conservatism doesn't promise that no person will have to try harder than another, but rather that even disadvantaged individuals will go farther if they work hard an persevere than if they wait for government to level the playing field.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 2, 2014 11:49 AM

Your first paragraph captures just what I was trying to say. :) I was objecting to the individualist formula.

Posted by: Grim at May 2, 2014 02:17 PM

Oh good, because that drives me nuts too :p

Sometimes I think I'm being clear, and it turns out I wasn't at all.

I've always loved Scott Adams' version: "in-duh-vidual" :)

Posted by: Cassandra at May 2, 2014 03:15 PM

Heh
Add a spark to oxygen & hydrogen and you WILL get water!
Plus heat . . .

Posted by: CAPT Mike at May 3, 2014 04:29 PM

That's true, although to do it the best way we know you requires starting with water.

Posted by: Grim at May 4, 2014 10:32 PM

The analysis appears to indicate that "girls were always performing better than boys" However, the problem I have here is that the inference is that boys are TRENDING downwards in comparison to girls. So it isn't steady - it's getting worse.

The second point why don't we see a problem with helping boys do better? Even if girls were always performing better than boys shouldn't we look for ways to improve their education to bring them up to par with girls? If the roles were reversed and we saw boys and girls education trends change places wouldn't we be having a different discussion? There would surely be a lot of outrage and a call for action.

Posted by: Joe Wilson at July 14, 2014 01:43 PM

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