To the delight of militant feminists hoping to topple the patriarchy, there is indeed a nationwide crisis of manhood. Fewer men work or attend college; far more men than women commit suicide, have drug addictions, suffer with health problems; and far more men make up the prison population.
Beyond these problems that can be easily quantified, one can sense a general malaise among men. They understand their inferiority all too well, and they can see women zooming past them in the game of life. Rather than find motivation in this and compete, many of them simply retreat to childhood and give up.
The American Psychological Association’s recent decision to classify traditional masculinity as a kind of disorder only confirms what many have now long assumed: in today’s Information Age, boys need to suppress their male nature in order to succeed in life. However, instead of producing more thoughtful men with better soft skills, this has mainly cultivated inferiority complexes for many young men and certain female chauvinism for girls.
While men retreat to the fantasy worlds of pornography and videogames, women earn advanced degrees and increasingly dominate the workplace. As Nick Sheppard explained recently in The Federalist, kids have started noticing the increasing competency gap between men and women and are predictably following suit: boys stop trying, assuming mediocrity is inevitable; girls feel all the more pressure to succeed in every metric and “have it all.”
Let’s Look at Homes and Schools
None of this should surprise anyone, although progressive critics too often choose to dismiss it. Legalizing no-fault divorce and the creation of the birth control pill half a century ago has quickly fostered family breakdown and the proliferation of fatherless households everywhere, virtually guaranteeing an emasculated culture in the twenty-first century. Nearly everyone who comments on this issue realizes the importance of restoring the nuclear family and involving the father in raising young men.
However, as these conversations generally go, any criticism of home life will inevitably turn into criticisms of schools as well. Not only have increasing rates of broken homes produced two generations of weak men, but broken schools poisoned by feminist ideology apparently share the blame as well. In his wonted fashion, writer Matt Walsh succinctly encapsulates the arguments of many conservative commentators, asserting that schools feminize boys by suppressing boys’ energetic nature, glorifying femininity over masculinity, offering few to no male role models, and hindering their ability to learn by grouping them with girls.
While all true to some degree, these issues are mostly marginal in America’s male problem. As with most social issues, schools can only encourage or discourage what already happens outside their boundaries. They cannot replace the role of parents or reverse cultural decadence, nor should anyone with the least interest in limited government and personal freedom really desire this.
With that in mind, however, schools could obviously do more than they do currently to at least address over-feminized education. Not only would this give a boost to young men, but it would actually improve the education of young women as well and make school a nicer place to learn.
More Play and Free Time
The best place to start would be allowing more free time for students of all ages to run around and play. While the lack thereof negatively affects boys more (who are, as Christina Hoff Summer argues, more naturally aggressive), both sexes would benefit: not only could they channel their pent-up physical energy, but also could develop their social skills and pursue their own interests.
In most schools today, the students have very limited free time. They spend the majority of their 30-minute lunch waiting in line before they scarf down their food and attempt to feel the sun on their face on those last few seconds of recess before returning to class. Between classes, they have just enough time to hustle to the next room, often carrying all their books around since they have no time to use a locker and many schools have since removed lockers altogether. Even in P.E. and art, those brief respites from the oppressive monotony of sitting quietly all day, have been shortened or deemphasized for the sake of doing more test preparation (or so educators say).
Schools need to relax this dehumanizing routine. In Europe, students have much more time to eat, play, and simply breathe. Even the educational superpower Finland prioritizes recess without its schools losing their academic rigor. Educators there seem to understand that the solution to restless and misbehaving boys is not doubling down on discipline or ADHD medication, but providing a much-needed outlet for conversation and play.
Up the Curriculum Content that Interests Boys
Besides giving kids more free time to be kids, educators need to reconsider what they give them to read and learn. All too often, the content in English and social studies classes is heavily feminized, which is likely why most boys tend to gravitate towards science and math.
Anyone looking at English or social studies curricula will notice how identity politics “inclusivity” increasingly trumps interest or relevance. While such instructional decisions might aid boys in developing better sensitivity, it will also bore them to tears make them hate reading.
Some educators have caught on to this problem and have changed their approach to teaching these subjects to better reach male students. Even girls appreciate this change. Like their male peers, they prefer good writing (clear, engaging, inspiring) over writing that panders to their sex or race.
They also would prefer learning about relevant and triumphant figures in history over activists and victims. Only “educational experts” in their progressive cocoon could imagine that somehow relating to characters or pitying them is more important and interesting than learning about characters who actually do something worthwhile.
Hire More Male Teachers
This principle changes when it comes to the person who teaches the students. Boys have very few male authority figures in their life, and this has the unintended effect of putting them off learning. Females greatly outnumber males in the teaching profession, three to one, if not more—a fact that led Time magazine to consider Oklahoma’s recent teacher strike an outgrowth of the Women’s March.
This makes school very much a girl’s domain. Girls have teachers to whom they can relate and set the tone of the class; boys looking for role models usually need to consider becoming athletes since the only males at a campus tend to be coaches (a big reason schools devote so many resources to athletic programs). Otherwise, they will be outsiders in a class run by women.
What accounts for this small minority of male educators? The same thing that accounts for minorities in other professions: women are more interested in becoming teachers. Teaching offers an accommodating schedule, job security, and the opportunity to work with young people—things that attract female applicants. It does not offer competitive pay or any upward mobility—things that might appeal to male applicants. This is why most men who do enter education become coaches or administrators.
In order to attract more men (and ambitious women) to teaching, school boards should consider merit pay or something comparable. In any other profession, talent and hard work earn an employee recognition, a possible promotion, and higher pay. In teaching, the best one can hope for is personal satisfaction and gratitude from students—rewards that can be acquired much more easily with treats and easy assignments. While determining what “merit” in the classroom entails presents a host of challenges, it is worth doing if it might improve the composition and quality of the faculty.
Consider Single-Sex Schools or Classrooms
Finally, schools hoping reach out to male students should separate them from the girls. Having different natures, boys and girls learn differently and distract one another when placed in the same room, particularly for adolescent students, so it makes sense to educate them separately. Schools apply this same logic when separating age groups into different grades, yet this does not seem to excite nearly as much controversy.
Allowing for these differences and the possibility of improving academic performance for all students, most opponents counter that with argument that separating the sexes does not prepare young people for the real world, where men and women work together. However, they seem to ignore the glaring fact that schools bear little resemblance to the real world anyway: so many hundreds of students, grouped by age, sit in a classroom together because the law demands it, not because they have any choice in the matter. How does any of this prepare young people to be act independently, choose their vocation, or relate to others?
The school world is completely artificial and frequently stunts children’s social growth by forcing them to sit together and learn the same way. It makes sense that, rather than overcome sex stereotypes and act more maturely, boys and girls in coed environments embrace those very stereotypes and act more childishly to distinguish themselves and appeal to the other sex.
By adopting these changes, school leaders can de-feminize primary and secondary education and lend a helping hand to boys who could use it. Still, it will not cure the crisis of manhood, but only treat a few of its many symptoms.
To treat the root of the problem, male advocates need to redirect their focus and seek the answers to some difficult questions: Why do so many boys lack fathers? Why does society celebrate single-motherhood if this is far from ideal for the parent or the child? Why do courts favor women in divorce proceedings when at least 70 percent of divorces are woman-initiated, often for specious reasons?
As any seasoned educator will attest, schools are just a reflection of what already exists in society. Any attempt at social engineering, even for a conservative goal of restoring masculinity and empowering males, will do little to change anything if the world beyond the school campus works on a completely opposite set of assumptions and values. Until male advocates directly address those assumptions and values, their arguments will unfortunately sound more like excuses than solutions.