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, while far more men make up the prison population. Suicide, drug addictions, and myriad health problems are on the rise among men. Beyond problems that can be easily quantified, one can sense a general malaise among the male population. They understand their inferiority all too well as they watch women zoom past them in the game of life. Rather than finding motivation and competing, many retreat to childhood and give up.
Although leftist critics too often choose to dismiss it, none of this should surprise anyone. No-fault divorce and the birth control pill have fueled family breakdown and the proliferation of fatherless households everywhere, virtually guaranteeing an emasculated culture in the 21st century.
Most who delve into this issue realize the importance of involving fathers in raising young men and restoring the nuclear family. However, as these conversations generally go, any criticism of home life inevitably turns into criticisms of schools as well.
Schools Are Hastening the Decline of Masculinity
Not only have broken homes produced two generations of weak men, but defective schools poisoned by feminist ideology share the blame. 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 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 desire this. With that in mind, schools could do more to at least address over-feminized education. Not only would this boost young men, but it would improve the education of young women and make school a better place to learn.
Students Should Allow More Time for Outdoor Free-Play
A good place to start would be allowing more free time for students of all ages to simply run around and play. While the current lack of this type of free time negatively affects boys more (who are, as Christina Hoff Summer argues, more naturally aggressive), both sexes would benefit. Not only would students have a healthy way to channel their physical energy, but they could also develop their social skills and pursue their interests.
In most schools today, 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 during the 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 since they have no time to use a locker or many schools have removed lockers. Even in physical education and art, those brief respites from the oppressive monotony of sitting quietly all day, have been shortened or deemphasized for the sake of test preparation (or so educators say).
Schools need to relax this monotonous and stifling routine. In Europe, students have much more time to eat, play, and recuperate. Finland, often seen as the world’s educational superpower, prioritizes recess without its schools losing academic rigor. Educators there 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 social interaction and play.
Assigned Literature Shouldn’t Just Cater to Girls
Besides giving kids more free time to be kids, educators need to reconsider what they assign for reading. All too often, the content in English and social studies classes is heavily feminized, which discourages boys from studying these worthy fields. Examining English and social studies curricula show how identity politics is increasingly placed above genuine interest and relevance. While such instructional decisions might aid in developing sensitivity, it bores boys to tears and often makes them hate reading.
Some educators have caught on to this problem and have changed their approach to better reach male students. Girls appreciate this change as well. Like their male peers, girls prefer good writing (clear, engaging, and inspiring) instead of literature 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 leftist cocoon could imagine that somehow relating to characters or pitying them is more important and interesting than learning about a character who does something truly momentous. Nevertheless, this principle often changes for the person who teaches the students.
Teaching Must Become More Attractive to Men
Many of today’s boys lack male authority figures, and this has the unintended effect of putting them off learning. Females vastly outnumber males in the teaching profession, three to one, if not more—a fact that led Time magazine to consider Oklahoma’s spring teacher strike an outgrowth of the Women’s March. This makes school very much a female’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 males on campus tend to be coaches. 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 than men. Teaching offers an accommodating schedule, job security, and the opportunity to work with young people—things that particularly attract female applicants. It does not offer competitive pay or mobility—things more likely to appeal to male applicants. Therefore, most men who do enter education become coaches or administrators.
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 lead to recognition, a possible promotion, and higher pay.
In the current education system, 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 (push-back from teacher unions being the largest obstacle), it is worth doing if it might improve the composition and quality of the faculty.
Single-Sex Education Is Good for Both
Schools hoping to reach out to male students should separate them from the girls. Having different natures, boys and girls learn distinctly and distract one another when placed in the same room—particularly with adolescent students—so it makes sense to educate them apart. Schools apply this same logic when separating age groups into different grades, yet this does not seem to excite nearly as much controversy.
Opponents counter that this does not prepare young people for the real world where men and women work together. However, this argument ignores the glaring fact that schools bear little resemblance to the real world anyway.
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 act independently, choose their vocation, or relate to others?
The artificial school world stunts children’s social growth by forcing them into one box and assuming they learn the same way. It makes sense that, rather than overcome sex stereotypes and act more maturely, boys and girls in coed environments embrace stereotypes and act more childishly to both distinguish themselves and appeal to the other sex.
Education Changes Are Just One Part of Fixing the Problem
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, we need to redirect focus and seek the answers to some difficult questions: Why do so many boys lack fathers? Why does society celebrate single motherhood if it is far from ideal for both parent and child? Why do courts favor women in divorce proceedings when at least 70 percent of women initiate them, and for often specious reasons?
As any seasoned educator will attest, schools simply reflect what already exists in society. Any attempt at social engineering, even with the conservative goal of restoring masculinity and empowering males, will have little effect if the world beyond the school campus works on an opposite set of assumptions and values. Until more people directly address those assumptions and values, their arguments will continue to sound more like excuses than solutions.