Sexual politics and college

Well, as my bud Technogypsy says, “the plural of anecdote is not evidence,” but I am teaching in three different counties at community college, and I am now definitely starting to see a huge difference in the student population of my classrooms.

Males are a distinct minority.  With the exception of one campus, where guys are trying to claw their way out of Poorville(tm), the guys are roughly about 20% of the room, and sometimes less.

Unless Reynolds, et. al., are somehow overlooking a serious ameliorating factor, something has definitely gone out of whack.  A lot of these gals (like the eight sorority chicks I taught last maymester) are self-admittedly looking to find a guy and never work again…. but that old-timey 1950s-style arrangement doesn’t fly any more, especially if the guys who’d do that sort of thing can’t make the grade.  Either they’re going to be awful lonely, or there are a lot of guys out there who aren’t going to stand a chance…

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  1. Mike

     /  June 1, 2007

    Pretty damn sad. Who started making it a popular idea to get a deadend job and be a slob trying to act cool for the rest of your pathetic life?

  2. Actually, Happycrow, my experience in college admissions backs your observations 100%. It has been a problem in college recruiting since the early 90’s. That particularly holds true for Liberal Arts colleges and majors.

    We used to brainstorm with our marketers as to how UD could attract more males. The baseball team was one solution, but that was a limited success. The better solution, believe it or not, was the comprehensive business major offered now. Have you ever wondered why so many college recruiting brochures have pictures of a lot of pretty girls? It does two things. It makes the female population think that they will be safe on campus (safety in numbers, comfort levels, etc.) and, of course, the males like to think there will be a number of pretty girls running around the place.

    This is, of course, very superficial marketing, and UD had a lot more going for it in the marketing division than that, but the point to what is going on in the male populations in colleges is a huge question in ALL colleges right now except in very large state school business programs.

  3. Madeleine

     /  June 1, 2007

    Interesting – I wonder if the dropping number of males in college has anything to do with a cultural backlash from the feminist movement?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely a feminist (though my hubby is more of one), but there seems to be a trend in classrooms of encouraging the females to the exclusion of the males. I don’t have tons of emprical evidence, but in the handful of situations I’ve observed, even in elementary school, the girls received a noticably greater percentage of the teacher’s attention/encouragement while the boys were either ignored or called on second.

    Might be that we need to start treating the sexes equally in the classroom and stop over-compensating for past wrongs if we’re going to have a good majority of educated youth (regardless of sex).

  4. Mike

     /  June 1, 2007

    M. you probably are on the right track. From what I have seen with my two nephews there is lots of focus on the girls. When their dad asked about it, he was told by a rather honest teacher (who happened to be female) that it was “over-compensation”, driven primarily by older administrators (boomer-types). She recommended some additional activities (scouting, little-league sports and explorers) but said in public schools there was an admin focus and he should be aware that it wasn’t going to change for a while.

  5. In the Admissions circles, the question seems to have a lot more to do with the perception of the “Liberal Arts” and how useful they are in the workplace. There are other mitigating factors, of course, such as your college’s location and the traditional market that enrolls at that college.

    In the larger cities, there has been a large drop in the number of men actually graduating from high school. Among colleges with large sports programs, the percentage of male matriculants is larger than those (like community colleges) with little or no sports programs. As a result, they pull a larger number of males that have a diploma or GED. Nationwide there has been a steady drop in the number of males that are college eligible.

    It is the Liberal Arts in general that have really taken the hit. You all have heard the “do you want fries with that” jokes, and whether they are true or not, the perception among american males tends to be that you have to have a ‘practical’ degree, like business or IT. Part of that is the huge increases in the costs of attending a school. In the old days, you did not have to go into such massive debt to go to school, so people are shopping around a lot harder than they used to do.

    My wife is an HR specialist, and she tells me that the scuttlebutt going around there is that people getting out of college with a BS, BA or BB are expecting to make the same salaries as people that have been in the workplace for a number of years. What that tells me is that the perception has grown that a person that gets a degree is actually ‘purchasing’ a career, not earning an education.

    Females also follow this trend to some degree, but not nearly in the same numbers. Since the early 90’s, for example, they have begun to dominate liberal arts programs. Sports draws some of the female population, but not in large numbers. Not many females dream of a career in the NBA or the NFL I guess.

    My perception is that if there is a backlash involved, it has more to do with a reaction to the immense tuitions and the debt involved in getting a degree.

  6. … and when you combine this sort of thing with men effeminizing themselves so as to make it easier for women to compete and not playing hardball when women are present (since they’ve been tought that women have to get similar effort-normalized results regardless of capability), you get a pretty f-ed up situation.

    We’ll know the pendulum’s swinging back when boxing gets popular again.

  7. James — I concur with your purchasing sentiment; the number of morons who think they should be getting bazillions in stock options just because their degree says they can code is both preposterous and frustrating. As if having a skill is anything like knowing when, when not, and how to deploy it.

  8. So far as I’m aware, women who aren’t looking for an MRS degree generally aren’t looking at non-terminal LA degrees; they’re either heading for advanced degrees so they can play the Academia Lottery, or they’re going to trade schools to be dental hygenists, vet-techs, CPAs, &c.

    And old boss once said “yeah, she says it’s great, ‘cuz she can be a Mom, do volunteer work, or get a job — the world’s wide open now that women have ‘equal’ rights. Men, oh, we can work.” If you’re expecting to have to put bread on the table, you lean towards thing’s that’ll prepare you to be able to do so.

  9. Mike

     /  June 1, 2007

    Something that I have noticed is how much more companies are looking for people with experience in the military. Compared to 15 or 20 years ago, things you learn in the military are no longer so commonplace. After WWII when 1 out of every 8 males had served you no longer have such a percentage of people experienced with decision making, planning, leading and commanding and all of it under some form of pressure. College sure can’t teach any of that, and with the “risk-free” childhoods so many people are trying to raise their kids on, it is beginning to seem you need to have a college course (for both sexes) on risk taking and operating under pressure.

    Yeah, the liberal arts have lots of the “do you want fries with that” jokes, but anymore it is seeming that ALL graduates might be saying that pretty soon.

  10. Mike

     /  June 1, 2007

    Skill versus real-world experience. Has any generation EVER figured out that you don’t really know anything upon turning 18?

  11. Yeah, but folks, I’m teaching at **Community College.** Amhist is a LA course, but it’s a mandated one. Every single student going through that institution has to either pass through my, or my colleagues’, classroom, or the state of Texas won’t let them graduate.

    So while I can easily see LA being part of the issue with the “fries” problem… it’s not actually what my anecdotal experience is describing.

  12. Happycrow, I agree. I think what you are seeing is not so much LA degrees or courses, in the cases of Community Colleges with little or no sports programs, what you are really seeing is the decline in the male demographic. I brought that up to describe the national trend. Private schools have to compete a lot heavier, then, for all of those males that ARE college eligible.

    One result in that is that people that have a military background have something very similar to your basic degree, and that is proof that you, individually, have the wherewithal to get into a program and complete it. Employers like that.

    The one other thing that I did not bring up is the overall decrease in the number of college age kids.The 80’s brought an end to the ‘bubble,’ if you will, of a LOT of kids that were born in the 60’s and 70’s. As we got into the 90’s, we began to see the result of everyone having 1 or two kids at most. All the talk about the serious nature of the social security system as america gets older in general ties into this. One of the reasons that tuitions have increased far ahead of the national inflation rate is that without all of those kids coming into colleges and paying, to keep the same number of colleges and professors working, the costs HAD to increase to keep up with the falling numbers of tuition payers. So you have a vicious cycle. Fewer numbers = higher tuition. Higher tuition = fewer people willing to pay.

  13. Mike

     /  June 1, 2007

    Ouch, that is a point I hadn’t considered. But you are right, less people means more competition among the colleges existing and for those colleges to keep existing they have to get more money out of a smaller number of students.

    Well, join the army and use the GI Bill.

    Heh, I wonder if some of the liberal types in the world of college academics are having issues with that idea? We need more people to go to college, it costs more, loans are nasty, but the GI Bill isn’t.


  14. “Every single student going through that institution has to either pass through my, or my colleagues’, classroom, or the state of Texas won’t let them graduate.”

    Graduation is not relevant. You are still missing a large segment of any community college population–those that are saving a few bucks by going to comm college for a year or two before going to the 4-year school. A lot of these people are going to bypass the community college required courses, but these students are typically (although certainly not universally) better than the others.

  15. I wrote a few years ago about the differences between males and females in my courses before. The gist was that while males and females seemed to have about the same overall average, the males were predominantly in the top and the bottom of the class, while the females were predominantly in the middle. Since then the only change is that there seem to be more females at the top, so the average is better now for females. I think every class I’ve taught in the last few years has had the bottom 4-5 all be males.

  16. That is interesting.

    What is it that you teach?

  17. I teach Math and Physics.

  18. That is great. I started as a Physics major myself. What killed me was that anything beyond basic Differential Equations was just not comprehensible.

    Dr. Olenick was a good year ahead of the math department in those days, and while some could interpolate and make the necessary jumps, I just did not have the background for that. Luckily for me, I had always had a lot of historians around me, so I had a major I could jump to and love just as much. Sybil Novinski followed me around until I capitulated and finished my degree at UD.

    I still miss physics from time to time, though. I love thinking on the concepts.

  19. “Dr. Olenick was a good year ahead of the math department in those days….”

    I think it is better to say that the math dept was a year behind Dr. Olenick. That math dept was (and from what I have heard still is) a complete disaster.

    I gave some thought to switching to Politics, but Sarah Thurow cured me of that idea real quick.

  20. That is probably a very accurate assessment. I still think if I had had some real support from the math department I could have finished in Physics. As it was, though, I just did not have the tools necessary. I did not need theoretical math nearly as much as I needed some practical guidance.

    Oh well, I still had a great education from UD. I sure as hell would not have gone for politics at UD. Their philosophical basis is too much for me. I tend to be a bit more of an egalitarian, if you follow what I mean.

  21. Mike

     /  June 1, 2007

    Heh, you guys should ask JimDesu about our Math department at VMI.

    “Cloudy” Williams. I think his last name was Williams anyway. A infamous instructor of Math who singlehandedly nearly destroyed the Math Department.

    Ask him how he got his nickname “cloudy”.

  22. They teach things at VMI?

  23. 😛

  24. “Graduation is not relevant. You are still missing a large segment of any community college population–those that are saving a few bucks by going to comm college for a year or two before going to the 4-year school.”

    Actually, Zathras, this is not true. I’m teaching Summer I right now, and 85% of my students this term are folks in 4-year schools trying to “clear the decks” so they can get on with their majors. (And it shows, big-time, in the quality of their work, too). Same demographics there as with the regular students (2 classes, 70-75 students, of which *maybe* 12 are male. And the count, if I sit down with my roll sheets, is probably closer to 10).

  25. Well, Happycrow, if your object is to meet men….you need a different avenue…

    Ok, I have had enough to drink……apologies all around…..

  26. Hey… I represent these comments! I had to quite UD because of finances.

    I could go out and get a job in IT (12 years ago) making 42k, or work at a restaurant and beg my way through school.

    The loans were never enough because my father was a “poor” rancher who owned a huge ranch. The choice was for him to sacrifice his livelyhood or for me to get a job.

    To send all five kids to private university would cost ~1.2 Million dollars today. Public school would be 508k.

    So the only reasonable options are:
    1.Full or near ride scholarship
    2. Community College
    3. Abroad to state-sponsored school
    4. Military

    The biggest deciding factor here is making the right choice up-front. I should have gone to a state school – but my family wanted me to go and I was ignorant at the time. By the time I quite UD it was too late for that option.

  27. B-T-W, James #25 was a fraud. I had nothing to drink that day at all, further, I fully realize that Happycrow is a satisfied and balanced heterosexual…..

  28. happycrow

     /  June 4, 2007

    well, maybe not BALANCED… I mean, hell, look who I hang out with…

  29. Mike

     /  June 4, 2007

    Heh, you got that right.


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