In one of those strange coincidences, I mentioned Christina Hoff Sommers and Judith Kleinfeld a few days ago in response to a comment on this blog. It was occurring to me that it was about time for someone to bring up the tired old argument, which I had not heard for a while: what about the boyz and menz?
And I'll be darned if this Sunday's issue of The New York Times did not have a piece by Christina Hoff Sommers on how boys are failing, in which she cites Judith Kleinfeld's work. They have been at this for years. Like many with a bad or losing argument they repeat their points over and over without ever changing them. Update: There are many good comments on this article, which are worth the time to read.
Both of these elite women (Kleinfeld has a PhD in education from Harvard) have as their real agenda the elimination of affirmative action so that the sons of the elite (maybe even their own sons, for all I know) can continue to enjoy their privileged positions relative to the rest of us. These ladies are the handmaidens of the men they are involved with; these gentlemen provide them with careers, money and social protection. Their organization is the Independent Women's Forum. I got interested in them when I saw a panel discussion on C-Span, back in the days when I watched TV, featuring Sommers. The men in the audience gushed about how wonderful it all was that women were finally understanding that feminism hurts men, who apparently are all defenseless inside from being bullied around by mean teachers and other feminazis who like clean little girls more than nasty boys, boo hoo. Of course this is a caricature on my part, but I'm not really interested in being fair here. I leave the judicious weighing of opinions, the presentation of statistics and the measured conclusions to those more responsible than I.
But why take seriously a woman who says it's bad that there are more women now in historically black universities than there are men? I think this is wonderful news! Black women are still at the bottom of the economic heap as well as being all-around cultural scapegoats. They are the ones who all too often end up supporting their families and bringing up the kids. They need everything they can get together to survive. Sommers' ploy here is the usual divide and conquer one that is pushing for things like charter schools and same sex academies for minority boys. The goal is a system that will provide a minimally sufficient education and schooling in obedience and usefulness for people of color while preserving racial segregation and a core of elite educational institutions for the future leaders of the country. Some people are born to serve, after all. (Sarcasm)
Pardon my skepticism at believing that Christina Hoff Sommers cares about the fate of black boys.
In the 19th Century common wisdom was that women were stupid and untrustworthy. Women had smaller brains and would become sterile if they got too much education. Women were too emotional. Women did not have big muscles (Well, that one is true for most of us.) Women enjoyed being confined and chained to the stove. Women did not have fully developed superegos. Whereas boys were noble, fair, inventive, creative, protective: all the good stuff. Now it seems that boys are just a pain; however, we have to get back to putting them first all the time, the way we used to. Because men have to run everything, of course! The way they always have! Especially white men! This is really the elitist version of Teaparty dogmas.
Speaking from my (yes, limited) personal experience, (but something I have seen over and over and over) I find that troublesome boys can sop up all the resources of a family. They cause family emergencies that put everyone at risk and more often than not go on to success while their sisters may languish. Trouble making sisters don't seem to have that kind of adverse effect on the boys, as far as I can see from my limited viewpoint. This is just me expressing an opinion here, take it for what it's worth.
And I think, also from my experience, that basically, the male sex is preferred to the female sex. The boys and men are the ones who get their way, even if their way isn't all that good. So often a boy can fool around in school and when he feels like it learn the necessary skills and get into a top college or university, while his sisters, considered to be plodders if they happen to be bright and good students, may find a spot at the local community college or state university.
I'm thinking about a boy, the star of the family, who went to Johns Hopkins, although Oregon State was good enough for his sisters. He wasn't very smart but was able to make friends with a fellow student who got him a good job with a computer firm. His parents groomed him, helped him with his Boy Scout projects so that he became an Eagle Scout, wrote his college entry essay for him, lived without even the basic amenities to put him through school. He was a very good kid, but the sacrifice for him was extreme, too, because, in fact his sisters were the smarter ones, and I think he kind of knew it. It was cruel to throw him in over his head like that.
To be fair and balanced I know a couple that invested everything in their two daughters who both got into Harvard and became MDs. They were the first parents I ever saw who accompanied their girls to the school bus and were of a type that is common today: helicopter parents, they are called. I found them quaint. How wrong I was. they were ahead of their time! But statistics show, as a friend says who is an academic in the field, that where there are boys and girls in the family, the boys get the better educations.
To conclude this, think what change means to the class of people who have profited most from the American educational system. I ask myself how they feel when they go to campuses and see, instead of white men everywhere, a mixture of genders and races. Does this scare them? Infuriate them?
Do they believe they can get away with saying what they think in supposedly polite academic and professional circles? No. They have to hire on women like Kleinfeld and Sommers to front for them.
Girls and women may manage somehow, but looking around me I fail to see any signs that women have taken over anywhere.