Ken Coates and Clive Keen (“Snail Males,” March) suggest that one of the reasons the shift in education is happening is that positive male role models are disappearing. They’re not far off the mark, but I think what’s actually happening is not that the male role model has been replaced by the Bart or Homer Simpson ideal, but rather that the unearned privilege of men is finally, finally being questioned. What’s actually happening is what feminism has been pushing for all these years—the dismantling of traditional male/female roles and the unearned social, economic, and political power of men. The article highlights the complicated and unfair double-space that women have always occupied: be pretty, but not too pretty; speak up, but make sure you do it quietly; get an education, but make sure you don’t get any real power.
Deep cultural and political forces are handicapping this generation of young men. In addition to women now having real choices about what to do with their lives, they are in tune with their feelings and have power in their relationships. Men, on the other hand, are faced with the meaningless choice between professions to get rich. As boys, they were shamed for sensitive feelings and, in adolescence, they found power in adopting the “whatever” attitude—Western culture had sold itself out and it was self-preserving to not care. Boys’ late maturity has more to do with the unhealthy choices we’ve offered them than with gender-biased education.
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
The women of today are the daughters of the women of the 60s. Many of the latter felt trapped in traditional roles and, sensing liberation, encouraged their daughters to be everything they could be. They did not similarly encourage their sons because they thought men would do what men always did. We see the results today.
American educator Alfie Kohn has claimed that one of the pitfalls of graded education is that “we tend to recoil from situations where our autonomy has been diminished.” Perhaps boys are just rebelling against the narrowly conceived rote curriculum taught in universities and following Mark Twain’s exhortation to never let school interfere with one’s education.
Or maybe they’re on to what education critic John Taylor Gatto has suggested is the real goal of school—to get good grades, get into professional school, earn a ton of money, buy a big house in a desirable neighbourhood, and have kids to follow in your footsteps—and should be commended for avoiding it.
Far from being “snail males,” boys may in fact be the quicker studies.
A front-page feature in the February 9, 2007, edition of McMaster University’s student newspaper, the Silhouette, addressed the projected decline in university applicants once the “echo” generation is through high school. In the coming years, rather than solving this problem by lowering admission requirements, universities could kill two birds with one stone and institute policies and programs that support male enrolment. Actively recruiting males may be anathema today, but as the post-secondary education system becomes more polarized, the stigma of affirmative action will likely disappear. The question is how acute the problem will have to become before Canadians recognize the disservice being done to male students and to society as a whole.
I found it amusing that on the last page of “Snail Males,” there is an advertisement for the University of Toronto that features only one identifiably male figure—dancing (exploring his feminine side, or just trying to get laid?). Meanwhile, all of those clearly pictured in the classroom are women.
I was stunned to find out that cord-blood collection has been commercialized in Canada (“Blood Simple,” March). Obviously, the fees associated with private storage preclude poorer people from being able to access this valuable resource, but there is another aspect of this issue that troubles me at least as much: the notion that we each need to look after ourselves and the devil take everyone else. This way of thinking is manifested in so many of the choices we make. Those of us who can afford it buy rrsps instead of fighting for fully vested pension plans; we buy better education for our children and let the public system decline; we engage in surgical tourism or side-step the waiting list by buying services from the private clinics that are undermining the public health care system.
I will today start lobbying my MP and the minister of health to order Canadian Blood Services to set up a national cord-blood deposit system.
Errington, British Columbia