Falling Behind: What’s the matter with men?

A lengthy New Yorker article (1/30) containing a  review of a new book by Richard V. Reeves entitled “Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It” highlights the many areas where boys and men are failing.  The data is overwhelming and leads one to conclude that men have become the second sex. In academic performance, boys are well behind girls in elementary school, high school and college where the gender ratio is close to two female undergraduates for every one male.  In addition, women are currenly the majority of medical and law students. Men are increasingly dropping out of work during their prime working years, overdosing, drinking themselves to death and generally dying earlier – including suicide.  Even an egalitarian country like Sweden has observed the decline in male performance compared to their female population.  They even have a word, pojkkrisen ,  (boy crisis), that Swedish researchers use to define the situation.

Reeves posits that the rapid liberation of women and the labor market shifts toward brains and away from brawn have left men facing cultural redundancy and boys floundering.   Reeves feels that things have become so bad, especially for black men and white men without a college degrees. that emergency social repairs are needed.  Reeves writes. “It is like the needles on magnetic compass reversing their polarity. Suddenly working for gender equality means focusing on boys rather than girls.”

Some progressives have little sympathy for the plight of men and boys. They argue that the detoxification of masculinity is a messy and necessary process and sore losers of underserved privilege don’t merit much sympathy.  However, the social cost of ignoring the new gender gap is too great to ignore.  One unfortunate  result is a resurgence of toxic masculinity.  The “manosphere” is replete with “Incel” misogyny and comments from some on the right that America has become weak because of the loss of traditional manliness. 

Reeves response to the gender gap is to advocate for fostering a “prosocial masculinity for a post feminist world.”  Specifically his major recommendation is to red shirt boys in Kindergarten.  Since boys develop slower, providing an extra year of Kindergarten will level the playing field in the subsequent grades.  Unfortunately, the data he provides for advocating red shirting is not overwhelming and in fact contradicts studies that show that boys who are left back suffer higher rates of academic dropouts.

As I have blogged in the past the answer to the ever growing gender achievement gap is to redefine masculinity in a way that fosters a pride in masculine energy that is not based on the subjugation of women. Teaching boys in a style that specifically works for them will help close the achievement gap in schnooks.  Adult men can benefit from joining and regularly participating in men’s groups.  We cannot abandon the contributions of half of the population without enormous social and financial consequences.