The 1970 Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada identified notable gender inequalities in post-secondary education systems. At that time, women made up just 38.6% of all university students. Today, however, the tides have changed – it is men that are the vast minority across undergraduate institutions nation-wide. Just as it was in 1970, this inequality is a serious issue, and one which deserves critical attention. But it just isn’t getting any.
There isn’t a fervent movement fighting for men’s rights as there was for women forty years ago, and because the education gap is an isolated issue of inequality, it tends to be lost amidst the sea of women’s rights issue which permeate the main-stream media. If do we not address the systemic issues in public education that are keeping men from universities, then the underclass of uneducated men that has formed in Canada and the United States will continue to grow.
In an age where the manufacturing sector has all but vanished, allowing such a demographic to develop is especially dangerous. I can only hope that this article will make you realize that gender equality is a two-sided coin and that it will finally begin to shed some light on the plight of young boys in the public education system.
A recent study by Statistics Canada researches, Marc Frenette and Klarka Zemen, set out to explain the gender gap in university participation. The authors noticed that, by age 15, males were lagging behind females in several observable performance metrics. Study habits and parental expectations were chief on the list. The study concluded that, if boys were to pull even with girls in these areas, the gender gap would close by almost 80%.
According to Leonard Sax, an education expert and published scholar, there are a few systemic issues in public education which, if removed, would quickly allow for improvement. Sax specifically mentions the overreliance on medication for attention deficit disorders and an unnecessarily strict emphasis on kindergarten math and reading requirements. Perhaps if, at a younger age, boys were being encouraged to learn through activity rather than being dosed with Ritalin pills, they would enjoy being at school a little more. Of course, as Sax points out, the soft sexism of low expectations is also an issue. The only way to raise parental expectations is to combat the misguided attitude that girls are naturally smarter than boys (an attitude that has grown over the last few decades).
Unfortunately, Sax’s message has been undermined by those who misrepresent the gender equality movement and assume that to be “pro-boy” is to be “anti-girl”. These people propagate the dangerous illusion that women are unequivocally oppressed and men are always the oppressors. I can only hope that, in the end, critical thought and objectivity will win out against these misguided individuals.