Where are the college men?

Where are the college men? Female high-school students are more likely to aspire to a college degree, enroll and graduate than their male classmates. That’s true on leafy liberal arts campuses — and even more true at community colleges, which provide affordable job training.

Men are “conspicuously absent” on the campus of Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, writes Hanna Rosin in The End of Men: And the Rise of Women. Although the college president tries to “recruit more boys,” 70 percent of MCC students are female. Many are single mothers.

Plastic women vs. cardboard men

Men are scarce on college campuses, writes Richard Whitmire in a USA Today commentary. College-educated women are dominating more career fields — “just about everything but plumbing,” he writes. Women are “plastic,” quick to adapt, some argue, while men are “cardboard.” Whitmire doesn’t think vast economic forces have caused what Hanna Rosin calls The End of Men:And the Rise of Women. He blames kindergarten reading.

Twenty years ago, education reformers pushed literacy skills into earlier grades, assuming an early start  would prepare more students for college, he writes.

So how’s that turning out? At the eighth-grade level, 37% of girls scored proficient or above in writing on a just-released federal test, compared with 18% of boys.

What happened? Educators somehow overlooked the fact that boys pick up literacy skills later than girls. When boys get slammed with early academic demands they can’t handle, they tune out. They assume school is for girls, and they move on to more interesting activities, such as video games.

“If educators adjusted their early-grades literacy practices, a lot more boys would arrive in 12th grade ready to compete in the new economy,” he writes. “What educators have done can be un-done.”

As a reading tutor, I’ve seen dramatically higher expectations for first graders in the 25 years since my daughter started first grade. (Yes, she’s that old.) Kindergarten is the new first grade and some kids — mostly boys — aren’t ready.

Casual sex and the single college girl

Young single women are more educated and successful than the men they “hook up” with, writes Hanna Rosin in Boys on the Side, an Atlantic teaser for her new book, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women. “Sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career” makes it all possible, writes Rosin.

For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.

About three-quarters of college women “visit” the hookup culture, often during freshman year, Rosin admits. They experiment — without shame — and move on.

In 2004, sociologists Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton began studying the “sexual careers” of women living in a “party dorm” at a state university in the Midwest. For middle- and upper-middle-class students, hookups delayed a serious relationship that might interfere with their career plans.

“The ambitious women calculate that having a relationship would be like a four-credit class, and they don’t always have time for it, so instead they opt for a lighter hookup,” Armstrong told (Rosin).

. . . Almost all of the college women Armstrong and Hamilton interviewed assumed they would get married, and were looking forward to it. 

Of course, they may have to marry a less-educated man. Some of the women quoted in the book assume that they’ll be high flyers while their husbands stay home with the kids. 

While the women-love-hookups thing is mostly hype, the diminishing percentage of college-educated men is troubling. Women are outpacing men in higher education around the world: Iranian women are doing so well, the mullahs have created 77 all-male majors.

My daughter, a literary agent, gave me an advance copy of The End of Men. I said, “But I like men!” I’d hate to see women turn into cold-hearted careerists and men into beer-chugging babysitters.