"There are two tragedies in life," declared Oscar Wilde. "One is not getting what you want. And the other is getting it."
In colleges and universities across the country, feminists now face the second tragedy. After years of campaigning for increased educational opportunities, women have moved well beyond equality to a position of overwhelming dominance in higher education. According to a stunning new projection by the United States Department of Education, by 2010 females will make up at least 60 percent of the national student body. Since they also graduate at a much higher rate than men, this means that two thirds of all bachelor's degrees may go to women.
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Already, major institutions of higher learning feel a desperate need to recruit more males. The Seattle Times reports that many colleges in the state of Washington hope to lure males "by marketing traditionally male-dominated fields of study such as engineering and touting their athletic programs." The newspaper fails to mention, however, that any such attempts will inevitably conflict with current notions of political correctness, not to mention provoking lawsuits and public protest from various activist groups. Those few academic disciplines that remain "traditionally male-dominated fields of study" face enormous pressure for greater "diversity," while any effort to "tout" male athletic programs above the inevitably less popular female sports will provoke governmental discipline under the notorious Title IX.
This situation highlights the utter absurdity of current programs of affirmative action, which still treat females as a disadvantaged minority. This makes no more sense than the notion of treating Asian-Americans as disadvantaged at the University of California, where they already represent a share of that privileged student body nearly four times their percentage of the state population. Richard McCormick, President of the University of Washington, admitted in his June commencement address that women already decisively outnumbered men among recipients of 2002 bachelor's degrees, by 56 percent to 44 percent.
The situation has become so acute that some public institutions have attempted to close the yawning gender gap by granting preferential treatment to males. The University of Georgia launched such an initiative several years ago but promptly abandoned it when hit by a massive federal lawsuit. The logic of that litigation argued that the traditional justification for preferential treatment for women and minorities – that these groups suffered historic patterns of discrimination – could not apply to white males who never suffered institutionalized oppression.
In purely practical terms, all thoughtful citizens ought to feel alarmed at the prospect of a higher educational system that grants degrees to females at a ratio of two-to-one over males. In today's fiercely competitive economy, the lack of a college education represents a gigantic disadvantage, severely limiting the earning potential. This means a growing number of frustrated, resentful men, permanently handicapped in their competition with better educated female peers. Many of these males will also remain unmarried, because of the nearly universal reluctance of high-achieving women to settle for mates without credentials or prospects. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently focused on the crisis among black women, since more than 60 percent of African-Americans who earn college degrees are female. According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, this has contributed to the disastrous decline in the percentage of black women who are married – from 62 percent in 1950, to 36 percent in 2000.
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In other words, current trends in higher education may well replicate in the population at large some of the current pathologies in the African-American community – with a large pool of men remaining economically frustrated, unattached by marriage, and prone to crime, violence, addiction and a wide range of other dysfunctions. Female domination of the student body may also lead to increasing numbers of college-educated women who despair of ever building normal marriages, and therefore opt to bear children out-of-wedlock, with all the well-known social costs of more fatherless households.
The first step in avoiding the disastrous impact of the educational imbalance requires an open, unequivocal recognition of society's stake in making sure that males represent at least half of those equipped with a basic university credential. To achieve the goal, we must dismantle immediately the remaining affirmative action programs designed to boost females. Giving preferences to any group already dramatically over-represented is worse than silly; it is profoundly unjust. At the same time, we ought to acknowledge the social stake in allowing employers to select bright, ambitious males without college degrees above women with stronger educational backgrounds. If such workplace decisions require the suspension of the "protection" of females under the current Civil Rights regime, then so be it.
Most significantly, the current female tilt on campus should lead to a thoroughgoing reconsideration of all the ways and means by which our present educational system, from pre-school through grad school, discourages the success of boys, and ridicules or even criminalizes normal male behavior. The disproportionate success of women in the university admissions process doesn't begin the undermining of men, but rather provides unequivocal evidence of its widespread and devastating impact.
These suggestions may sound radical and wrenching, but failure to alter current trends will produce a sweeping national tragedy that will inevitably engulf women as well as men.