May 30, 2013

Why Men Are Avoiding College


By Helen Smith

This is an excerpt from Dr. Smith's new book, "Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood and the American Dream-And Why It Matters."

If women were fleeing the nation's universities and colleges, we would have a national uproar, but men are now fleeing in large numbers and society barely notices. Numbers tell the story. Men have been falling behind women for decades. By 2009 National Center for Education statistics for degree-granting institutions listed 11.658 million women enrolled and 8.769 million men.  Many predict that women will soon account for 60 percent of our college grads. Public colleges like North Carolina at Chapel Hill and private ones like NYU have almost reached the 60 percent mark already. The University of Vermont in Burlington has so many women that the women jokingly call their college town Girlington. Diane Ravitch, the noted historian of education and a former assistant secretary of education asks: When will it be fair? When women are 60 percent or 75 percent of college enrollments? Perhaps it will be fair when there are no men at all."

Among minorities, the male-female balance is even more skewed. When economist Andrew Sum and his colleagues at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University looked at gender disparities in the Boston Public Schools, they found that for the class of 2008, among blacks there were 188 females for every 100 males attending a four-year college or university. Among Hispanics the ratio was 233 female for every 100 males. The facts are incontrovertible: young women from low-income neighborhoods in Boston, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C., do much better than the young men from those same neighborhoods. There are now dozens of studies with titles like "The Vanishing Latino Male in Higher Education" and "African-American Males in Education: Endangered or Ignored?"

Males Fading Away

So where are all the men?  Media accounts are short on insight and often just insult males, calling them lazy and dumb. Maybe we would be better off if the media and elites weren't so openly pleased that women are outpacing men in college. The college strike didn't happen overnight. It started years ago when the war against boys began after the feminist era. Initially, feminism was presented as being about equal rights between the sexes. Now it is often about revenge and special privileges for women and girls. Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of The War Against Boys, argues that feminists and their sycophants have worked hard to turn the educational system into one that favors girls at the expense of boys. Boys are now seen as "defective girls" in need of a major overhaul. Sommers says, "Gender experts at Harvard, Wellesley, and Tufts, and in the major women's organizations, believe that boys and men in our society will remain sexist (and potentially dangerous) unless socialized away from conventional maleness. . . . The belief that boys are being wrongly 'masculinized' is inspiring a movement to 'construct boyhood' in ways that will render boys less competitive, more emotionally expressive, more nurturing--more, in short, like girls."

Girls Have an Advantage

Boys are more at risk than girls in the U.S. educational system. A MetLife study stated, "Girls appear to have an advantage over boys in terms of their future plans, teacher's expectations, everyday experiences at school and interactions in the classroom."  Boys are less engaged in school, and less engagement means less success in the classroom; in fact, engagement with school is probably the single most important factor of academic success. Boys are more likely than girls to come to school without supplies and without doing their homework. Why aren't boys more engaged in school? According to Sommers, "schools today tend to be run by women for girls. Classrooms can be hostile environments for boys. They like action, competition and adventure stories. Those are not in favor. Games like tag and dodgeball are out; tug of war has become tug of peace, and male heroes have been replaced by Girl Power."  Boys receive lower marks from female teachers, according to research done for the London School of Economics' Centre for Economic Performance.

Some feminist types even say it's fine that older boys and men don't get a college education because they can make it without one. Maybe so for some, but many more will fall in the cracks, getting nowhere in a career.

Let's Feminize the Boys

In an article on the Minding the Campus website, Professor Robert Weissberg explained why so many men are fleeing the campus: "Universities are increasingly becoming feminized and many men, to use the antidiscrimination vocabulary, loathe a hostile working environment. In a word, males increasingly feel emasculated in today's universities."

A commenter named Marcus weighed in on the Minding the Campus article: "As a black male I can testify that this is indeed what is happening on college campuses. White males are at the forefront of the academic sexism but they are definitely coming after all males. Believe it."

Men's activist Glenn Sacks encountered this dynamic first hand at UCLA in the late 1990s, when the hostilities against men were running deep. He summarized his thoughts in a column that highlights the question many men are asking themselves:


I thought of the feminist academics (female and male) who poured their derision upon them, knowing that their students could not effectively fight back. I thought of the timid male professors who were so content with their own careers that they were perfectly willing to allow 18 year-old boys to be beat up on rather than jeopardize their own comfort by speaking out. And I asked myself a question which hundreds of thousands of male college students often ask themselves: "What am I even doing here?"

Free College, But Not Worth It 

Many other men ask themselves the same thing in today's anti-male climate. "Michael," a 28-year-old conservative, wrote to me to tell me his story. He went to the University of Florida free as a National Merit Scholar and winner of a Bright Futures Scholarship:


One of my professors was fascinated by me, in the way you might be fascinated by a bizarre animal that you don't understand; at one point, he announced (in front of the rest of the class) that I was surely socially maladjusted because my parents had spanked me when I was a child. At another point, during a dinner near the end of the semester, I made the mistake of mentioning that I planned on purchasing a firearm when I finished with college and got out on my own.


From the wide-eyed looks around the dinner table, you'd have thought I said I eat babies on a regular basis. Needless to say, the professor thought this was further evidence of my maladjustment. I couldn't walk to class without passing at least one group of surly protestors every day. Sometimes more than one. You name it: protesting Taco Bell, protesting Israel, this and that, to the point where I felt like I was besieged on all sides perpetually--and that was even before I got into class for my daily dose of propaganda. Eventually I decided that I couldn't take it anymore. Free was too much to pay for this.

Women's Studies--No Place for a Man

On my blog, I asked about college experiences-- negative or positive--and twenty-five-year-old "Andy" emailed me, saying he attended Wheelock College in Boston, and found the environment hostile: "Once at the school, interactions with the staff got strange. I realized quickly, being a male, how much of a minority at that school I truly was.  Wheelock College definitely had a Men=Bad attitude, and it made [my] time there awkward and difficult at times. I only spent a year there."

"John" also emailed in response to my request to write in about his college experiences:


My fiance and I decided to take a class that would be a little less stressful, or so we thought, as an elective. We--and I can't believe I admit to this--took women's and ethnic studies. Just as an aside, I'm a white, blonde male, and she's a white, black-haired woman. The makeup of the class was 75% black, 97% female and 100% bullshit. The one other white male in the class and I learned early on that we were the target of all the animosity being discussed. I did my part and actually argued my voice and against the indoctrination, not getting that this was only digging my grave with the instructor. . . .

A running theme was the concept that since I am not part of a minority I cannot possibly understand what they've gone through, and that because of my being born a white male I was inherently in a privileged position. Another running theme was that minorities can't be racist. I said many times in that class that their theories were ridiculous and offensive. . . .

One female in particular seemed to take my viewpoints personally and began to attack me, both verbally in the classroom, then stalking me on the class's Internet discussion board. I told her and my instructor that this was unacceptable behavior. The instructor did nothing, and the female, an immigrant from Africa via Germany, saw nothing wrong with her behavior. I explained the situation to the dean of the university after months of trying to get in touch with her. I was told it wasn't her call, and that she couldn't do anything about it. When I tried to take a medical absence for something unrelated, the university slapped me with a "needs anger management" class before I was allowed to re-attend, because that same lunatic complained I made her uncomfortable. The only way not to lose is to not play. So I'm out.

Leading a Double Life

"Jeff" wrote in with an interesting observation:

It comes down to one observation. Men must live a double life on campus. To succeed, men must believe one thing but act like they believe another. Manliness wants to compete, to win, to boast, to glory, even to fail honorably against the best. This is disallowed to men on campus. Winners are picked not discovered. It was clear to me; the winners would almost always be females and occasionally males who lived the double life. I left.

Though most of the guys who wrote to me about bailing out of college seemed to go on and do well in life without a college degree, there are many guys out there who aren't doing so well.  The skills they needed were not deemed important enough for the school system or culture to address. These are the consequences: when organizations like the American Association of University Women put out research and programs to help girls, they dismiss boys' needs as unimportant. Men who become uninterested or wary about school either don't go, or find that higher education is not a good fit for many males.

Do the experiences of these men represent the norm for young men arriving on campus? In an interview, Christina Hoff Sommers told me: "The moment a young man arrives on the college campus, he is treated as a member of the suspect class. One popular freshman orientation program is called "She Fears You."  Next there are "Take Back the Night" marches, performances of the Vagina Monologues--accusatory posters plastered all around the school--and lots of classroom readings--all driving home the point that women are from Venus and men are from Hell. Few classes are mandatory except freshman writing seminars. Unless the student is well-organized (and what boy is?) he will be too late for the reasonable course offerings and end up in a class where he has to read chick victim lit like the Joy Luck Club or Girl Interrupted. A nightmare for many boys." 

I originally thought that once educators, legislators, and parents realized that boys were in trouble academically, our schools would try to make classrooms more accommodating to them. That has not happened. Because historically women have been the second sex, and did suffer discrimination, there is now an elaborate and powerful network of private and federal agencies that protect and promote women's interests. Boys do not have a lobby to defend them. Worse, the women's lobby (especially hardline members like the American Association of University Women--AAUW) fights efforts to help boys. Women's groups follow a double standard: When women lag behind men, that is an injustice that must be aggressively targeted. But when men are lagging behind women, that is a triumph of equity to be celebrated. Many men have just decided that they don't belong in college and, consciously or unconsciously, they are going on strike.


Helen Smith is a forensic psychologist in Knoxville, Tennessee who specializes in the problems of violent children and adults. She holds a PhD from the University of Tennessee and masters degrees from The New School for Social Research and the City University of New York. She has written The Scarred Heart: Understanding and Identifying Kids Who Kill, and was writer and executive producer of Six, a documentary about teens who murdered a Tennessee family.


(Photo: Grossmont and Cuyamaca commencement. Credit: GCCCD.)

Comments (19)

George Leef:

This is a very illuminating piece. Most people who speak for the higher ed establishment say that college is a safe, nurturing place for all students, where discrimination or favoritism would never be tolerated.
That's clearly not the case. The academy is loaded with people who are hostile to students who are not unswerving supporters of the entire feminist/progressive world-view. Male students are more apt to express dissent from that, such as the guy who said that he intended to buy a gun after graduating. The horror!

I can offer another telling illustration. I live in north Seattle and quarterly I get the course catalog for North Seattle Community College in the mail. About two years ago I noticed something odd. Virtually all the pictures in the catalog were of women. The only exceptions were almost forced by circumstances, pictures of a couple dancing or of a male instructor. Since then, I've counted the pictures each time the catalog arrives. The female to male ratio always runs between four to one and five to one. I sometimes wonder what the female to male ratio at the college is. For a guy insecure about whether he can handle college, that catalog must seem subliminally intimidating.

In a different context, there's a broader social argument that needs to be advanced. Women who fail typically end up impoverished single mothers, a welfare cost but little else. Men who fail often end up criminals, imposing a much greater cost on society. That's why traditional societies have devoted much greater efforts to raising boys right.

One final comment. Not all men suffer from these put-downs. The jobs I've worked at have varied greatly from all-male contractor work on a USAF base to being on the nursing staff of a children's hospital. I found the sex-ratios at neither uncomfortable, although I have concluded that almost-all women environments tend to be nastier (woman-to-woman) than the male ones.

I once had a tech writing job that included some men-hating feminists. They gave other men trouble but never bothered me. When I asked one of my fellow writers why, he replied, "They're afraid of you."

To some extent, men are intimidated because they allow themselves to be intimidated. I don't allow myself to be bullied by anyone, so it rarely happens. About a decade ago, when I was representing myself in a copyright dispute with nasty Manhattan lawyers representing the Tolkien estate, I routinely shook my head and thought, "Don't these jerks realize I don't scare. That I will fight them and I will win." They eventually learned. I won when the judge dismissed their lawsuit 'with prejudice.'

In the rare cases where a woman has gotten pushy--less than a handful in my lifetime--I've simply hit the relational eject button. I don't let myself be treated that way. It's the same response that counselors tell women who get in relationships with abusive men. There is I suspect, a sort of aura that surrounds someone who does that. Abusive people have learned who isn't going to put up with abuse and don't bother them.

That's so true, I mention it in my most recent book, Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments. Most of the book simply tells teen girls how to make being hospitalized less embarrassing. But near the back I deal with the scary stuff, sexual predators operating under the cover of medical care. I did my best to ease their fears by telling them that, if you show backbone and don't let these perverts get away with the little stuff, you won't even have to deal with the nasty stuff.

Perhaps Dr. Smith should write a followup book that's more positive, one that teaches men how to project the same confidence and take-control spirit my book offers to hospitalized teen girls.

--Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle


It seems to be that there would be a demand for a private, male-only university that does not accept government funds so it doesn't have to put up with the BS. It could specialize in STEM majors as well as pre med and pre law and forget such useless things as women's studies. I doubt it could ever get accredited though.

John Tres Pasos:

Today's colleges are collections of the most wimpified Fuhrer following lemmings that can be bribed into pretending they still attend instituted of higher education. Drop out while you still can.

One of the things I was delighted to notice when visiting in Baja Mexico last week is that for the first time in fifty years, I didn't feel like there was a bullseye painted on me for being white or male or Christian or Libertarian or straight.

I endured political correctness attacks on everything I am and believe throughout my educational and working career, and one of the things I like best about being retired is that I no longer have to put up with any of it, at all.


You know what? Who cares about so-called "universities".
In my view, young men on the paths of success don't need 'em. What's even better, they're not wasting any money going there. Like any good or service, one will pay what it's worth.
We'll soon be seeing "seat sales" at post sec institutions - pay for 3 years up front, get 50% off!


If I were a guy and thinking about going to college I would just simply attend a Christian college. Sounds to me like most of the problems are from these "open-minded" secular universities. Why keep feeding them ammo?

Michael McVeigh:

feminism was presented as being about equal rights between the sexes. Now it is often about revenge and special privileges for women and girls

This says it all. Sometimes I wonder if society, like an alcholic, has to hit "rock bottom" before it wakes to the devastation it has wreaked upon its boys.


A good chapter in your next book would be a followup of female graduates in gender studies who go on to have boy children. Does their view of men change when the man in their life is their child? How then do they fill about institutions rigged against boys and public attitudes designed to denigrate boys? Do they then see such obstacles as wrong and unfair or do they see their sons getting what they deserve for the sins, real or mythical, of men from the past?


Note the role of government coercion in all this: 'the people', the demos, themselves wouldn't never fund this kind of silliness and treatment on this large a scale, and so womens studies, and the whole apparati of feminism, need to be funded by the taxpayer and enforced by government regulations, which, if the colleges don't adhere to, will result in their losing their funding. The answer then? Simply remove the governmental coercion in all its forms...


"They like action, competition and adventure stories. Those are not in favor."

It's not that.

It's the socratic method is out.


CRITICAL THINKING and argument, adversarial discourse between ideas... these are the effective teaching methods for teaching men. Women's aversion to confrontational thinking makes them bad at teaching in this manner.

Read Starship Troopers and pay close attention to the chapters where Rico is in History and Moral Philosophy class.


I went to university in the late 80s/early 90s. The social sciences were infected with PC thought.

The worst part was the male teachers. I saw them as both weaklings (trying to appease the women in the classroom and the administration) and traitors.

I have the feeling it's worse now. Mind you, excluding books written by Hoff Summers, there was no real opposition. At least now we have the Internet (specifically the world wide web) where contrary opinions and facts are available.

Ultimately, the economic crisis, along with other crises will hasten the collapse of an unsustainable society. Pumping out brainwashed but barely literate students isn't helping society. It will implode eventually.

Geoff Boycott:

The lack of empathy, awareness and honest hearing about the issues concerning men, is reflected in this rather spare comment / discussion thread. It mirrors the actual disposition in the analog world, where the main stream media, academia and the state observe a colllective, concordant and complicit omerta, regarding the hostility towards masculinity.

Men hold up the proverbial 'other half' of the sky, to update the cliche usage by the rad-fems. How sad for a community, county, city, state, country and nation, leave alone the campus, when men content themselves with building their own little canopies, and withdraw their individual and collective creativity and labor.

America has benefitted greatly from male ingenuity in problem solving. The technological civilization, despite the faux politically correct under statements to undermine male contribution, is overwhelmingly a masculine achievement and trajectory.

Much of American progress has been arrived at, due to American universities providing American men the foundation, space and encouragement, to experiment, ideate, debate and propagate the positive masculine qualities of enquiry and exploration.

The decline of males on American campus is even more appalling, once we subtract the number of international male students. If anything, we are still understating the problem. In effect, we are in denial. Indeed rad-fems would have us believe that there is no such issue. Very well then. Pray, dream on while the 'disadvantaged' males suck on 'sour academic grapes', and American society continues it attrition in competitiveness and productivity.

Glenn M. Ricketts:

A couple of years ago, I marveled at the content of a valedictory address given at a local high school. The speaker was a highly accomplished girl who was bound for one of the ivies with lots of scholarship support in hand. What was the substance of her speech? Grievance and female victimhood: women have an almost impossible uphill climb in America's deeply sexist society, she railed and she herself expected to encounter all kinds of obstacles in college and beyond. She spoke to a class whose top academic performers were all female, as were all but one of the class officers. It might look like success to an outside observer, but someone taught her to be a victim. Needless to say, nothing in her college experience is going to challenge that mindset. All victims, all the time. As for the boys.........


I think there needs to be a balance. Society cannot afford to lose men "through the cracks" so to speak, and the only way higher education can be successful is with diverse and accepting conversations and learning environments where everyone feels welcome.

It would be ideal to create an environment where both men *and* women are accepted. For example, the quote which refers to what men are exposed to when arriving on a college campus mentions Take Back the Night. This is a march for women who have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, and is to help them feel empowered and safe again walking around their campus at night. Surely the individual quoted is not suggesting that we do away with these types of events for women. Perhaps there can be men's groups and events where their issues are addressed, just as there are women's groups and events, so that men don't have to be "feminized" to be successful in college, and so we can all benefit from varied voices coming to the table.


Lets just remember that the Soviet Union went and behaved and indotrinated millions of people, and they still had total systematic failure.

On the other hand I cant help but think to myself when I read this, target rich environment.

J. W.:

"Surely the individual quoted is not suggesting that we do away with these types of events for women."

I don't know, Jacquelyn. Why don't you call Christina Hoff Sommers and ask her?


A few years ago, Lawrence Summers was run out of Harvard on a rail for stating the obvious: men and women ARE different. That may have marked the beginning of the end...

I went to college at a different time--the early eighties. My undergraduate school had a very large, and very good business program. I have to wonder how business progams fair these days--what is the male to female ratio of students? What about the faculty? Do male business majors get them same bs? I wonder because at least thirty years ago, (pre-"Wall Street" Greed-is-good fantasy), business school was fairly macho. (And I don't mean this as a bad thing!) Agressiveness, assertiveness, self-confidence were desirable traits.

Has PC PoMO also destroyed the b-school?

Expat Canuck:

I often wonder who these women will marry. Will she choose the garbage man, plumber or electrician as a husband? On the other hand a degree in Gender Studies qualifies her for little more than asking "Would you like fries with that?"

She may perceive herself to be intellectually superior to the garbage man but then with the money a sanitation engineer makes, who really is smarter?

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