Friday, June 10, 2016

'War on boys': people are starting to notice

Policy-makers have actually been worrying about 'failing boys' for a while. Pope St John Paul II noted the absence of men from church back in 1988 (Christifideles laici 52). But the debate and the facts are now becoming mainstream.

As I have noted before, the connection between what I've called the 'secular' man-crisis and the Church's 'man crisis' must be taken into account. It can hardly be a coincidence that boys and men are falling short in school, university, and marriage, and also in vocations and in church attendance.

This little video is about boys in school. It is welcome, and the remedies are welcome too. The more fundamental issue, however, is not addressed. What used to motivate young men and, by their influence, boys down the age-range, to put in the hard work at university and school was the prospect of being a bread-winner, and being respected for it. The very term 'bread-winner' is regarded as tantamount to a profanity today, but the incentive must be restored or replaced if men are going to pull their weight in society.

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  1. The present trend in England to move away from coursework and back to traditional exams should benefit boys. In the US few men enter the teaching profession even at secondary level; the situation is better in this country.

    Anyone who follows 'University Challenge' cannot fail to notice that although virtually all colleges are now mixed-sex, they often field men-only teams, and this tendency is more marked the closer one gets to the finals. One team, which did quite well, included a woman who didn't answer a single question; one assumes she was there for decorative purposes.

    The feminization of the armed forces in the last 25 years has been deleterious, and a few senior officers actually dare to say so. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to the police force.

    That men are more competitive and more inclined to take risks is a result of evolution. They are also more clubbable and will club together to exclude women (if the PC brigade allows them to). Women inevitably introduce a sexual element which radically changes the group dynamic.

    1. 'Women inevitably introduce a sexual element which radically changes the group dynamic.'

      Perhaps from an individual male perspective this might be the case. From another viewpoint, a female contribution tends to improve the level and tone of the conversation.

      'They are also more clubbable and will club together to exclude women' - you are certainly correct in this observation.

      The emphasis on 100% examinations recently reintroduced, has not brought a marked deterioration in girls' performance. Once again, they are out-performing boys.

      The group most left behind in terms of academic performance continues to be working class white boys.

  2. I've been following with interest Dr Shaw's articles on the problem of the missing men in the Church, and relating their theses to my own observations.

    Replying to John's comment on University Challenge teams: the women there are sometimes captaining the team, and for that, one doesn't need to be quick on the buzzer, or even wonderful at answering the bonus questions - just level-headed, and good at deciding between competing suggestions.

    I have some experience in this area. I don't mean on University Challenge (though I was in the St Hilda's team which suffered a crushing defeat by Lancaster back in 1973), but from the other end, so to speak. With my husband, I run a national general knowledge competition for schools, based on the University Challenge format - buzzing in for starters and conferring for bonuses - and have done so since 1985. We find that, although there are roughly equal numbers of girls' school, boys' schools and mixed schools at the start (approximately 200 schools in all), by the time the National Finals are reached, the eight teams which have qualified are almost invariably all male, even when the school itself is mixed. Occasionally there'll be single girl on the team, and rarely, a girls' team will get through to the Finals: without checking our records, I think we've had six girls' teams in the Nationals since 1985, roughly 6% of the teams which make it. None of them has ever won, or even got through to the last round of the Nationals.

    However, in the Junior section of the competition (originally set up for prep. schools (in the British sense) and open now to all schools with pupils up to and including Year 8 (so no older than 13), we frequently see mixed teams and, though girls' teams are again less common than boys' teams, the proportion is more like 15%, with mixed teams about 25%. A girls' team actually won the Nationals in 1986, though not since then.

    I would agree in particular with your 'risk-taking' point. I've seen plenty of very competitive girls (and teach at a girls' school, so can see it in action there), but they tend not to buzz for a starter unless they know the answer: boys seem much happier to guess. Girls are also far more likely than boys to answer a question (in class as well as in quizzing) with a formula which covers them in case they're wrong. Given the question "How many symphonies did Beethoven write?" a typical boy will throw himself on the buzzer and shout, "15!" His female counterpart will press the buzzer delicately and whisper, "Is it...9?"

    Given the difference between the Junior and Senior competitions, I've always assumed that all that testosterone sloshing around the older boys is responsible for the qualities which distinguish them from the girls.

  3. Dr. Shaw,

    I'm interested in your thoughts on this post by Catholic columnist Steve Kellmeyer:

    In it he argues that prohibitions on women providing liturgical music had to be gradually relaxed up through the 1950's because of dwindling male participation in choirs. He pits this against the traditionalist argument that the decline in the representation of men at Mass was a product of the liturgical reform.

  4. Sean, liturgical choirs in the 19th century were often mixed and the music they sang tended towards the operatic, which is why there was a strong reaction at the beginning of the 20th century towards men and boys, Gregorian chant and 16th century polyphony.

    The renewal of Catholic music was underway but was aborted virtually overnight with the vernacularization of the liturgy in the 1960s. Since then it has been downhill all the way at parish level.

    In the USA they have paid musical directors (usually female) who peddle the Haugen/Haas/Schutte/Inwood crap to the extent that two generations of Mass-going Catholics actually think this is traditional Catholic music!