Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Is this really a problem?

The comments to my post on sex-linked aptitude for math and academic achievement have some more information.

Most complaints about unfair representation contain the unspoken premises that any two demographic segments should match on some arbitrary characteristic and not matching is a problem needing a remedy.

Unfortunately, Laura Bush seems to have fallen into this easy but questionable assumption. In the 16 January issue of Parade magazine ("We Need To Pay More Attention To Boys", available on line on 23 January), she announces that one of her second term priorities is to help troubled boys. One indication that there is trouble in River City is that boys now go to college at a lower rate than girls.

So what ]. This doesn’t rate a J’accuse Ass (and if it did, Mrs. Bush would get a couple of passes any way, because . . . well, just because), but it really is questionable. Two minutes ago the crisis of the day was that fewer women than men went to college. Isn’t anyone around here capable of declaring victory]

Is this a problem? Can’t there be any smart reasons that guys might be less inclined to go to college than girls? H’mmm.

  • Girls have greater verbal aptitudes and college emphasizes those. So does high school, so guys have less success in school and develop less interest in pursuing those kinds of activities in college.
  • The gender gap favoring women showed up first among blacks (1980 vs. 1994 for the general population); the disincentives probably fall more heavily on black males
  • While overall, education correlates to higher life-time earnings, guys have opportunities to make a good living, doing things they are good at (e.g., in the skilled construction and service trades). Girls are far less likely to be interested in jobs involving using tools, smelly and noisy things (don’t get me going on babies), and muscling stuff around. That’s a bonus for the guys; it’s a much more congenial environment when there are not a lot of nattering, whiney women around.
  • And the greater earnings data don’t support the conclusion that college is the cause. People get paid more for doing more valuable tasks. The correlation with education may simply be the result of credentialism. Employers can get people with degrees to do certain jobs, so they use the degree as a screening factor, as a proxy or substitute for thing they really want to know but which are hard to measure.
  • College standards have dropped in the past two generations. Women get degrees and associate degrees so they can be admin assistants rather than secretaries.
    That a degree is really necessary for a lot of jobs where it is the norm needs to be proven. Especially when college freshmen and sophomores are often covering material that high school seniors covered a couple of generations ago.
The difference in rates of getting college degrees is recent and fairly impressive:
About 42 percent of women in [the 25-34] age cohort have a college degree . . . compared with less than 36 percent of men. According to the Census Bureau report, this gender gap in higher education did not exist 10 years ago.
However, concluding that it is a problem and that the problem is that too few boys go to college is premature.



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