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Is Education A Woman's World?

Updated on December 10, 2011

Warren Farrell - The Boy Crisis

The Controversial Topic They Dare Not Speak in the Halls of Academia. . .

An emerging trend is how women are dominating college graduation rates and how men are lagging behind. As a man who has struggled with education since childhood and was unable to get a college degree after three honest attempts; I have seen this played out first hand. Women could seemingly get good grades in college rather effortlessly. Women always seemed to have a ton of free time, while I was always huddled in a room struggling with my homework. Due to this excess free time, many women could also do extracurricular activities, work longer hours to make more money, and volunteer. This made women even more marketable in the future. Contrast that to me, where I was mostly stuck dominating my time to academia, only but to fail anyways.

There are a few explanations why men are struggling. One of the explanations is that grade schools are dominated by female teachers. Therefore, boys have little in the way of male role models growing up, and this may adversely affect their performance in college. I'll agree this could possibly be a factor for men who have chosen to opt out of college, but for men who have chosen to go and put in the effort; all but to come up short, I don't feel this argument is tangible. You must also consider that while grade school is mostly filled with female teachers; in college the professorship is still mostly male.

A second explanation is that girls/women show more dedication in their school work than boys/men. Maybe this is true on a group scale, but in order for this theory to hold water, one must look at the individual scale as well. Individually, I can tell you I worked much harder throughout school than many girls. Believe me, I had to work so hard throughout school it adversely affected my social life to the point it's beyond repair.

Through keen observation, mostly by living with three sisters and therefore seeing girls studying in action, it seems girls "get school" better than boys. By "get it" I mean they read a paragraph once, memorize it, throw the book away, and confidently go out for the night knowing they have all the material and knowledge necessary to ace the test tomorrow morning. Are men like this? Hardly, we struggle. We're always in the need of tutors; and often can get stumped for prolonged periods of time on a question. We always seemingly have to read over the material; my sisters and their friends never had to do that. My sisters simply read what needed to be read once; and then they were out for the night. So how exactly did my sisters compare to me? Whenever I went to go study with the guys, often we had to repeat loudly the paragraphs in the said book over and over again. We had to verbally shout out each paragraph with such passion that we were mistaken for a badly rehearsed singing choir. Our study sessions certainly weren’t like the girls who could casually read together; multitask by talking about their favourite celebrities at the same time, and then throw the book away like school was nothing.

The third explanation is that the curriculum is modeled towards women at the expense of men. There is some truth to this argument, after all we have women's studies, but don't have men's studies. In college there are many courses specially geared for women. Still, this would only become a serious factor if such courses were compulsory and that men were required to take them. However, very rarely are these courses compulsory.

A fourth explanation is that women have access to more special interest groups and scholarships. This makes college more affordable for women and thus understandably more women are capable of attending college. This much is true; and it's one of the reasons of many why college attendance is much higher for women than men. However this doesn't explain why out of all the men and women who do attend college; the women on average score higher grades.

All four of these explanations have some merit, but it's simply not enough to tilt the scale so far in the woman's favour that we're seeing today. I believe the problem goes deeper, right down to the biological differences between the sexes. I believe that the education evaluation system as laid out before us heavily favours the female biological strengths; and greatly exposes the male biological weaknesses. The education system often does the following disproportionately at men's expense.

Why Women Beat Men at the College Game? Memory

I'll throw some light humour on a very serious topic matter. Can any man seriously say he's capable of remembering more insignificant details throughout the day than his wife? Can any woman seriously say she doesn't have to remind her husband throughout the day about, well, everything?

You see, there are real biological differences between the sexes that cause this to happen. Of course there are exceptions to rule, but generally speaking, a woman's memory is far superior to that of a man's. This doesn't mean women are more intelligent than men, as I don't consider the ability to rote memorize the sole determination of intelligence, but it does mean men and women think very differently. Simply put, the female brain does some things well and poorly; the male brain does some things well and poorly.

While the woman's uncanny ability to memorize every intricate detail may not always serve her the best in many life situations; you can make a safe bet this grants women a huge advantage on the academic scene. The "manufacturing process" of succeeding in college, as defined by getting good grades on a standardized test, can be summarized in the following three steps: Intake, retain, and recall. Intake is the ability and capacity a person has to take in information. This is sometimes referred as working memory. Retain is the ability to than "store" the necessary information. This is sometimes referred as short term memory. Recall is the ability to then accurately regurgitate the information you've assimilated at an opportune time. This is often mistaken for long term memory, but this is actually another form of short term memory use. This is the "key" to doing well in academia; greasing your working memory and short term memory banks in a disciplined mechanical process. This is something that women do very well; and men not so well. In fact, some men (such as me) are hopeless in this task.

From here, it's easy to put the pieces together and see why women are graduating college at an alarming rate well above their male counterparts. The curve grading that dominates college today (grades based mostly upon competition rather than knowledge of the material) means men can't simply persevere above their own weaknesses. The curve grading is universally applied to both men and women. Consider also that college attendance for women is much higher as well. Our hypothetical male has no choice but to compete directly with women in arguably their greatest biological strength; while he must linger on in his greatest biological weakness. Men, simply put, don't have a chance based upon how academic grades are measured. Sorry, but there's no way I could ever conceive having a stronger memory than a woman! I'm not afraid to admit it; I'm not afraid to say it.

This Explains why Men are Finding Refuge in Mathematics

The theory that women's academic excellence over men is the cause of her superior ability to memorize information holds a lot of merit especially when we look at where men have managed to survive, and in some cases thrive, while attending college. Men have mostly found refuge in mathematics and the sciences. Mathematics is mostly logical and strategic in nature. There isn't much rote memorization involved in mathematics other than remembering mathematical formulas.

Science is a different story, as there's a lot of rote memorization involved as well as mathematics. Personally, I struggled with science because I couldn't remember the terminology. Biology was obviously impossible. Physics was difficult because I couldn't memorize the "physics language" and attach it to the mathematics. I was good at chemistry, but couldn't truly build a solid degree with just chemistry.

I've never been particularly good at mathematics, nor have I ever found it enjoyable, but I found out at the very least I could pass the courses if I worked hard enough. Many men who I spoke to while I attended college stated much the same. They didn't take mathematics because they wanted to, nor did they take it because they enjoyed it, nor could they ever see themselves being competitive enough to get a career in mathematics. Mathematics merely represented something they can do; and nothing more. When you've struggled with school your entire life and you know you need the piece of paper, sometimes assimilating the courses you can do; is all you can do. Seeing that many of my classmates went into mathematics for the following reasons, in this case the curve grading worked in my favour, and I was able to pass.

Unfortunately, it was never enough, as even amongst men my memory has as many holes as Swiss cheese. I wasn't able to get through many introductory science courses that involved memorizing tons of terminology. The truth of the matter is everyone struggled in this area. People studied until their faces turned into a pale white and their pupils dilated. I did much the same, but I couldn't compete, and it's not like I could have made up for my shortcomings by substituting in more hours as I already used up the entire day. None the less, a lot of my friends (all male) who were able to move on explained to me that they found college much easier after these introductory courses because intermediate courses involved less memorization. The sciences started to fit in more within their strengths, but the first two years were absolutely brutal. A few even confessed they wouldn't have passed had it not been for a "helpful girlfriend" who could effortlessly spit out definitions like no tomorrow. Sure, she had no idea what the definitions actually meant, but the fact she could spit them out as a reminder day after day was of great help.

Solutions for Putting an End to the "Manocide" in College

Here are a few ideas that will help put an end to the "manocide" in college. Keep in mind that the following ideas would probably be of benefit to everyone; not just men. The ideas are not about hurting women so men can pull ahead; nor are they about giving men special treatments.

  • Reduce the importance of standardized tests: I wanted to at first put down that we eliminate standardized tests completely, but then I came to the realization the world isn't ready for that just yet. Still, at the very least, reducing the weight in grade scores attributed to standardized testing should help immensely. Right now, 100% of your grade is completely dependant on your standardized test scores, leaving academic success completely in the hands of regurgitation automatons.
  • Eliminate curve grading: Completely flies in the face that people come to school to learn. The math behind this grading according to competition is inherently flawed. In addition, curve grading is subject to a lot of manipulation. A group of students who know how curve grading functions can very easily collude together to manipulate the results upwardly in their favour. I would go on to say this is the primary cause of the "grade inflation" people are lamenting over.
  • More creativity please: Reward creativity rather than punish creativity.
  • Why does everyone need to go to college in the first place? Simply too many people, men and women alike, are going to college and have no business being in there. I never had any business going in there; and neither do many other people. We simply need a better way to measure individual success than how many letters are in front of your name and how many degrees you've accumulated. Employers need to stop asking for degrees to have people answer phones or do up a spreadsheet. The inflation has to stop. I believe you'll find that once the numbers of college attendees are thinned out; the ratio between men and women who graduate college will start to level out.

In conclusion, the weakening performance in boys/men from early grade school all the way though to college must be treated with respect and shouldn't be viewed with a condescending attitude. There are real forces at work in academia that favour a woman's biology over a man. If women were truly the most proficient of the sexes; then so be it, but the majority of the methods used to determine academic prowess are of questionable nature. Sorry, but the ability to rote memorize has little correlation with intellectual capacity. Maybe we should ask women to lift weights and beat men before being allowed to continue with their courses? We're asking the same of men when they must out compete women all the way from primary until second year college in trivial memorization.

-Donovan D. Westhaver


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    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      Voted up.

      About SATs. I used my old score to get into Mensa. You can't do that anymore, because the newer SAT does not correlated sufficiently well with IQ.

      The older version of the SAT discriminated in favor of men, because of the emphasis on applying mathematics in novel situations. In those days, a woman would typically get better grades in college than her male counterpart, who had the exact same SAT score. And that's unfair, because the point of the SAT is to predict academic performance at the university level.

      In terms of gender equality, the new version of the the SAT may have leveled the overall playing field. However it may also have weeded out some good male candidates for engineering and the physical sciences.

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 5 years ago from New York

      LOL Good topic. International students (usually Asian ones) are edging All Americans out because Asian students are rich, self-pay and colleges can make a fortune off of them. Enjoyed this hub!

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