Left in the dust

The New York Times reports on the growing gender disparity in colleges and universities–men are falling way behind. The author of the story suggests some reasons, including more socializing and less focus on academics, and “a sense of lassitude, a lack of focus.” It certainly fits with my experience as an undergraduate, though not to nearly the same degree in graduate school. I didn’t fit the profile because I worked my tail off, but many of my friends spent more time playing Nintendo than going to class, while their girlfriends studied non-stop. I could also play my share of Nintendo and still do well due to my odd memory…

But, I think the NYT diagnoses the disease, but not the cause. I disagree with the overall tone of the piece, which suggests that men are lazy and confident of success, while women are leaving them in the dust in their zeal to succeed. On the contrary, the “lack of focus” is the key, and behind it lies a lack of purpose. Our emasculated society has made traditional male roles suspect at best, taboo at worst. Competition, challenge, courage, bravery–all are downplayed in favor of collaboration and dialogue. We’ve created exactly what C.S. Lewis prophesized: men without chests. Why do we immerse ourselves in idle pursuits like adventure movies, video games, and sports? Because they illustrate the purpose that keeps being pushed out of our lives.

Check out Dr. Tony Esolen’s work at Touchstone, including “Over Our Dead Bodies“, “A Geography of Kind“, “Shooting the Rapids“, “What Sports Illustrate“, and “Dog-Eared Pursuits“, for more observations along the same lines.

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4 Responses to “Left in the dust”


  1. 1 Paul Druce July 8, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    It’s a trend that’s really quite noticeable if you compare the current recruitment ads for the military with older ones. With the exception of the Marine Corps (which is also the only branch to really maintain its martial traditions), they all focus on “Hey, look, free training and a uniform!” It’s boring, it doesn’t appeal. Why should anyone enlist if that’s what they’re trying to appeal to, our future careers. “Training for now, training for later” as the Army says. I can get that at community college and I daresay that college allows for many more freedoms than the Army. The old ones such as WWII recruitment posters, on the other hand, appeal to what might be referred to as “the male virtues”, a strong sense of patriotism, proud tradition, adventure, doing one’s duty, and blowing stuff up.

    Spawned by that, it strikes me that a large portion of the problem in modern Catholicism, with the low attendence by males compared to females, is a similar lack of proud tradition.

  2. 2 Bekah July 8, 2006 at 8:20 pm

    I think you are exactly right. And look at what these young men are playing on the game console–usually games with hyper-masculine characters in action packed situations. Society frowns on actual masculinity, so instead they ‘play man on tv’.

  3. 3 Wonders For Oyarsa July 8, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    That’s quite true, Ed. So what do we do about it? I must say, I’m more than a little thankful that the two children the Lord gave me so far are boys. Hopefully I can at least help them to grow up to be courageous and visionary men.

  4. 4 Edmund C. July 9, 2006 at 9:16 am

    I’m thinking all we can do about it is do what you’re doing–raising good men–and for those of us without children, helping others to do so. If we start with what we can influence in our own families and friends, maybe in time things will get back to “normal.”


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