There’s talk on the men’s rights blogosphere about the disparity between men and women graduating from college, some estimates show 10% more women than men complete undergraduate degrees (though female enrollment is just 7% higher). Somehow, it’s being sold as the fault of feminism, that somehow feminism is to blame for these numbers. In reality, sexism is the reason why men aren’t completing college at the rate women are, not because “feminism has gone too far” or is somehow hurting boys and men. (Of course, unequal rates of college graduation is not new: Since 1950, more women than men who began college actually finished it. More women than men graduate with honors. Perhaps this correlates with two national 2006 studies in which “college men reported that they studied less and socialized more than their female classmates.” Boys will be boys?)
It seems that boys do just wanna have fun, but women are more compelled by family, peers, and the media because our sexist society finds men more valuable just as they are than women: The general public feels that a college education is more important for women than for men “to get ahead in life.” With women still earning approximately 77% of what men do for the same work, it makes sense that the public believe women require more education to get a leg up. Conversely, men are not encouraged to complete college in the way women are.
In addition, gender expectations prevent many men from pursuing careers they have a genuine interest in because they are traditionally “female” (such as teaching, nursing, and the liberal arts). What’s left for men: options deemed more socially acceptable for men, including entering the military and pursuing a life of crime.
Many of these men settle for mere jobs instead of careers, and it’s clear why. College costs have skyrocketed. More women than men with college degrees see the value and personal benefits of their college education. According to a Pew study released in 2011: “College-educated women are more likely than their male counterparts to say college was ‘very useful’ in increasing their knowledge and helping them grow intellectually (81% vs. 67%), as well as helping them grow and mature as a person (73% vs. 64%).” Perhaps this lack of respect for college education, a “What’s the point?” attitude, is the reason why fewer men start or finish college.
In addition, sexism on behalf of parents might be a contributing factor, too. Parents are more likely to pay for their daughters’ education than their sons’. (Whether this is because parents continue to see their college-aged daughters as their “little girls,” because parents realize that their daughters will be deemed more worthwhile with a degree, that they feel their investment is more wisely used on their daughters’ educations than on their sons’, or some other reason(s) is not entirely certain.)
Boys and men in our current social climate are still as encumbered as women by old-timey gender expectations–but in their case, an expectation is to make money. To provide. To be important. To be the man of the house. Why work hard at a specialized degree and possibly grad school (and take on that massive debt) when there’s no societal prioritization for previously respected professionals? There is a disdain in the United States for education and smart people (Santorum calling Obama a snob, for example) and a celebration of ignorance (eight years of George W. Bush) but our country’s despicable war on science is mostly to blame for dissuading many boys from entering and finishing college.
War on science example #1: Engineering
The number of engineering graduates (male and female) is in decline in the United States, and is especially disturbing in comparison to India and China. According to Dr. Charles M. Vest, President of the National Academy of Engineering (speaking in October, 2011):
Across Asia more that 21 percent of the students are graduating in engineering fields. Across Europe, just under 12 percent of recent graduates are engineers. In the U.S.? 4.5 percent.
Why go into civil engineering when infrastructure isn’t prioritized in this country? Bridges are allowed to collapse. Ambitious projects aren’t undertaken. The last major economic downfall in this country resulted in the Hoover Dam, an awe-inspiring engineering feat. But recently, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act repaved roads and was met with nothing but criticism from the Right.
Why go into electrical or mechanical engineering when the electric grid is a half-century old and the Right adamantly detests electric cars and alternative energy? Shoot, many people don’t even want better fuel efficiency requirements on regular gasoline-powered cars– Romney has criticized the President for introducing new gas mileage rules even though the auto industry is in full support of updated standards. And contrary to the Republicans’ negative nancy attitude, this challenge can and will be met by American (or, maybe, Indian) engineers.
Why go into aerospace engineering when NASA’s funding is a mockery of what it once was? When I was young, kids (not me so much but my peers) were captivated by space exploration. We imagined walking on the moon. We imagined aliens, discovering more planets. We watched televised shuttle takeoffs from Cape Canaveral and toured the Kennedy Space Center on vacation. We even saw the Challenger explode on TV, which freaked us out but made us want to see advancements in space exploration even more. No one can say it better than the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson:
Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival. Not only does that get people interested in sciences and all the related fields, [but] it transforms the culture into one that values science and technology, and that’s the culture that innovates. And in the 21st century, innovations in science and technology are the foundations of tomorrow’s economy.
Neil deGrasse Tyson to NPR’s David Greene in February, 2012
Or, summed up more plainly on The Daily Show in January, 2011:
Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Einstein via Neil deGrasse Tyson
War on science example #2: Climate change
Mitt Romney recently said, “I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet,” during an interview on Meet the Press. He continued, “I’m in this race to help the American people.” Romney used to believe that anthropogenic climate change was real, but now he doesn’t. (That was back when he was for healthcare reform and reproductive choice). Now, however, he does not see how protecting the home of the American people will help them. Instead, he is using the concept of climate change as a means to mock the President and as justification to eliminate environmental regulations and the EPA to make the far-right Republican base happy.
The problem is that every reputable climatologist has determined that human activity is causing climate change. NASA scientists have concluded the same. The U.S. is the only country still debating this, even amidst extreme weather, droughts, and melting glaciers. Why is this conversation still going on? Because greed is respected more than science by some vocal nitwits in this country?
War on science example #3: A healthcare system that prioritizes drugs over cures and demonizes physicians
French researchers have functionally cured patients with HIV–by starting antiviral drugs early after infection, these patients don’t require lifelong treatment. But in most of the Western world, drug companies are not interested in curing illness, they are interested in maintenance. Why would they want to research cures when, in doing so, they’d be cutting into potential future profits, perhaps even putting themselves out of business?
Children might have grandiose ideas of becoming researchers, chemical/biomedical engineers, or physicians with hopes of curing cancer, but when they realize that what they’d actually be doing is maybe coming up with the next chemo drug (at best) or the newest antidepressant, the romance is lost.
And in a political climate that spreads misinformation about medicine and people willingly believe wacky conspiracy theories and the supernatural over tested and proven medical discoveries, how appealing is donating your life to research, maybe creating the next vaccine? When parents would rather have pox parties than vaccinate their children against chicken pox, when previously eradicated or uncommon illnesses resurface in the industrialized world, when parents believe vaccines cause autism despite numerous studies that debunk the claim, when Rep. Michele Bachmann recklessly claims vaccines cause mental retardation, and additional conservatives argue that the HPV vaccine promotes promiscuously, is it any wonder that fewer men pursue science degrees? In the religions vs. science war, perhaps religion is winning this battle.
Which leads to . . . hostility toward stem cell research, which is the most controversial and misunderstood–but also most promising–medical research technology on the horizon. (The following information is paraphrased from a publication by the Guttmacher Institute). An appreciation of the possibilities in stem cell research is not new. In1954, the Nobel Prize for Medicine went to scientists whose work on cultures of human fetal kidney cells led to the development of the polio vaccine. Next, the focus shifted to in-utero techniques, such as amniocentesis and understanding birth defects. In the 1980s, research began in the United States using embryonic stem cells to treat diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injuries . . . and then President Reagan halted federal funding. Five years later, Clinton issued an executive order and testing resumed. Then followed drama with Congress and NIH review panels. Then George W. Bush took office, and in 2001, he “prohibited the use of federal funds for research on stem cell lines created after that point. In an attempt to be seen as not impeding science, Bush announced that funds could be used, however, for work on the 64 cell lines estimated by the administration to be in existence as of that point” (Guttmacher Institute).
The Obama administration expanded funding for embryonic stem cell research but the issue has been brewing in courts.
Imagine treatments for spinal cord injuries, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases [such as arthritis, lupus, Crohn's, MS, & Addison's Disease], diabetes, osteoporosis, various cancers, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Without all of these unnecessary stops and starts, we can only imagine which illnesses would be eradicated by now, which diseases would be no longer fatal, which injuries could be treated successfully.
Regarding the money wars surrounding healthcare in this country, physicians and politicians (Damn President Obama for trying to prevent insurance companies from dumping us when we get sick!) are treated as the enemy. Physicians are greedy, we’re told. They play golf and travel to sexy beaches and sleep with even sexier nurses.
New general practice physicians make less than $80,000 per year; the median salary for GPs was $191,000 in 2009. Also in 2009, medical students finished school an average of $200,000 in debt. (With that much debt, no wonder why many medical students are going into specialties in which they can earn much more). Still, if someone really wanted to rake in the big bucks, there must be easier ways than learning all that chemistry and anatomy, cutting into those cadavers, and subsisting on no sleep, such as working on Wall Street (perhaps for an insurance company) or becoming a lobbyist. Or a lawyer. I have to believe there’s a genuine calling for most physicians that goes beyond having a fat paycheck and a fast car.
I suppose some physicians and surgeons are drawn to medicine for the money, but our ridiculously expensive heath care system is much more complicated than greedy doctors–and needs to be overhauled. The ACA is a good start. Why not consider sharing some blame with insurance companies (most of which are for profit) or pharmaceutical companies or specialized, elective services like in vitro fertilization & plastic surgery or imaging centers or unsanitary facilities or a litigious societal mindset and overzealous lawsuit payouts?
Or what about those greedy administrators:
The August issue of the journal Health Affairs found that per-physician administrative costs in the United States averaged $82,975 annually, while Ontario-based physicians averaged $22,205.
When doctors are spoken of with almost the same level of disdain as lawyers and used car salesmen, why would little boys want to become doctors?
War on science example #5: Abstinence-only education
In my middle school health and life science classes, I was taught about the systems of the body: I learned about the digestive system and why good nutrition is important. I learned about the reproductive system and how babies are made (which I already knew the basics of, in part thanks to the changing bodies video I’d seen the year before in Catholic school) but in 7th grade health class, I saw pictures of genitals infected with various STDs. Scared the snot outta me. I learned about the respiratory system and why smoking is bad. I learned about the circulatory system, too. I remember that unit in particular because my 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Thompson, tested all of our blood types by pricking our fingers and putting droplets of our blood on special cards. He was so excited because I was his first AB in four years!
Did I know I had schooling that would be considered progressive by today’s standards? Of course not. (But I’m grateful for it). Now, there is a push for abstinence-only education (popular in states with high pregnancy rates) which leaves out all talk of the reproductive system. So, there are ten (when you’re in middle school) systems of the body, but schools are supposed to pretend there are nine?
And the justification is that the other, unmentionable system is religious, not scientific, so only parents and clergy can teach about it. When basic science and anatomy are made taboo, it’s another win for religion in the religion vs.science war.
War on science example #6: Evolution and “intelligent design”
When this is even up for debate, when it’s even an option to teach or even mention “intelligent design” in schools, science has lost. When parents have to become activists to prevent their children from being taught religious doctrine in public schools, science is belittled. When taxpayer dollars purchase text books that claim people lived side-by-side with dinosaurs and that Nessie is real, American schools are teaching that science is a joke. When there are right-wing groups collecting money, hiring lobbyists, and introducing bills in order to undermine public “confidence in science,” well, science is pretty much screwed.
This country is seeing a devastating animosity against science, and science careers have historically been the male realm. Is it any wonder that fewer boys contemplate a long, expensive college career to go into fields that are respected less and less in America? For girls, on the other hand, going to college makes sense, and pursuing science is a logical next step on the progression. They’re already used to battling against unreasonable expectations. They’re already used to fighting against gender stereotypes. They’re already used to standing up for themselves, so why not stand up for science?
–Denise Du Vernay, M.A., Florida State University
Summa cum laude
B.A. University of South Dakota
Major: English, Minor: Earth Science
My email address has been sold to many Republican groups and politicians*. Most of them are deleted unread, but today I got the following email from Scott Walker. Its subject line was “Senseless Recall,” so you understand why I simply had to open it. And it was so funny and full of spin–not even clever spin–I had to share.
This is it. The Wisconsin Recall election is less than four weeks away.
The liberal special interests and Washington insiders have sworn to spend tens of millions of dollars to defeat me. I need your help right now to beat back this senseless Recall. Will you stand with me today?
For more than a generation in Wisconsin, the power of special interests and the liberal elite have gone largely unchecked. My Administration finally stood up to them, and we changed the way we do things in government in Wisconsin.
That’s why my opponents are so desperate to defeat me in this Recall. They want to roll back the clock and take us back to the days of skyrocketing taxes, bloated budgets, and unchecked and unaccountable spending. We cannot let that happen.
The moment I became Governor, I set about the work that the people of Wisconsin sent me to do. Weeliminated the deficit left by my Democrat predecessor. We gave the freedom of choice to public employees. Our reforms have allowed public employees to decide if they would like to spend (in some cases more than a thousand dollars a year in dues) or keep their hard earned money. We finally put the control of state government back where it belongs, in the hands of the people.
I kept my promises to the voters here in Wisconsin. I didn’t raise taxes. We have not had massive lay offs of state workers. Our reforms have balanced the budget and lowered the unemployment rate to a level unseen since 2008.
Now I need you to help me tell the out-of-state special interests that we do not want another tax-and-spend liberal in charge here in Wisconsin.
This Recall is not just about Wisconsin, it is about the cause of reform across this country. It is about deciding what kind of country we are going to be for generations to come. We must send a message that we can and will live within our means. We must not hand power back to a small group of special interests and let them run state governments into the ground across this great nation.
When we defeat this baseless Recall, it will send a powerful statement across our country about the kind of government we want to have and the bold reforms that will get us there.
We have less than a month to go. I need your help – not tomorrow, not next week, but right now.
Today, I ask you to stand with me so I can continue to stand up for hard working taxpayers. Together, we can defeat this Recall and make history – in Wisconsin and across the country.
Notice its greeting–”Patriot,” not “Wisconsinite”–even though the email is about out-of-state money working to defeat him, yet, of course, he says nothing about the out-of-state money that’s helped him, nor does he acknowledge that the person he’s emailing is out of state. He says the ”liberal elite” are trying to kick him out just because he “stood up to them.” He says liberals want to “roll back the clock,” as if he’s the progressive and his policies were pushing Wisconsin in the right direction. He gave “the freedom of choice to public employees” — what a sweetheart! But my favorite part might be his complaint about “special interests.” There’s nothing in there about how he told the richest woman in Beloit (I know that does not sound impressive, but she’s a billionaire in a city where the average salary is $28,000) that he planned to get rid of unions and make Wisconsin completely Red. At this point, even his most die-hard supporters acknowledge that he is the king of special interest money. It’s impossible to be angry at this email because it’s just too ridiculous.
If you don’t know what I mean about the richest woman in Beloit, her name is Diane Hendricks and she has given Walker a half million dollars so far in 2012, but did NOT pay taxes in Wisconsin from 2005-2008 (data for more recent years is unavailable). According to Forbes magazine, her company, ABC Supply Company, is worth $2.8 billion with annual sales approaching $5 billion. Here is the “Divide and Conquer” clip:
He got kicked out of college and next he’s going to be kicked out of office. I also suspect he’ll be spending some time in prison–maybe he and Blago can be cellmates! I mean, why else would Walker need a criminal defense fund? He channeled $60,000 out of his campaign for it, which he’s only allowed to do if he’s being investigated or been charged for “prohibited practices” in a campaign. Oh, it’s going to be delicious. I don’t take pleasure in people’s misfortunes, but when a bad guy goes down–what’s yummier than that?
*Four years ago, I had some correspondence with the McCain camp. Then they emailed me relentlessly no matter how many times I asked to be removed their list. Finally, I complained over Twitter and received a snippy reply for the public way in which I asked, but it worked–I no longer get emails from McCain. I do, however, get emails from all sorts of GOPers, so I can’t help but suspect McCain sold my email address.
There has been much hubbub regarding the record-breaking gun sales on Black Friday this year. People are not sure why. From USA Today:
Deputy Assistant FBI Director Jerry Pender said the checks, required by federal law, surged to 129,166 during the day, far surpassing the previous high of 97,848 on Black Friday of 2008.
The actual number of guns sold that day is probably markedly higher than the background checks; that number doesn’t allow for multiple guns purchased by a single buyer, for example. Some gun industry folk said the surge was due to first-time gun buyers wanting guns for protection and a growing number of women who are being drawn to sport shooting and hunting (perhaps it’s because Sarah Palin makes it look so damn sexy).
Some economic analysts think that not too much should be made out of the statistics because outdoorsy sporting goods stores that sell guns, like Cabelas, simply had really good deals on Black Friday that drew people in.
I’ve read their articles; I’ve heard their news reports. They’re missing the obvious. It’s all about the Second Amendment, one of our few Constitutional rights not currently threatened. Larry Keane, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said, “I think there also is a burgeoning awakening of the American public that they do have a constitutional right to own guns.”
Hmm, not quite.
A “burgeoning awakening that we have the right to own guns,” no, that is just silly. We know all about our right to bear arms. Few of us go a day or two without hearing someone yammering on about the Second Amendment, whether it’s our redneck cousin, a friend on Facebook talking about how it’s easier now to legally carry a concealed weapon in Wisconsin than it is to vote, or Homer Simpson lamenting the waiting period (“but I’m angry now!”) It’s not a “burgeoning awakening that we have the right to own guns,” it a burgeoning realization that those who want to exercise our Constitutional rights best do it now. Since many other Amendments are no longer respected, people fear that the Second Amendment might also be bludgeoned to death, too. (No, they needn’t fear. There’s plenty of money and power protecting the Second Amendment. It ain’t going anywhere).
Still, it’s no wonder why the gun nuts and logical, sane people alike are getting nervous. We’re watching the Constitution be destroyed before our eyes. Bush used fear of terrorism to destroy our Fourth Amendment rights. Next, could the military soon be legally authorized to detain Americans with no trial?
. . . the bill the Senate is working on this week contains a provision that would authorize the U.S. military to indefinitely detain, without charge or trial, anyone they consider to be engaged in hostilities against the United States.
I have faith that the President would veto anything as egregious as this, but who knows, the Republicans could tack it on to the middle class tax cut extension. And then what?
We’ve been watching the Sixth Amendment fall apart since, oh, about 2001. Most of us are hoping (and praying, if we’re so inclined) that we don’t get accidentally mixed up in something that makes us look suspicious.
Many states are requiring unprecedented documentation for voting, marginalizing the elderly and minorities (adios, 19th and 15th Amendments!) Eight states have strict ID laws (Not surprisingly, Walker recently passed one in Wisconsin. Texas, we expect nothing less from you. But Kansas and Indiana, seriously, get over yourselves.) The Constitution does prohibit such actions; it even states in multiple places: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State.” But yet, states continue to pass crazy voter ID laws, obviously not to prevent voter fraud but to suppress the vote. (I want to go to law school just to learn how this could possibly happen).
And now, where on Earth is the First Amendment? People across the country are exercising their right to peaceably assemble, except that unless we’re with the Tea Party, it’s clear that Americans are simply not allowed to do that stuff anymore. Protestors are beaten with batons, their hair is yanked, students are pepper-sprayed, and anyone assembling might be abused and arrested. Police are tearing down Occupy camps across the country. People’s property is destroyed and referred to as “trash left behind by protestors.” Human beings are suffering painful chemical burns and nerve damage in their hands from too-tight zip cuffs. A must-read article about the LA Occupy arrests by the LAPD is by Patrick Meighan, a writer for Family Guy; in it, he writes about the 25 hours he spent in police custody for a misdemeanor charge for sitting in a park after the police said not to.
I was put on a paddywagon with other nonviolent protestors and taken to a parking garage in Parker Center. They forced us to kneel on the hard pavement of that parking garage for seven straight hours with our hands still tightly zipcuffed behind our backs. Some began to pass out. One man rolled to the ground and vomited for a long, long time before falling unconscious. The LAPD officers watched and did nothing.
Frankly, I have never had any desire to own a gun. I don’t want one in my house. I grew up in a house with lots of guns and I never much cared for it. I’ve shot guns: I’ve done some damage to clay pigeons and clumps of dirt in the field. I grew up in the country and have family members in the NRA. I used to fill shotgun shells in our basement. I know what you’re wondering: Yes, I have been shot. (I still have a dent on my ass from my sole gun-related injury, my brother’s bebe gun). But I personally think the Second Amendment was written for a different time with different fears, firearms, and social issues, and thus is irrelevant in this day and age. I’ve had the impression that gun nuts cling to the Second Amendment because they’re unsatisfied with other aspects of their lives. What better way to feel better about getting screwed over by your boss than to take it out on the federal government? Instead of channeling your rage appropriately, you get to imagine that the government is trying to take your guns away, then you get an excuse to buy more guns, the economy improves. Win, win, win!
I think voting, free speech, assembly, and privacy are exponentially more important than the right to keep a gun in my house (instead of just locking it in an armory when I’m done hunting). I can see why England puts up with such strict gun laws (a population of 51 million touts 39 deaths from gun-related crimes in 2008? Sign me up!)
But shoot, even though I like gun laws, I’m considering getting a gun myself. It might soon be one of few Constitutional rights; I may as well make the best of it.
When I was at FSU, there was a tent city on Landis Green. Students stayed there for a long time (weeks? months? I don’t remember). The students were protesting licensed FSU clothing made in sweatshops. I didn’t participate; maybe I liked my little rented house, maybe I liked showering. More likely, I was busy with teaching and being a full time student and trying to get my master’s and I didn’t have youthful idealism anymore. I did support those students, though. I brought them a big pot of veggie chili one chilly evening.
Nine or ten years later, I am astonished (impressed by the students, horrified by the police action) at what went down on Friday at the protest at UC Davis.
News outlets, such as BoingBoing are calling the UC Davis protest Friday part of the Occupy movement. Yes, it is, but that’s not the whole story.
The irony of the UC Davis protest Friday that HuffPo, CNN, and others are ignoring is that the students were gathered in solidarity with UC Berkeley students who had been beaten with batons last week. The UC Berkeley students were protesting tuition hikes.
UC Davis students were protesting violent police action. And they got pepper sprayed. There are reports that some protestors’ mouths were pried open and sprayed down their throats. One woman was taken via ambulance to the hospital for chemical burns. Some students reported coughing up blood for hours afterward.
UC Davis defends breaking up the protest because they do not allow camping on campus.
Since when is anything in Florida more progressive than anything in California? This weekend, I’m a little more proud of my alma mater and proud of UC Davis students, especially considering their self-control: