"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, March 23, 2006

You Need Schoolin' . . .

An interesting oped in today's New York Times, written by a Kenyon College admissions officer, notes how the large number of young women applying for college in the United States has harmed their prospects for admission:

Today, two-thirds of colleges and universities report that they get more female than male applicants, and more than 56 percent of undergraduates nationwide are women. Demographers predict that by 2009, only 42 percent of all baccalaureate degrees awarded in the United States will be given to men.

We have told today's young women that the world is their oyster; the problem is, so many of them believed us that the standards for admission to today's most selective colleges are stiffer for women than men. How's that for an unintended consequence of the women's liberation movement?

Of course, these women will all get in some school somewhere, and will simply suffer the same tragedy we all endure: not getting precisely what we want when we want it. It's another illustration of the great truth of social life which classical liberalism is based on: Every solution creates new problems.

That truth, along with the fact that technological changes will always create economic and social changes that society must accommodate, is why conservatism by itself is never a viable social organizing principle. Conservatism is a vital component of true liberalism (because true liberalism accepts the premise that social order is one of the two main aims of politics, the other being liberty, the relationship of which is encapsulated in the term ordered liberty, the search for which is the sine qua non of true liberalism), and is an antidote to radicalism, but by itself all conservatism can do is suppress the many good things that technological change can bring.

9 comments:

Hunter Baker said...

I'll propose a bit of a radical idea. It is possible that the increasingly sexualized nature of American society is having a negative effect on the academic experience of boys and young men. I was only half-conscious in high school on the drug of female presence and occasional cleavage. I can't imagine what it's like for guys coming up today with the internet and all the other distractions.

James Elliott said...

"I can't imagine what it's like for guys coming up today with the internet and all the other distractions."

Remove the sexuality from your question (or, rather, assumption) and you have the germination of a very interesting discussion.

Hunter Baker said...

Don't quite follow you, JFE. Can you elaborate a bit?

James Elliott said...

Sure. As you're probably well aware by now, I'm a bit of an education nerd. I specialize in early education right now, but I also have done and will continue to do a lot of work with teens and adolescents in school settings. I'm also a nerd in general, so I subscribe to magazines like Wired. There's an interesting dull roar of an argument around what today's hyper-wired culture is doing to the learning styles and behaviors of today's youth. Is it detrimental or a new form of learning? Is it simply a natural progression as human technology improves and the economy shifts to a post-industrial state?

Or are kids too distracted, what with the texting and the browsing and, yes, the porn?

I don't think girls' boobies are anything to worry about. If it wasn't boobs, it'd be ankles. Kids have been sneaking off to sexually experiment for eons, whether it be in the savannah, the woods, the hayloft, or while the parents are away at work. We're still here. The sexuality angle is a separate, interesting question, but I think you're approaching it from a base assumption that sexuality is essentially negative outside the context of adult romantic relationships. There's a certain degree of rightness to that assumption, but I don't think it's the correct approach to the larger question.

Hunter Baker said...

I get your point, now, but I have to stick to what I'm saying a bit. I'm not necessarily demonizing sex or attaching any moral baggage in this argument. I'm just saying obsessing over sex can literally destroy the attention and thought processes of a young man. And it happens at the worst possible time, when a guy is trying to prepare for college. I may put my son in a male-only environment at that age.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Since the liberal arts education, the study of the core texts of the Western civilization on which we all leech, is dead, this is probably not a bad development.

"The millionaire next door" is likely a guy who owns an air-conditioning repair business or sells used cars. "College material" is increasingly parasitic on society, working in schools, government or, ahem, think tanks. ;-)

Hunter Baker said...

Easy baby, easy. That hurts.

James Elliott said...

"I'm just saying obsessing over sex can literally destroy the attention and thought processes of a young man. And it happens at the worst possible time, when a guy is trying to prepare for college. I may put my son in a male-only environment at that age."

I wish you much joy in inventing a hormone-surpressant that parents can mix in with their adolescents' Gatorade. =] Kidding aside, I have many friends who went to all-boys' high-schools. With very few exceptions, they came out with one of two attitudes towards women:

"Huh. Girls. Girls are dumb, but I like to have sex with them."

Or...

"Eeek! A girl! Run! No, don't run! Talk! Don't talk, she'll think you're dumb! AAAAAAHHHH! So confused by her mere presence!!"

connie deady said...

I get your point, now, but I have to stick to what I'm saying a bit. I'm not necessarily demonizing sex or attaching any moral baggage in this argument. I'm just saying obsessing over sex can literally destroy the attention and thought processes of a young man. And it happens at the worst possible time, when a guy is trying to prepare for college.

I always knew that women were the superior sex.