Several years ago Dr. Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University, made national headlines because of his remarks at an academic conference sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Dr. Summers cited research which seems to indicate that innate differences might exist between the sexes in certain cognitive abilities. He suggested that this could explain why women are so under-represented at the highest echelons of scientific and mathematical research.
Of course, Dr. Summers’ speculation caused a huge uproar among the politically correct chattering class, where the merest suggestion of differences in ability between the sexes constitutes rank heresy. Some participants in the conference said they were “deeply offended” by Dr. Summers’ comments. MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins walked out of the proceedings, saying she would either have blacked out or thrown up, had she stayed to hear more. (Some wags suggested that she had a neo-Victorian attack of “the vapors.”)
Subsequently, Dr. Summers abjectly apologized for giving the slightest impression that women might be less able than men, scientifically, or for saying anything that might “discourage” women from applying to Harvard for math or science positions. All this was headline-news because feminists have been on a forty-year blitzkrieg to seize the public discourse on education and make it not only female-friendly, but female-dominated. Absolute equality of the sexes is a foundational article of faith of this campaign.
Feminists believe schools and teachers have either neglected or discriminated against girls, thus preventing them from studying mathematics and science. In a kind of double whammy, Dr. Summers had also questioned whether bias was really keeping women from reaching the highest levels of mathematics and science. He suggested that women might be unwilling or unable, for family reasons, to invest the long hours and years of work required to achieve at high levels in these fields.
Of course, Dr. Summers’ speculation on this without supporting data was imprudent. But his suggestion was not entirely without merit. During my own corporate career, a senior female employee of the company made a big splash in the early ‘90s by touting statistics – even presenting them to the Board of Directors – showing how few executives in the company were women. At one point, however, she candidly admitted that she had turned down several chances to become a Division Manager because of family considerations. I was not the only one to point out that she had perturbed her own data by declining those promotion-opportunities. It raised the question of how many other women in the company had done the same. That question remained unanswered, however.
From other professional experience, however, I know there was truth in the claim that some educators tried to keep girls and minorities from entering scientific fields. An engineer I knew professionally was a young black woman. She said her junior high and high school counselors were determined to steer her into curricula that would prepare her to become a secretary, despite her demonstrated ability in mathematics and science. She said her mother was at the school “week after week,” insisting that her daughter be placed in a curriculum track to prepare her for college level technical study. “She made such a fuss,” said my colleague, “that they finally they gave in.”
I was glad that my young colleague’s parent helped her obtain the education she deserved, so she could enter a technical career for which she was well suited. But hers was really one of the last of such educational horror stories from the ‘70s that we heard in our workplace. Soon it was much more common to hear that young professional women had received full scholarships to study math, science and computing.
The political winds had shifted. Education became women-friendly – bending over backward to let girls and women achieve in every course of study, including technical curricula. One result of this long campaign to improve girls’ education is that women in college now exceed men by some 3 million. At colleges and universities, the ratio of female-to-male students is close to 60-40. Feminists are happy about this, but other observers, including college administrators, are less sanguine about the trend.
Yet men continue to dominate high levels of mathematics and science by wide margins over women. This fact, which enrages feminists, led Dr. Summers to suggest (incautiously) that more than social and educational bias might be at work. But true believers in absolute equality of the sexes were having none of it. Academe is now a place where some things simply cannot be discussed – a non-trivial departure from the university’s foundational purpose. Ultimately, Dr. Summers resigned, under fire, from his Harvard post. His sin against politically correct dogma was unpardonable.
Another byproduct of this shift in the political (i.e., politically correct) educational winds is that public schools now treat boys differently than when I was growing up. In a more general sense, of course, all students are treated differently because all affirmative moral content has been removed from a public school education. When I attended Pennsylvania public schools in the 1940s and ‘50s, a chapter from the Bible was read to all students each morning, before classes began – always from the Old Testament, in deference to Jewish children. We then rose to recite the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge to the Flag.
I have often wondered if hearing the Scripture and mumbling the Lord’s Prayer meant anything to some of those rough characters in my high school homerooms. I suspect that it did. The Bible says that merely hearing the Word of God is a powerful influence. No doubt, it was better than nothing. In retrospect, the entire scenario seems unbelievable.
Today, of course, all that is gone, and “nothing” is exactly what we have. Schools are now committed to helping students achieve something called “moral autonomy.” Moral relativism is the tool for doing it. In her book, The Moral Life of Boys, Christina Hoff Sommers notes that children lack the internal moral or intellectual resources to think and judge for themselves in important matters. Since neither boys nor girls are prepared for achieving the Kantian ideal of rational moral autonomy, the practical result is moral anarchy. Nevertheless, “progressive” education’s key assumption is that children should not only be allowed their autonomy, but are naturally ready for it.
This flawed premise has produced a chaotic societal environment in which children often behave impolitely, imprudently, or illegally – indeed, sometimes all three. The rudeness of many young people is publicly obvious. Their imprudence in causing terrible traffic accidents by excessive drinking, for example, actually caused the drinking age to be raised back to 21 in many states that had lowered it to 18. Imprudent sexual behavior, producing disease and pregnancy, has also become a serious problem for young people.
Criminally sociopathic (even psychopathic) behavior – evidenced in school shootings and multi-person massacres, as well as the decades-long plague of violence on city streets – has brought youthful criminality to national attention. Mrs. Sommers notes that political discussions of youthful criminality have largely focused on firearms, not on the moral impoverishment of young people. The diversion of the public debate over youthful crime into a controversy over firearms, she says, “…is one of the most disturbing and damaging misdirections in all of recent politics.”
Mrs. Sommers writes: “It is most instructive that the outrageous crimes of virtually feral children are adopted as a pretext to restrict the autonomy of adults by limiting general access to arms. This connection is not accidental, since the political projects related to feminism… typically desire a disarmed population unable to resist the government.”
Into the educational vacuum of moral relativism radical feminists have now poured a witches’ brew of politics and tyrannical control over both thought and action. In her later book, The War on Boys, Mrs. Sommers notes that those feminists everyone assumed simply hated men have now turned on a more vulnerable target: boys. She exposes what the terrifying techniques and purposes of feminist reeducation are doing to boys. The catechism, she says, is more or less simple: “Girls, good; boys, bad.”
In many schools, even the propensity of boys to run and jump and engage in rough-and-tumble play is now being suppressed. This radical educational change has actually evolved into a movement to abolish recess at the very time when health activists are railing about overweight and inactive American children. If sedentary and junk-food-nourished children must be denied free outdoor exercise, says Mrs. Sommers, there must be some powerful reason for doing so.
The reason is that boys behave differently from girls. This cannot be allowed. Feminists insist that boys should be raised like girls – indeed, should be like girls. More active male behavior or interests – once considered normal for boys – are considered the spawn of “patriarchy” and must be treated as deviant expressions that will lead directly to rape, mass murder, and capitalism. They must be stamped out with every means possible.
Day in and day out, too many boys are hearing a steady drumbeat telling them that they are class enemies, responsible for all the evils of the world. Mrs. Sommers notes that when these doped-up, denigrated, and sexually confused boys hit adolescence, “…hormonal rockets are lit off, and we find resentful, angry, and unsocialized youth bouncing around the landscape.” This, then, is taken as additional evidence that more vigorous non-sexist reeducation must be instituted. Fewer young men going to college is only one symptom of a poisonous institutional bias that must be disclosed and dealt with.
Mrs. Sommers does not use the term “castration” for this kind of reeducation, but it certainly comes to mind. Some critics believe it is what some feminists would really like to do. Ritalin has been the traditional stopgap remedy, but the current transgender craze offers a more permanent treatment for the “disease” of masculinity. And now, to put the finishing touch on boys’ unmanning, instruction in homosexual practices is being welcomed in growing numbers of schools. This movement to make children question their own biological identity is beyond perverse. It is truly wicked. Parents who want normal lives for their kids must fight it with every means at their disposal.
Why have parents of boys not put the nasty pieces together and objected? Perhaps they are already doing so. Nationally, the home-schooled student population now numbers some 2 million. The private school population is also growing steadily. By some estimates, 40% of public school teachers have their own children in private schools; ditto for politicians of both parties, including the president. (The Obama daughters attend exclusive Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC.) Only the cost of private schooling prevents many parents from removing their children from an out-of-control educational system that is too ideologically committed to revise its corrupt and destructive ideas.
This is a rough time to be a boy. If you have one in public school, make yourself aware of how he is being treated – particularly with respect to his sexuality and “gender-identity.” Above all, resist all official pressure to put him on drugs to “control his behavior.” Boyhood is not a pathology. It’s not a social disease requiring correction. Whatever some past wicked men might have done, your little guy or teen is not responsible. He doesn’t deserve to be punished and have his manhood and his future destroyed because corrupt feminists hate men or because militant homosexuals lust after more converts to their perversions. (As Patrick Henry said, “If this be treason, make the most of it.”)
And if you have a daughter, don’t let her buy the swill being peddled about “evil boys.” Boys are neither her enemies nor the enemies of our culture and our country. Boys are the men of the future. The country is going to need them. Their boldness, their will, and their nerve will be indispensible to the nation. Moreover, most girls will grow into women who will be glad to find real men to marry. We need to be concerned about what kind of men they will be – indeed, whether they will be men at all. Any attempt to restore cultural “normalcy” in the country must start there – the first salvo of a mighty effort to pitch all the “gender-modification” rubbish onto history’s scrap-heap.