The Editorials of E. Desiderius

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Friday, March 31, 2006

The Case For Gender Blind College Admissions

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Much has been made in recent days of the academic problems plaguing young men. The New York Times’ John Tierney and an Op-Ed called “To All the Girls I’ve Rejected,” Newsweek, The New Republic, The Washington Post and scores of other outlets have run alarming portraits of young men, not attending college, moving back in with their parents, lacking career ambitions, lacking of academic success, and so forth.

But the most alarming notion out of this media frenzy is the idea that schools have now begun admit young men who are less qualified than their female counterparts, in order to maintain a gender balance on campus. “Few of us sitting around the table were as talented and as directed at age 17 as this young woman,” wrote admissions officer Jennifer Britz in her Times piece concerning a young women who was nearly rejected from Kenyon. “Unfortunately, her test scores and grade point average placed her in the middle of our pool. We had to have a debate before we decided to swallow the middling scores and write ''admit'' next to her name. Had she been a male applicant, there would have been little, if any, hesitation to admit. The reality is that because young men are rarer, they're more valued applicants.” [1].

The big problem with all this is that there is truly no excuse for young men. Affirmative action programs, their merit and fairness aside, were designed to correct a social wrong, to compensate for a group that was previously discriminated against and placed in a lower social position. But how can one make the case that males, especially middle-class, white males, have had anything but all doors open to them?

The pantheon of history is filled with male intellectual role models, successful, powerful and rich men run the largest corporations, the great majority of the United States government is composed of white males, almost every head of state across the world is a male, and a majority of college professors are male as well. There is no glass ceiling for men, and there is no discrimination. In classrooms, males monopolize class time, and teachers call on them more. Nothing in a young, white male’s experience has ever taught him that he is incapable, inferior or incompetent. Rather, middle-class males have had every door held open for them, and practically been shoved through by over-eager dotting parents. In many cases, these are males born with a silver spoon, or at the very least a bronze one, and a ticket to career success. Any academic underachievement is simply the result of their own complacency, their own lack of ambition and their own disconnect with the system.

Women have worked too hard, have struggled for too long, and have been too undervalued in almost every aspect of American society to have American universities hold them to a higher standard when it comes to college admissions. It is the worst sort of backhanded discrimination after decades of progress. It is an unacceptable practice to weigh and value male applicants over females, simply for gender balance. A huge unequal gender ratio may make a school slightly less desirable to both women and men, however it is a small price to pay to ensure that decades of hard work by young women in achieving social and academic equity is not discarded to accommodate young men who are simply not as deserving. Dragging under-qualified and less-deserving males kicking and screaming through college does no one a favor, including them. If the school system needs to be reformed to maintain the interest and engagement of young men, then let that be the solution. However, college admissions should and must be completely gender blind, enforced and backed by federal law. Any less would be more complacency.

-E. Desiderius

-Full Disclosure: This author is male, once left school and moved in with his parents, and was admitted to a relatively elite university (however, non-American) with grades that most likely did not meet the cut, and may have benefited from the same sort of male affirmative action that he now rails against. This author pledges to make disclosures that affect objectivity or create bias.

[1] New York Times Select (Subscrip. Required) – To All the Girls I’ve Rejected
New York Times Select (Subscrip. Required) – On Campus, A Good Man is Hard To Find
Newsweek – The Trouble With Boys
The Washington Post - What’s Happening to Boys
The New Republic - Boys and Books

Posted by George Gordon | Friday, March 31, 2006 | E-mail this post

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