November 30, 2005

Note: It is always fun to get a response to one of your columns. It shows someone is reading them. This column is on how males are falling behind in college and it hit a nerve of a local boy who was a smart kid in high school, but who had little guidance or encouragement from his parents.

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


It is common knowledge that women are second-class citizens. They are not competitive enough. Women lack the ability for critical thinking. Women are not as good as men in math and science.

It was later discovered in many studies that females were not dumber than guys; they were just shortchanged in our educational system. It was decided that our country needed to compensate for this and give girls a boost. The results were, over the last twenty years, that many educational programs around the United States were funded to help girls catch up with the better-educated American male.

The results have been stellar for the young females currently in the educational system. As a father of three young ladies this has all been great for them. During their summers they all choose to attend programs that concentrated on math and science. This resulted in my daughters having a leg up on most males as far as attaining their educational goals. At college my daughters have met many other young ladies that are soon to be college graduates. However, many of the boys they knew in high school have dropped out of college.

The plain truth is the old sexism as shown in the first paragraph held down women and was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Currently, according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education women at Minnesota colleges were granted more than half of all degrees in every level; be it associate, bachelor, masters or Ph.D. Nationally, the trend for the last five years is that women are earning most of the advanced degrees as well.

The number of men attending college is in decline as well. Even though there are 15 million men in the 18-24 year age bracket compared to 14.2 million women, women make up 57% of the college student population. Women are marching forward and men are falling behind. The new endangered class in the United States is the male sex, but this has yet to be recognized by the body politic. News flash: This is not a good thing.

It is hard to blame this all on the preferential programs that have been aimed at women. I honestly think the lack of scholarly young men is partly due to the decline in values held by our culture. Bright young men are not part of the iconology of our culture. Today's popular culture is one of crass video games, cell phone babble, hot cars, music with trashy lyrics, and many wasted hours watching cable TV. (And yes, I know there are some girls who are being dragged down by those things as well.) It is no wonder that today's young men are being bested by their female counterparts. As a result we are becoming a society where young men are intellectually immature when compared to their female counterparts.

The appreciation of literature, serious music, art, science and philosophy are not being impressed upon today's young men. The above-mentioned subjects are still part of enough young women's upbringing to give them the ACT and SAT scores needed to get into college. Young women read more, are involved in more non-sport activities, and are expected to still do well in school. More girls are involved with music which is a discipline that helps all their other academic skills.

Now I think it is great that women are not being treated educationally as second-class citizens. However, our country needs to recognize that the number of degrees should roughly match the gender of the population. It is only when there is balanced representation that you can say we have a society that believes in equality and equal opportunity.

I don't like affirmative action. I do not think we should lower our standards and allow more males into college so the numbers are more balanced. What I do believe is that parents need to wake up and start disciplining their sons into following a course of behaviors that promotes learning and appreciation of scholarly subjects.

Sports are important for both sexes, but it should not be a majority of a boy's outside interests. If more parents bought books for their kids instead of game cartridges the prospects of what these kids can do after graduating high school would be much higher. Sadly, many guys need remedial classes in college to catch up.

Young men should not be learning how to behave by watching what the Vikings do off the field, just as young women should not consider Paris Hilton a role model.

On behalf of my daughters, I say to the young men of America, "Get off your butts and make something of yourselves!" After all, men can't expect to succeed just on their good looks - to win those high-income jobs you need to be smart. And smarts can only come from studying and getting a degree. Next year in Ely I would like to see two bright people from each gender share the honor of valedictorian.


 Response published in the Ely Echo - December 10, 2005


Dear Editor:

From the other side of the road.

After deliberating for a good amount of time, I decided to write something in response to the column entitled "At the Beginning of the Road" which appeared in the December 3rd edition. I have chosen to write because I am one of the men of whom the author writes. I am one of the men that is apparently not getting off my butt and doing anything.

I graduated from Ely High School with a relatively high G.P.A., received a decent score on my ACT and a small local scholarship, I got into a very good university (University of Minnesota) and began my college education in the fall after graduating.

After one year, I had worked my way to decent grades and felt satisfied. Unfortunately my money situation left me feeling quite different. It turns out that with tuition, books, course fees and other school expenses, I spent over $12,000. This was excluding my living expenses, which my parents were kind enough to cover.

I am not sure if I am alone with this, but most people I know do not have that kind of money after high school, as you are told to concentrate on your studies to get into a good school. What you are not told is that the better the school, the more expensive.

Now I understand that there are ways for kids to pay for school such as loans, grants, financial aid, etc. But what about somebody like me who fails to qualify for any grants or aid due to the fact that my parents have property. The government doesn't look at me as a student in need. So I have one place to turn, which is a loan.

Now after my first year, a loan sounded like the right choice, but by the time I finished my application for aid (something that is required to even APPLY for a loan) and had that processed, it was too late. Registration was already over and I had to wait until the next semester. So in the meantime I decided I was going to get the loan anyway for the next semester.

Well not many banks are willing to give a 19 year old a loan for $10,000 who has no previous credit history. So I needed a co-signer, which was not available at the time due to personal family reasons. So where am I supposed to come up with another $6,000 for that semester alone? The only solution I had was to work. So I did. I worked every day and took a Saturday class at Normandale Community College because it was all I could afford. It turns out nobody told me in high school that it costs a lot of money to live as well.

The point I am trying to make is that completely apart from my personal decision, I could not afford college. I have to work to save money for school but I still have bills, so I can't really save up either. In other words… school is expensive and not everybody can afford it!

Now the second problem I have with the article is that the generalizations that are made are ridiculous. I am 20 years old and I don't play video games, my cell phone doesn't even work in this part of the state, my car is a Mercury Tracer wagon with a broken side view mirror and a muffler that can be heard from Florida and I don't usually touch the TV until an hour or two before I go to bed. I spend most of my time working, reading, and socializing with others. I have a decent paying job and am completely comfortable with the life I have chosen.

I don't feel as though I am completely uneducated and I don't feel as though by my not going to school I am going to live a horrible and lazy life. I have learned more now than I did in my last two years of school, taking general classes that I will never use in my everyday life. When I am selling a log table with six chairs, I do not need to know the Pythagorean Theorem.

When I am explaining how to take care of a chainsaw carving, I do not need to know who the 12th president of the United States was and what he did. I do not feel as though I should pay thousands of dollars, that I don't have and take loans out for, to get a degree that I may never use.

I am one of the American men that is not in college and I feel I am making something of my life. Within our society, there are many services that exist and we need people who will perform these services…and hopefully enjoy them.

It is totally unrealistic to think that a college education is necessary for all types of jobs, or even more so, for personal fulfillment. In less than a year I will be moving to Red Wing, MN to live with my girlfriend and I am confident I will find a decent job there as well.

That is my life and I do not feel like wasting three more years and $40,000 more to learn facts that I may never need or use and end up where I am anyway.

The beauty of our university system is that at any point in time, I can make the decision to complete my college education, which for me would be at a time when I know more precisely what I would take and why.

For know, I am happy and fulfilled with where I am and feel that I am very productive member of society.

Alex Warfield


Note: Alex did a fine job writing his response, but in the end I think he only confirmed my entire column. Whereas my daughters had specific goals in mind for college, Alex was probably going because that is what most of his friends were doing. It is unfortunate he did not take the time to educate himself on the process of college loans. Perhaps he was too busy dealing with his DWI? Going to college requires a plan as well as a goal. Missing deadlines on doing FAFSA, applying for financial help and working with the college financial aid department is a big screw-up on Alex's part. Millions of kids not as smart as Alex manage to take out college loans. No bank will go for a personal loan for college without someone of financial means co-signing, but college loans are easy to qualify for and do not need co-signing. His lack of appreciating history and math shows he is aiming rather low. I am happy he is satisfied with the minimum wage job that Mommy and Daddy gave him at their store and wish him well when he goes to shack up with his slut girlfriend. I know for a fact that high schools do teach about the benefits of higher education. I am sorry Alex did not listen to the part on how most college graduates make hundreds of thousands of dollars more than their uneducated counterparts. That is not to say Alex could end up so rich he could buy Ely lock, stock, and barrel, but statistics (another one of those math things) show it is improbable. Meanwhile millions of females are advancing while Alex sits attending a cash register on Sheridan Street. I could go on about his "it is not my fault" attitude, but that is just another problem that is prevalent in our society that should be dealt with another time.



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