Sunday, March 26, 2006

Affirmative Action for Men

This is what takes place in quite a few colleges these days, and the wingnuts have not been slow to explain that it's the fault of feminists, because it was feminists who got us affirmative action in the first place, and look who is benefiting from it now! The more interesting question these wingnuts have not asked or answered is naturally if affirmative action for white men isn't exactly what has been taking place for a few centuries already, and if that wasn't the original reason why affirmative action for the other groups was introduced. But I digress.

The topic of the day is not preferential treatment during the last few centuries, but preferential treatment today, and in only certain types of colleges: those which are not ranked at the top of the college hierarchies. It is these colleges that have trouble attracting enough male applicants to end up with something fairly gender-balanced. The top-ranked colleges don't have the same problem, and this should suggest that the gender imbalance is not about gender per se but about something that is linked to class and perhaps to ethnicity and race.

Ampersand posted about this some time ago, and the study that he linked to is still relevant:

It shows that the dearth of men does not apply to white well-heeled applicants. It is the poorer men which don't apply to go to college, and especially the poorer black and Hispanic men. Or put the other way round: it is the poorer women in minority groups who are especially determined to go to college. This way of posing the problem gives us different answers, answers having to do with the cultural values of the men who don't try to go to college, and answers having to do with questions about what kind of jobs are available for poor black women who don't have college degrees. Did you know that the average earnings of men with nothing but a high school degree equal the average earnings of women with college degrees? This alone offers a fairly good explanation for girls' determination to get a college degree.

But these are not the answers that the wingnuts want to hear. They want answers which will let them segregate the sexes in education, answers that have to do with setting up jungle gyms for boys and nothing much for girls. John Tierney proposes these solutions, because schools, as we all know, were designed for girls and not for boys. I'm not sure why this argument is presented over and over again, given that girls were not even allowed to go to school at first, so the way schools were designed certainly had nothing to do with what girls wanted.

Is affirmative action for men a good thing in college admissions? Majikthese addresses this question in some detail. What I'd like to know is if it is the poor and minority men that benefit from this affirmative action, because it is these groups who are underrepresented in colleges. I'd also like to know if the argument that men are necessary for a properly diverse college experience was ever used in the mirror form when women were scarcer than hens' teeth in colleges.