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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post


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PostWatch
 

Tuesday, June 25, 2002
 
12:23 PM

Gender Gap Among College Graduates Has Educators Wondering Where the Men Are, and Moratorium On Covering This Development Has PostWatch Wondering Where The Reporters Were...

Michael Fletcher's story on the longstanding gender gap favoring women in college admissions does a good job of reporting, finally, this trend, and I'm glad to see a story like this in the Post. But there's a startling graf near the end:

Women began making substantial educational improvements after the passage of Title IX, the 1972 law that barred sexual discrimination in educational institutions that spend federal money.

Actually women started making substantial educational improvements long before then. According to our friend Jessica Gavora, women increased from 25% of undergrads in 1950 to 43% by 1971, the year before Title IX became law.

Fletcher continues:

But even now that women outpace men in receiving bachelor's and master's degrees, they still receive fewer doctoral and professional degrees and continue to lag in a handful of well-paying fields, including engineering and the sciences.

What is the premise here? The world is not right until women dominate every possible field. Perhaps I'm nitpicking. But this is the reporter speaking, not an interview subject, and in the next graf an executive from the National Women's Law Center (remember them?) is happy to back it up:

"Title IX has promoted substantial opportunities for women and has been responsible for a wide range of improvements," said Jocelyn Samuels, vice president of the National Women's Law Center, a Washington, D.C. advocacy group. "The job is not yet done."

Another important aspect of this story is how long this shift has been going on. For years, feminists of various stripes have been promoting the idea that girls and women are uniquely downtrodden in our school systems. That's not true, and it hasn't been true for quite a long time. It wasn't true in the early 90's when the American Association of University Women came out with misleading and weakly researched claims to that effect, which were promptly reproduced by mainstream media including the Post, the New York Times, television networks, the usual suspects. It wasn't true when the Gender Equity Act funneled hundreds of millions of dollars, starting around 1994, into programs to solve a problem that didn't exist.

Philosophy professor and author Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers was the groundbreaker on this subject with her 1994 book, Who Stole Feminism?; she recently followed that up with The War Against Boys. Sommers is quoted at the top of Fletcher's story as saying "This is new. We have thrown the gender switch....This does not bode well for anyone."

("New" is a relative term; in Who Stole Feminism, she notes that "today [1994] 55 percent of college students are female. In 1971, women received 43% of the bachelor's degrees, 40% of the master's degrees and 14% of the doctorates. By 1989 the figures grew to 52% for B.A.'s, 52% for M.A's and 36% for doctoral degrees." And bear in mind that doctoral degrees are a much smaller proportion of all degrees awarded)

Other stats show that females lagging males in college achievement stopped being true by the early 1980's, as Fletcher states and as an accompanying chart shows. That was when women started to equal and then surpass men in the proportion of bachelors' degrees.

There is also a depressing racial dimension to this story. Fletcher reports on Dillard University, a historically black school, where two-thirds of the applicants and 70 percent of the students are women, "despite efforts to recruit men."

Fletcher says that the University of Georgia tried to give males a preference over females in admissions in an attempt to balance enrollment that was 55% female: "The university halted the practice in the face of a federal lawsuit," he writes. This reminds us of the Iron Law of Suits: Legal action to boost under-represented women and minorities is usually permitted. Legal action boosting under-represented men usually is not.




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