College Men and the Turtle Theory

(Steven Hayward)

The Wall Street Journal has a long feature up today on the fact that in larger and larger numbers men have decided not to go to college. But despite its length and depth, the story is too chicken to investigate what may be the leading cause of this trend.

Let’s take in some excerpts:

Men are abandoning higher education in such numbers that they now trail female college students by record levels.

At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5%, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group. U.S. colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students compared with five years ago, and men accounted for 71% of the decline. . .

No reversal is in sight. Women increased their lead over men in college applications for the 2021-22 school year—3,805,978 to 2,815,810—by nearly a percentage point compared with the previous academic year . . .

But the really interesting detail is conveyed in this bit:

Enrollment rates for poor and working-class white men are lower than those of young Black, Latino and Asian men from the same economic backgrounds. . .

So it is not just men, but specifically white men, who are bailing out of college most. But the Journal is too terrified to look deeper into what this fact might mean. The best they can do is:

No college wants to tackle the issue under the glare of gender politics, said Ms. Delahunty, the enrollment consultant. The conventional view on campuses, she said, is that “men make more money, men hold higher positions, why should we give them a little shove from high school to college?”

Yes, I can imagine no one is willing to risk their position on a college campus asking, “I’m wondering if it might be something we said?” I’m sitting here scratching my head, wondering if there could be any reason why young white men might find today’s college experience unappealing?

By coincidence, former Hollywood starlet Ellen Barkin chose yesterday to post this timely and related tweet:

That’s a pretty good summary of the official attitude and campus climate for white males today. I don’t think I really need to repeat the catechism about “whiteness,” patriarchy, Title IX enforcement mechanisms that deprive males of due process, “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (which pointedly does not and cannot “include” white males”), the mandatory training sessions that are in essence Maoist confessionals, and all the rest of the woke vocabulary do I?

This sent me back to an old essay by Aaron Wildavsky, the legendary Berkeley political scientist who noticed starting back in the 1980s that the Democratic Party was increasingly turning away from white males; not just turning away, but making them into the premier oppressor class (or scapegoat) on whom blame—and remedial taxation—should be heaped (and keep in mind that Wildavsky was a lifelong loyal liberal Democrat):

A tale from India tells of how the world rests upon a huge elephant. Upon being asked who holds the elephant up, and Indian man responds that the elephant stands on an even bigger turtle. And who, the questioning continues, holds up the turtle? “Why,” the response goes, “it’s turtles all the way down.” My theory is that the Democratic party [has] . . . made the white working male into the turtle of American political life. . .

From here Wildavsky goes on to explain what is evident today, namely, why Democrats want open borders and hopes to change the denominator of the American electorate with the importation of pro-Democratic minorities:

The Democratic party expanded the category of the deprived so that it included a good two-thirds of the population. Begin with women, who constitute some 52 percent of the population. Add racial and ethnic minorities, whom compose around one-fifth of the today. . .  At least two-third of the population is defined as deprived. . .

To the question of who should pay to provide for this elephantiasis of the deprived, the Democrats give the same answer,” Turtles all the way down.” The categories that make up the Democratic party’s vision of the deprived are urged to protest that they have not gotten their due. They are told to organize, mobilize, to make demands. In sum, the deprived have interests it is their duty to declare so that others can meet their obligations.

Turtles, however, had obligations, but not, it seems, interests. . .  [Democrats are] a party that delegitimizes the nation’s second   largest constituency—white, working, Christian males. . . Eventually even turtles get tired.

At which point they vote for Donald Trump, can cause liberal elites to lose their damn minds. And wonder why males doesn’t want to attend Woke University and signup for their classes.

P.S. There is this additional paragraph late in the Wall Street Journal story worth noting:

Young men get little help, in part, because schools are focused on encouraging historically underrepresented students. Jerlando Jackson, department chair, Education Leadership and Policy Analysis, at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Education, said few campuses have been willing to spend limited funds on male underachievement that would also benefit white men, risking criticism for assisting those who have historically held the biggest educational advantages.

And colleges think young white men don’t notice this?

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