Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash

Silence of the Males

October 3, 2021

by Sean Kullman

GIBM reports in February and March of 2020 addressed the alarming male gender-gap on college campuses across the country as well as the lack of funding for our nation's sons. Recent reports in the Wall Street Journal and on CNN have expressed how a generation of young men are giving up on college, and its impact on society.

Americans are sharing the same concerns. Data from the 2020 American Family Survey reveals parents worry more about their sons in education and/or career, financial self-reliance, and family relationships more so than their daughters. And it's not because they worry less about their daughters; it's because they believe cultural institutions are failing boys. “Daughters are more likely to be seen as getting better treatment from the educational system and the public’s eyes.”

Parents I’ve spoken with are increasingly concerned that college campuses, and schools in general, are not male friendly. The concerns are certainly warranted if we look at the systemic patterns that, not only impact students, but faculty whose exercise of free speech has led to serious consequences on college campuses.

Colleges and the Male Voice

On August 31, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) released a review of the campaigns targeting faculty for exercising free speech and expression. The FIRE report found “3 in 4” such campaigns resulted in punishment, but the report did not specifically identify the sex differences of scholars targeted in these anti free-speech campaigns, so GIBM analyzed and identified the sex of the targeted scholars.

After reviewing the 426 cases listed in the FIRE database, GIBM learned that males accounted for 71% of scholars targeted for speech and expression. The reasons are varied and come from both the left (61.9%) and the right (34.5%), and it speaks to a larger concern parents of college aged children have expressed to me [1]. Are my sons allowed to speak freely without serious consequences? Some parents have told me they encourage their sons to tell their teachers what they want to hear and avoid any attempt to engage in conversations where their sons' viewpoints may be seen as oppositional to their teachers for fear of various forms of reprisals.

It is reasonable for scholars, students, and parents to worry that males are marginalized in the educational system; something supported by the male college-gender-gap and K-12 educational outcomes. An Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student, Lake Ingle, was barred from class and brought up on disciplinary charges for suggesting there are only two genders.

Perhaps the preeminent retaliatory act that garnered national attention happened to Bret Weinstein, Ph.D., a former tenured professor at Evergreen State University who “faced demands for termination and threats of imminent violence for his comments critical of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts on campus.” Weinstein has a long history of supporting all students and was entrusted to continue the mission of the institution as a tenured member of the faculty. Weinstein would eventually resign more out of desperation and the potential loss of any financial recompense.

Men are not the only ones targeted for free speech. According to FIRE, students from Pomona College in Claremont, California called for the “appointment of Alice Goffman to be rescinded because of her book On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City,” a book that addresses the tough on crime impact on black communities. Although we can certainly identify cases where women are impacted, the majority have been male. Attempts to support male and female points of view are necessary and will allow for the types of debates that lead to better outcomes for males and females in the exchange of ideas.

The Pattern of Male Silence

However, the patterns of male silence run long and deep into the educational system. The systemic challenges begin in the K-12 system where opposition to the male presence is exercised by labeling kids as possessing learning differences that require medication and by suspending boys at significantly higher percentages.

  • Of the many millions of U.S. children now diagnosed with ADHD, there are three times as many boys as girls. The drug treatments rob the children of their spontaneity and initiative, in addition to a host of other side effects. Moreover, when a child is told year after year by the adults he looks up to that he has ADHD—with some parents and teachers even saying the child “is ADHD”—the child may come to believe it, develop low self-esteem and internalize low expectations” (Daniel Zeidner, M.D.).

  • Boys account for 71% of out of school suspension and 74% of expulsions according to data from the National Center for Educational Statistics.

There is little doubt a good number of suspensions are warranted. While some have called for reforming the suspension system, it may be time to address the pedagogical approach to education and the ways boys and girls learn differently. School systems are trying to place a bandaid on a hemorrhage instead of eliminating the causes of the trauma. Decreasing suspensions is such a small part of a greater systemic problem.

California, like most of the nation, has a school to prison pipeline marked by a steady inability to address male challenges that begin in schools.

The Male Narrative in Public Discourse

The male narrative in the public discourse is practically absent from the social consciousness even with the small sampling of articles appearing in the last few weeks. Ask most people about college demographics and sex, and few will believe males only account for 40 to 43% of undergraduate students. GIBM hopes the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and other media outlets will work with experts in the field of boys and men to produce a weekly flow of articles addressing the many and varied needs of males. (We encourage the New York Times to add an "In His Words" column to match its "In Her Words" column as a true gesture toward equity and inclusion. If not the NYT, we hope the WSJ, New York Post and other media outlets will take up the mantle).

But as the silence of the males becomes an increasingly systemic academic practice coupled with limited media exposure on the outcomes of boys and men, we can only expect greater social divisions and a continued increase in the number of boys and men feeling rebuffed by the K-12 and higher education systems.

As a country, we need to prevent the social consequences of nations that have a large number of uneducated males with nothing to do. And it begins with free an open speech that addresses all of our citizens' needs, opportunities, and outcomes.

Endnote: [1] 3.52% were unclear or irrelevant

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