Boys in Crisis

Men, Marriage, and College in America

Decades’ worth of data point to the centrality of marriage, family, and community to the flourishing of any civil society. When marriages are strong, families are strong, and when families are strong, local communities are too. But what happens when the cornerstone of the entire social edifice is missing? More importantly, why is it missing? According to a recent piece by Scott Galloway,[1] the answer is painfully simple: more and more men are simply less marriageable, and cultural and political forces are eroding marriage’s appeal.

Galloway notes that less men are attending university, and that a man’s level of education is correlated with his potential to attract a mate. He writes, “College educated men earn a median $900,000 over their lifetime than those who only graduated from high school. A college degree also increases your chances of getting married by 30%.” Women are statistically drawn to men who will reliably supply provision and welfare; education marks “earning potential.” So? “The result of fewer men in college? Fewer men that women are interested in.”

USA Today recently reported that, in the Fall of 2021, “women outnumber men on two-year and four-year college campus by millions. Nearly 60% of students are women while only about 40% are men, an education gap that has been widening for decades.”[2] This hasn’t always been the case. Less than a thirty years ago, the statistics pointed in the opposite direction. More men were enrolling in colleges than women. Clearly, sexism and cultural norms prevented women from getting much educational mobility. But why have the trends changed? And what consequences does the United States reap if men are no longer going to college?

We know more of the fallout than we do the causes; regardless, this trend in higher education is concerning. According to the USA Today report, college graduates have better marriages than those who do not attend and are much less likely to experience long-term job loss due to economic downturn.  While the article acknowledges the problem, it despairs of an answer, appealing to the Biden administration to launch initiatives searching for real solutions. Galloway includes some insights in his article, however, claiming that boys experience many obstacles in their upbringing.

He’s right. Boys are given harsher discipline than girls in primary schools and are less expected by their parents to attend college. In addition, while historically women faced challenges in academic spheres, most teachers are women, and the various waves of feminism have produced an offshoot of bitterness and even contempt against men. Jeffrey Hemmer writes in his book Man Up,

“No longer are men simply superfluous in a woman’s quest for happiness and fulfillment. Now they’re detrimental. The tenor of feminism has changed from ‘men are unnecessary’ to ‘Men are bad.’”[3]

The rise of radical feminism is different from a genuine call for equal opportunity and treatment between the sexes. The problem is that being “anti-man” is not good for either men or women. It is certainly not good for marriage. Additionally, the data concerning the essential need of a father in a young boy’s life is practically irrefutable. Boys need the interactive presence of their father. They need to be celebrated, encouraged, and validated.

So what can parents, teachers, and communities do to support boys? The best way may be to take our eyes off the stats and see boys and men as human beings worth investing in, just like girls and young women are worth investing in. As Michael C. Reichert writes, “A relationship in which a boy can tell that he matters is fundamental to his ability to think for himself and to follow an independent course.”[4] With all the data we have about the declining rates of college attendance among American men and the fall of marriage, parents can always see their sons for who they are and love them as human beings with intrinsic worth and dignity. Perhaps then our men would stop playing Fortnite and indulging in online conspiracy theories. Perhaps then, with relationship and real connection, men could be given permission to flourish for the good of society. Investing in boys means caring about the common good.

[1] A Few(er) Good Men | No Mercy / No Malice (profgalloway.com)

[2] College life: Decline of men on campuses hurts all of America (usatoday.com)

[3] Hemmer, Jeffrey. Man Up! The Quest for Masculinity. Concordia Publishing House. St. Louis, MO. p. 74.

[4] Reichert, Michael C. How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men. Penguin Random House LLC. 2019. p. 33.

graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois with a degree in English Writing and is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University. He was born and raised in rural Oklahoma. 

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