Jewish World Review July 21, 2006 / 25 Tamuz 5766

Betsy Hart

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Do women let men get away with being slackers? | "At Colleges, Women are Leaving Men in the Dust," blared the front-page New York Times story by Tamar Lewin.

It seems that on campus, men are more prone to partying, women to ... acing their classes. And these trends, which hold across race and economic lines but are most pronounced within minority and lower-income groups, are now significantly affecting college life across the country.

Yes, there are a lot of guys doing well, even exceptionally well, in college. But the trend is otherwise. Women now make up 58 percent of those in our colleges and universities; in some places, their ratio is 2 to 1. They are a majority in graduate schools. And they win most of the places on honors lists. (Yes, men are more likely to graduate from college than they were two decades ago, but socially speaking that's not the achievement it was two decades ago.)

Today, "they (college men) have a sense of lassitude, a lack of focus," William Pollack, director of the Center for Men and Young Men at Harvard Medical School, told the Times. Wrote Lewin: "In dozens of interviews on three campuses ... male and female students alike agreed that the slackers in their midst were mostly male, and that the fireballs were mostly female."

FYI: The amount of time men spent zoned out playing videogames was consistently bemoaned.

"So what?" some elite have said in response to the news story. If men were ahead of women educationally, as was the case for so long, would anyone care? Maybe, some argue, women are just doing what they always do when they get a shot at something — they multitask, take it seriously and succeed.

Flash-forward in life, and here's what may be at least part of the answer to the "so what" question — the "multitasking" observation does make a lot of sense to me. It seems that women can survive and even prosper in almost any kind of a social structure, and good for them.

The problem is that men can't.

Women, for the most part, are inherently, well, pretty darn civilized. In general, it doesn't "matter" if we have a man in our lives in the sense that we are still going to work hard, we're not going to be violent or sexually aggressive, we are going to take care of our children.

Yes, some of those things have changed, particularly the "sexually aggressive" part, because of expectations that women should behave more like men. But that's part of my point.

Men, on the other hand, don't seem to live so successfully without a woman to care for and protect, or without the knowledge that one day they will be called to care for one. Their strength, competitiveness, aggressiveness — sexually and otherwise — tend to go one of two directions: into the protection of a wife and children, or into more dangerous, or maybe only fruitless, activities. (Like, um, videogames.)

Protecting and caring for a woman is a civilizing influence that (gasp) men need. When we women act like men by being sexually aggressive outside of marriage — or perhaps even when we insist that men become more like women and "always change the diapers and forever listen to my feelings, and if you don't you are an insensitive jerk!" — we can survive, but they don't do so well. And that impacts all of us (including, of course, children) for the worse.

Back to the college scene. I'm all for women doing brilliantly in school and in the world. I'm only concerned that in general the men are so far behind. Is one possible explanation that it doesn't matter as much as it used to for men? It was once the case that having the respect of the community, not to mention a regular sex life, meant getting married and caring for and protecting a family. And that meant a guy had to get his act together and begin to do well in those college years — or roughly in those same years even if he wasn't at college. (Women have long outperformed men in the high-school years.)

Maybe, just maybe, some of the "slackers" trend is because we women, because of our culture, just aren't asking the guys to grow up.

Of course, I'm convinced videogaming fits in there somewhere, too.

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"It Takes a Parent : How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids — and What to Do About It"  

"Hart urges parents to focus...on instilling industry, frugality, sincerity and humility. She encourages parents to reclaim the word "no." Contrary to advice you may have received, you needn't give your child choices, or offer alternatives, or explain to little Suzie why she can't eat eight cookies right before bed-you're the parent, and sometimes you can just say no."

  —   Kirkus Reports

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JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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