Education Rebecca Gordon

What Does It Mean that Women Now Dominate Higher Education?

The women who now make up the majority of college students may be missing their moment through no fault of their own.
[COD Newsroom / CC BY 2.0]

By Rebecca Gordon | TomDispatch

In the last week of her life, my mother extracted a promise from me. “Make sure,” she said, “that Orion goes to college.”

I swore that I would, although I wasn’t at all sure how I’d make it happen. Even in the year 2000, average tuitions were almost 10 times what my own undergraduate school had charged 30 years earlier. I knew that sending my nephew to college would cost more money than I’d have when the time came. If he was going to college, like his aunt before him, he’d need financial help. The difference was that his “help” was likely to come not as a grant, but as life-defining loans.

“Orion,” by the way, is a pseudonym for my brother’s son, my parents’ only grandchild. To the extent that any of us placed family hopes in a next generation, he’s borne them all. Orion was only five years old when I made that promise and he lived 3,000 miles away in a depressed and depressing de-industrialized town in New York’s Hudson River Valley. We’d only met in person once at that point. Over the years, however, we kept in touch by phone, later by text message, and twice he even visited my partner and me in San Francisco.

A little more than a decade after I made that promise, Orion graduated from high school. I thought that with a scholarship, loans, and financial help from his father and us, we might indeed figure out how to pay the staggering costs of a college education, which now averages $35,000 a year, having doubled in this century alone.  

It turned out, however, that money wasn’t the only obstacle to making good on my promise. There was another catch as well. Orion didn’t want to go to college. Certainly, the one guidance counselor at his 1,000-student public high school had made no attempt to encourage either him or, as far as I could tell, many of his classmates to plan for a post-high-school education. But would better academic counseling have made a difference? I doubt it.

A bright boy who had once been an avid reader, Orion was done with schooling by the time he’d turned 18. He made that clear when I visited him for a talk about his future. He had a few ideas about what he might do: join the military or the New York state police. In reality, though, it turned out that he had no serious interest in either of those careers.

He might have been a disaffected student, but he was — and is — a hard worker. Over the next few years, despite sky-high unemployment in the Hudson River Valley, he always had a job. He made and delivered pizzas. He cleaned rooms at a high-end hotel for wealthy equestrians. He did pick-up carpentry. And then he met an older tradesman who gave him an informal apprenticeship in laying floors and setting tile. Orion learned how to piece together hardwood and install carpeting. He proudly showed me photos of the floors he’d laid and the kitchens he’d tiled.

Eventually, he had to part ways with his mentor, who also happened to be a dangerous drunk. We had another talk and I reminded him of my promise to my mother. I’d recently gotten an unexpected windfall — an advance on a book I was writing, American Nuremberg — which put me in a position to help set him up in business. He bought a van, completed his tool set, and paid for a year’s insurance. Now, 10 years after graduating from high school, he’s making decent money as a respected tradesman and is thinking about marrying his girlfriend. He’s made himself a life without ever going to college.

I worry about him, though. Laying floors is a young person’s trade. A few years on your knees, swinging a hammer all day, will tear your joints apart. He can’t do this forever.

The Rising of the Women

Still, it turns out that my nephew isn’t the only young man to opt out of more schooling. I’ve seen this in my own classrooms and the data confirms it as a national and international trend.

I started teaching ethics at the University of San Francisco in 2005. It soon struck me that there were invariably more women in my classes than men. Nor was the subject matter responsible, since everyone had to pass a semester of ethics to graduate from that Jesuit university. No, as it turned out, my always-full classes represented the school’s overall gender balance. For a few years, I wondered whether such an overrepresentation of women could be attributed to parents who felt safer sending their daughters to a Catholic school, especially in a city with San Francisco’s reputation for sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Recently, though, I came to realize that my classes were simply part of a much larger phenomenon already beginning to worry some observers. Until about 1990, men invariably outnumbered women at every level of post-secondary education and more of them graduated, too. At four-year colleges and in post-graduate programs or in community colleges (once they became more prevalent), more men earned two-year, four-year, master’s, and doctorate-level degrees.

It was during the 1970s that the ratio began to shift. In 1970, among recent high-school graduates, 32% of the men and just 20% of the women enrolled in post-secondary institutions. By 1990, equal percentages – around 32% — were going to college. In the years that followed, college attendance continued to increase for both sexes, but significantly faster for women who, in 1994, surpassed men. Since the end of the 1990s, men’s college attendance has stayed relatively stable at about 37% of high-school graduates.

Women’s campus presence, however, has only continued to climb with 44% of recent female high-school graduates enrolled in post-secondary schools by 2019.

So, the problem, if there is one, isn’t that men have stopped going to college. A larger proportion of them, in fact, attend today than at any time in our history. It’s just that an even larger proportion of women are doing so.

As a result, if you visit a college campus, you should see roughly three women — now about 60% of all college students — for every two men. And that gap has been growing ever wider, even during the disruption of the Covid pandemic.

Not only do more women now attend college than men, but they’re more likely to graduate and receive degrees. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 1970, men received 57% of both two- and four-year degrees, 61% of master’s degrees, and 90% of doctorates. By 2019, women were earning the majority of degrees at all levels.

One unexpected effect of this growing college gender gap is that it’s becoming harder for individual women to get into selective schools. The Hechinger Report, a non-profit institution focused on education, lists a number of well-known ones where male applicants have a better chance of being accepted, including:

“Boston, Bowdoin and Swarthmore colleges; Brown, Denison, Pepperdine, Pomona, Vanderbilt and Wesleyan universities; and the University of Miami. At each school, men were at least 2 percentage points more likely than women to be accepted in both 2019 and 2020. Pitzer College admitted 20% of men last year compared to 15% of women, and Vassar College accepted 28% of men compared to 23% of women. Both had more than twice as many female applicants as male applicants.”

Even for Vassar, once a women’s college, having too many women is now apparently a problem.

In addition, in recent years, despite those lower acceptance rates for women at elite schools, colleges have generally had to deal with declining enrollments, a trend only accelerated by the Covid pandemic. As Americans postpone having children and have fewer when they do, the number of people reaching college age is actually shrinking. Two-year colleges have been especially hard hit.

And there’s the debt factor. Like my nephew Orion, more potential students, especially men, are now weighing the problem of deferring their earnings, while acquiring a staggering debt load from their years at college. Some of them are opting instead to try to make a living without a degree. Certain observers think this shift has been partially caused by a pandemic-fueled rise in wages in the lower tiers of the American work force.

A Mystery

Why are there fewer men than women in college today? On this, theories abound, but genuine answers are few. Conservatives offer a number of explanations that echo their culture-war slogans, including that “the atmosphere on the nation’s campuses has become increasingly hostile to masculinity.”

Wall Street Journal op-ed ascribed it in part to “labor-saving innovations in household management and child care — automatic washing machines, disposable diapers, inexpensive takeout restaurants — as well as new forms of birth control [that] helped women pursue college degrees and achieve new vocational ambitions.” But the biggest problem, write the op-ed’s authors, may be that girls simply do better in elementary and secondary school, which discourages boys from going on to college. This problem, they argue, is attributable not only to the advent of washing machines, but ultimately to the implementation of the Great Society’s liberal social policies. Citing Charles Murray, the reactionary co-author of the 1994 book The Bell Curve, they blame women’s takeover of higher education on the progressive social policies of the 1960s, the rise of the “custodial” (or welfare) state, and the existence of a vast pool of jailed men. They write:

“[T]here are about 1.24 million more men who are incarcerated than women, largely preventing them from attending traditional college. Scholars such as Charles Murray have long demonstrated that expanded government entitlements following the Great Society era have reduced traditional family formation, reduced incentives to excel both in school and on the job, and increased crime.”

Critics to the left have also cited male incarceration as a factor in the college gender divide, although they’re more likely to blame racist police and policies. Sadly, the devastation caused by jailing so many Black, Latino, and Native American men has only begun to be understood, but given the existing racial divide in college attendance, I seriously doubt that many of those men would be in college even if they weren’t in prison.

Some observers have also suggested that, given the staggering rise in college tuitions, young men, especially from the working and middle classes, often make a sound if instinctive decision that a college education will not repay their time, effort, and the debt load it entails. Like my nephew, they may indeed be better off entering a well-paying trade and getting an early start on building their savings.

Do Women Need College More Than Men?

If some young men now believe that college won’t reward them sufficiently to warrant the investment, many young women have rightly judged that they will need a college education to have any hope of earning a decent living. It’s no accident that their college enrollment skyrocketed in the 1970s. After a long post-World-War II economic expansion, that was the moment when wages in this country first began stagnating, a trend that continued in the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan launched his attacks on unions, while the federal minimum wage barely rose. In fact, it has remained stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009.

First established in 1938, the minimum wage was intended to allow a single adult (then assumed to be a man) to support a non-earning adult (assumed to be his wife), and several children. It was called a “breadwinner” wage. The feminism that made work outside the home possible for women, saving the lives and sanity of so many of us, provided a useful distraction from those stagnant real wagesrising inequality, and the increased immiseration of millions (not to speak of the multiplication of billionaires).

In the last few decades of the twentieth century, many women came to believe that working for money was their personal choice. In truth, I suspect that they were also responding to new economic realities and the end of that “breadwinner” wage. I think the college gender gap, which grew ever wider as wages fell, is at least in part a consequence of those changes. Few of my women students believe that they have a choice when it comes to supporting themselves, even if they haven’t necessarily accepted how limited the kind of work they’re likely to find will be. Whether they form partnered households or not, they take it for granted that they’ll have to support themselves financially.

This makes a college degree even more important, since having it has a bigger impact on women’s earnings than on men’s. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis confirmed this. Reviewing 2015 census data, it showed that the average wage for a man with only a high-school diploma was around $12 per hour. Women earned 24.4% less than that, or about $9 hourly. On the other hand, women got a somewhat greater boost (28%) from earning a two-year degree than men (22%). For a four-year degree, it was 68% for women and 62% for men.

In other words, although a college education improves income prospects for both genders, it does more for women — even if not enough to raise their income to the level of men with the same education. The income gender gap remains stubbornly fixed in men’s favor. Like Alice in Through the Looking Glass, it seems women still have to run faster just to avoid losing ground. This means that for us, earning a decent living requires at least some college, which is less true for men.

What Does the Future Hold?

Sadly, as college becomes ever more the preserve of women, I suspect it will also lose at least some of its social and economic value. They let us in and we turned out to be too good at it. My prediction? Someday, college will be dismissed as something women do and therefore not an important marker of social or economic worth.

As with other realms that became devalued when women entered them (secretarial work, for example, or family medicine), I expect that companies will soon begin dropping the college-degree requirement for applicants.

In fact, it already seems to be happening. Corporations like IBM, Accenture, and Bank of America have begun opting for “skills-based” rather than college-based hiring. According to a CNBC report, a recent Harvard Business School study examined job postings for software quality-assurance engineers and “found that only 26% of Accenture’s postings for the job contained a degree requirement. At IBM, just 29% did.” Even the government is dropping some college-degree requirements. According to the same report, in January 2021, the White House issued an executive order on “Limiting [the] Use of Educational Requirements in Federal Service Contracts.” When hiring for IT positions, the order says, considering only those with college degrees “excludes capable candidates and undermines labor market efficiencies.” And recently, Maryland announced that it’s dropping the college graduation requirement for thousands of state positions.

Of course, this entire economic argument assumes that the value of a college education is purely extrinsic and can be fully measured in dollars. As a long-time college teacher, I still believe that education has an intrinsic value, beyond preparing “job-ready” workers or increasing their earning potential. At its best, college offers a unique opportunity to encounter new ideas in expansive ways, learn how to weigh evidence and arguments, and contemplate what it means to be a human being and a citizen of the world. It can make democracy possible in a time of creeping authoritarianism.

What kind of future do we face in a world where such an experience could be reduced, like knitting (which was once an honorable way for both sexes to earn a living), to a mere hobby for women?

Copyright 2022 Rebecca Gordon

Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of Mainstreaming TortureAmerican Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes and is now at work on a new book on the history of torture in the United States.


  1. Many salient points made in this excellent piece. Thank you.

    I do believe I can answer and offer rational, logical explanations for many of them. However there does appear a reluctance on behalf of academics (in particular) to engage with me in order to explore and critique my *precedented* interpretations and so simply ignore me. Regardless, I am in the main – correct – as was Orwell…

    “If you’re a man, you’re the last man. Your kind is extinct. We are the inheritors. Do you understand that you’re alone? You are outside of history. You unexist”. Orwell, ‘1984.’

    ‘The #MeToo Truth of Nr5 Rampant Sexism’ (2020)

    Feedback, questions and that rare quality amongst academics, politicians and journalists – objective *curiosity* – are most welcome.

    Johnny McNeill
    #GaslightingGilligan (© 2017) 
    Twitter: @GasGilligan (*free download*)

  2. WHEW, so much yammering here, for sure. These issues of “no men in liberal arts classes, all those men in engineering and finance class, where are the women, where are the men in nursing school, med school, vet school . . . . ” so many deep (sic) articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and so many books and conferences on retention, on how to lure more male/female students to these schools, etc. etc.

    As a part-time faculty in Texas, New Mexico, Mexico, Washington, Oregon, I consider myself road tough as an adjunct at universities (both state and private) and in community colleges, and in college programs for the military, incarcerated, I’ve also — to cobble together a $8 an hour living in some cases — worked in K12.

    Oh, I’ve seen my own graduate education classes, both in literature and urban planning, filled with bought and woke and colonized people.

    This is a country that is transactional, one that puts credentials above value, one that demands this lock step follow the teacher mentality. As you know, education, K12, is a disaster for 80 percent of the youth. It is upside down. Stuck in a Chromebook classroom, these youth do not get holistic education. These kids are drenched in so many diseases: chronic illnesses, ticks, ADD, DD, ID, retailitus, consumeritus, propaganda-ready, media mushed, celebrity culture indoctrinated, calorie challenged, mentally unstable, and elitest.

    No outdoor classroom for the masses. No connections to math to say, hmm, building a food garden, or micro home for the poor. No connection to the land, to the First Nations’ land and cultures where most schools are built. A constant flood of technology thrown at them. Teachers who are uninspired, overworked. Hmm, one school counselor for 300 or 400 students?

    There should be flower growing and arrangement in schools. True gardening and home ec. True biology with pond building and maintaining. The arts arts arts. Students in care homes, retirement homes, going to city and county council meetings. Forced community participation in schools.

    School grounds should be 24/7 learning nodes. There should be music, murals, herbs, candle making, small business enterprises like making woodcuts and selling organic jam grown and processed on the campus.

    There should be outdoor field trips with real members of various professions in the field with the youth and teaching staff.

    Schools look like prisons. Fix that.

    Young boys are colonized early with crap rap, crap sports, crap values, dog-eat-dog mentality.

    But the girls and women? Well, guess what? Most boys and girls Pk8 only have WOMEN in the classroom, lunchroom, music room, gym. And putting youth in lockdown, in these 30 chairs/tables per room, with the constant silly and bad curriculum?

    Oh, I have been a social worker in a room with me, three guys and 60 women. I have been at nutrition conferences as a guest speaker in a room of 300 females.

    I do poetry events all the time. Me and three other men with 28 women. Just was in Seattle and Redmond, and had 43 people in a literary reading, five of which were men. I am talking people in their 50s and upward.

    Plenty of men in Redmond, working for Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Costco in “computing.” That town’s demographic is 52% people with Visas from India.

    So, a university with so many women at the top. A better place, right? Sure, when I was at UTEP, teaching and organizing, the president was a woman. For decades. The school got into more military contracts, more extraction programs, more bio sciences, more connections to more private industry.

    Yes, females in the Military Military Complex! Whew, what a win for humanity!

    Ha, look at how CIA loving Politico covers this:

    From the Defense Department to the manufacturers that supply it, the military-industrial complex is largely in women’s hands now.

    Four of America’s top five defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s defense wing, are headed by women, as are America’s weapons-buying and nuclear oversight departments. And at all levels in national security, those women are changing how the traditionally male-dominated industry is run, Politico reports.

    Within the past two years, women have come to run the Air Force and a number of other top defense sectors. That can largely be attributed to how the “national security community … generally rewards high performers regardless of color or creed or gender,” Politico notes. Another major contributor is the “steady growth” of women entering STEM fields, Politico says.

    That doesn’t mean a career in national security doesn’t come without some “eye rolls,” Rachel McCaffrey, head of the networking organization Women in Defense tells Politico. But being “underestimated” often turns women into “good negotiators,” McCaffrey said. Karen Panetta, dean of graduate education at Tufts University’s School of Engineering, also mentioned how a woman thought up “using pantyhose to keep sand out of sensitive equipment” in the desert.

    Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson says all these skills come naturally. “If I ask everyone in this room to think about the most protective person you know in your life,” most would “think about their moms,” she told Congress last year, adding that “we are the protectors; that’s what the military does.” Read more at Politico.

    So, this is so complex, yet it isn’t. USA is in decline. There are blue collar millionaires rising. I have people I interat with making $175 an hour as carpenters, contract labor. More and more people do not know how to fix their things, patch their roofs, anything. We have 90 million aging in place. I worked on my house fence with two guys 67 and 70 years old. Find a young woman or man ready to get out there and pound nails?

    USA is about caste systems, class systems, racism, elitism, credentialism, ableism, ageism, and, well, sexism, reverse sexism, LGBTQ insanity at times.

    Here you go, some history, and my apologies (not) to those who want short pithy commentary:

    In his magnum opus, The Underground History of American Education, Gatto traces the material roots of mass schooling back to the economic and ideological demands of a burgeoning industrial capitalism in Europe. Against the narrative of mass schooling as a noble attempt to educate the starving, backward masses, he exposes its true motive as a glorified daycare system for the children of parents newly coerced into wage labor.

    With the destruction of the commons in Europe, self-sustaining production systems and their accompanying home-based education practices were obliterated in the quest for profits derived from the labor of a new industrial proletariat. Children who used to learn practical skills by working alongside their families and communities were forced into monotonous factory work with the advent of the industrial revolution. After child labor laws were introduced in the 19th century and extended in the 20th, the state had to find something to do with these unoccupied working-class children.

    The answer was mass schooling. In 1839, Prussia became the first country on the European continent to enact a national child labor law. It is no coincidence that this North German state subsequently became the most important country in the development of modern schooling. Often described as an army with a country, Prussia took the logic of the regimented factory shop floor and military training camp and applied it to the development of a national school system.

    This army with a country demanded malleable subjects rather than educated citizens, and it was for the production of the former that a new national school system was created. One of the most important pedagogues in the development of the Prussian system, Heinrich Pestalozzi, touted his approach as one that would mold the poor to accept all the exertions and efforts peculiar to their class. As Gatto put it, Pestalozzi offered them love in place of ambition. By employing psychological means in the training of the young, class warfare might be avoided.

    That mainstream abolitionists like the Stowes were early advocates of European mass schooling in the U.S. is telling. James Baldwin wrote in 1949 that Harriet Beecher Stowes novel, Uncle Toms Cabin, has, at its core, a self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality which is the mark of dishonesty and the inability to feel. Stowe opposed slavery, but, as Baldwin put it, could only do so by robbing the Black man of his humanity. Only then could she mold him into the proper subject: docile, uneducated and forbearing.

    As educator and writer Jerry Farber wrote in 1969, these qualities encouraged in the Black slave are nearly identical to those fostered in students in 20th-century American schools. Indeed, by understanding Calvin Ellis Stowes passion for the Prussian forced schooling system alongside his wifes portrayal of Black people in Uncle Toms Cabin, we can see a direct link: a schooling system that would control what students would learn was necessary to manage and mold potentially revolutionary Black youth after the abolition of slavery.

    It is this connection between schooling and white supremacy which Gatto understood. He taught for years in working-class Black schools in Harlem, and observed that black kids had caught on to the fact that their school was a liars world, a jobs project for seedy white folk.

    Instead of modifying the curriculum for these students in order to prepare them for their presumed subordinate social role, Gatto challenged the scientific religion of schooling which believes [Black people] to be genetically challenged and presented a rigorous education focused on strong reading skills and critical discussion of fundamental questions in history, philosophy and literature.

    By refusing to lower expectations for Black youth in school and eventually rejecting the racist school system altogether in favor of autonomous institutions such as Marva Collinss groundbreaking Westside Preparatory School in Chicago, Gatto provided a concrete example of what an educational program for the abolition of whiteness might look like.

    A rapidly growing homeschooling movement is reviving a long tradition of family and community-based education, particularly among Black Americans who have been historically barred from or discriminated against in the school system.

  3. We undervalue jobs traditionally associated with women. And women who succeed in the corporate world have had to master the male-dominant game. My hope is that beyond “equal rights” papered over a masculine dominant culture we adopt a more feminist culture that reflects a collaborative, supportive, inclusive and equitable society. As mother of 3 daughters and 6 granddaughters, I can dream.

  4. The value of higher education, and education in general: “At its best, college offers a
    unique opportunity to encounter new ideas in expansive ways, learn how to weigh evidence and arguments, and contemplate what it means to be a human being and a citizen of the world. It can make democracy possible in a time of creeping authoritarian
    My higher education background is teaching undergrad and graduate sociology and social work. Social work has been a profession dominated by women — the “nurturing” gender. We have fought for pay equity forever. Social work service administration is still dominated by males. My fear has been the diminishing focus on the humanities, logic, reasoning, history and historical analysis the lack of which seems to be evident in contemporary U. S. policy, be it international or domestic. Understanding nuance is a lost art.

  5. Drats. The UkroNazi’s are putting women in the crosshairs. Liberation!

    In Ukraine, the mobilization of women is being prepared for the purpose of “uninterrupted replenishment of the losses of personnel” of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. First of all, until June 15, the mobilization of women who are already liable for military service will start, and until June 31 Ukrainian women from 18 to 60 will be registered for military service.

    The order concerns the Dnepropetrovsk, Kyiv, Kirovograd, Nikolaev, Odessa, Kharkov, parts of the Donetsk and Zaporozhye regions.

  6. In 1957, when I was a high school Freshman, Sputnik went beeping overhead terrorizing the free world. The University of California system was managing most of the government based science like The Rad Labs in Berkeley, Livermore and Los Alamos and space studies at Cal Tech. The funding was dramatically increased. Wall Street and the Pentagon realized at a visceral level that science knows no ideology or borders. From 1958 to 1968 there were 4 university campuses and 7 state college campuses added to the system. Tuition was free.
    In 1964 when the Free Speech Movement drew the attention of the 1% an hour’s work at minimum wage could buy 30 Hershey Bars or 10 NYC subway tokens or 6 gallons of gas or 2 movie tickets or 6 lbs of hamburger or 2 LPs Baez & the Beatles. A 2 bedroom apartment in Berkeley was $110/mo. A person could live well on minimum wage. The equivalent today would require a minimum wage of $33/hour. The 1% knew they had to do something else there might actually be a revolution.
    As a candidate for governor in 1966, they found a well qualified sock puppet. He was handsome, suave and was well trained to read a script. His brain had already lost much of it flexibility due to early stages of Alzheimers so he did not question the script much. Reagan won, railing against those unruly, ungrateful hooligans at Cal & their enabler Clark Kerr, UC president. He promptly started cutting taxes on the rich while increasing taxes on the poor. Sales tax was 3%. Now it is 9% or more. He destroyed the system to care for the mentally ill, possibly the best in the world at the time. The homeless population exploded.
    UC Santa Cruz was completed in 1968. In the 54 years since, the UC system has added one underfunded campus and the tuition has gone from free to $14,500 per year or more. At the same time the prison system went from 7 to 37 prisons. The average homeowner pays ~$2/square ft. in property tax. Google, Apple et al in Silicon Valley, the richest place in the known universe pay 5 cents per square foot in property tax, as does Chevron and other biggies. These are all in the neoliberal play book for making things scarcer and more expensive for the 99% and relieving the tax burden on the 1%. I think it cost more to keep a person in San Quentin than in Cal.
    Women are paying attention. They know that they need to be able to support themselves in this world. Many expect to go to college to be able to do that. I tell my granddaughters: “learn a trade” all those with degrees have toilets, electrical systems and vehicles that will need fixing. They went to computer camp instead of getting a job in the Summer so never learned to work with necessary things. Plumbers, electricians et al make more than $100/hr and have no student debt.
    In Iran there are also more women than men in university. Even the Ayatollahs know that if you want to reduce reproduction educate the women.

  7. One cause, were it not heretical, is pretty obvious. Contrary to the reigning orthodoxy, bourgeois culture has always been matriarchic. Men worked the mines, factories, fields, and wars. Women gestated and nurtured the succeeding generation. Theirs was the more humane, rewarding, and longer-lived lot. But post WW II saw a crisis of overproduction of babies. These come to maturity were discouraged in their turn from reproduction. Their tradition capital, ovaries and uterus, gone the way of the buggy whip, the females got thrown on the labor market to compete with men. So understandably they invented a victim ideology and demanded and got “affirmative action”, -preference in admission, then hiring, then promotion. This disincentivized and demoralized the academically marginal males.

    1. where to start

      1. consumer capitalism requires consumers
      2. women in the labor force suppressed wages
      male occupations pay more – no matter what – so? are you daft?
      3. DINKs double income no kids – aka – drones 4 the 1%……..
      back to the bunker

  8. Rebecca, Thanks ,a good snapshot article on on education and its ongoing evolution & impact on social norms.Maybe the cliche of “more things change the more they remain the same”apply..Human society generally still remains Patricially based & will adjust to whatever challenges it faces? In the meantime the ramifications of change test Societies structures in many ways.A fascinating social study at all levels here which Education represents core values.Thanks for your thoughts.Ed

  9. I’ve taught social sciences and vocational technical classes. I’ve tried to enroll in college courses to update my digital skills. My overall view is that the content and quality of higher education in the USA is deteriorating and eroding. Credentialing and political screening have surged in importance. Repression and anxiety have increased over these last 40 years as legitimacy and confidence in institutions has diminished. With institutionalized surveillance the possibility of having a meaningful covert personal life while coping with a repressive workplace existence is more problematic. Add the environmental crisis and the scarcity of resources and there is a general malaise of fatalism and depression pervasive both consciously and subconsciously. As for what Rebecca is saying I think women keep trying longer , are more persistent than men because biologically they are the repositories of reproduction. Not all women feel the biological clock ticking, but many more do than men. So women take the possibility of home and nest more seriously while men tend to find venues of competition and achievement wherever they can. Notice how Rebecca, though differently gendered, feels a responsibility for Orion’s situation. Most men would accept the way things are and not be concerned. I’m 71, so I might be sexist, but thats the experience and POV I can honestly offer.

  10. I teach grad students at a large university fairly close to the Mexican border. There are more female students at all levels. There are many more female professors in virtually every area of study. Administratively, a recent estimate was that up to
    75 percent of high-level administrators are female.

    What do I see as the difference between now and eight or ten years ago when the distribution of genders favored males?
    Identity politics now is irrepressibly everywhere at every level.

    What I don’t see much at all is a commensurate concern for the deathly politics in the world at large, even including the nearby caging of Central and South American children who have been forcibly separated from their mothers.

  11. “A bright boy who had once been an avid reader, Orion was done with schooling by the time he’d turned 18.”

    I was done with school after the first day of kindergarten. School seemed like a prison, where I couldn’t just go out and play with friends, had to sit quietly for long periods of time (a horrible thing to do to little kids, especially boys), and had to do what we were constantly told by a teacher. I’m not commenting on the whole school-to-job thing; instead, I’m commenting on how psychotic this aspect of civilization is (see the beginning of The Gods Must be Crazy, for example).

  12. With virtually the entirety of human knowledge available at your fingertips you would think ours would be an educated, enlightened society of thinkers, instead of the ignorant and brainwashed mob of fools we have become.

    Why go into massive debt for decades for a crappy education when you can give yourself a better education all on your own. Many would counter that with things like accreditation and certifications that make you desirable to evil corporations that will exploit them unmercifully.

    I got news for you….become really good at something, anything practical and you will find people wanting your services. Without a mountain of debt making you a slave in the Empire of Lies.

  13. People are made stupid by schooling. That would be more obvious if learning to lie weren’t also central to the process. We’re still stuck in an experiment in social engineering since 2020 demonstrating how well trained many are in consenting to stupidity and lies in the name of science. And we’re still being led into a dystopian dark age by the best and the brightest, professionals who have been groomed in the academic industrial complex as middle managers in ruling institutions to serve the purposes of profit and power. Why aspire to the university when the pedagogy of the oppressed demands a revolution in education?

  14. The question is misguided and irrelevant.

    It is like asking what it means to ordinary people including women when woman dominate, takes over power, becomes ruler, chairman of the board, Chief executive officer, president or queen?

    It means exactly nothing at all. It is because her role will always be determined by the system that brought her to power.

    No one man or even million women can change the political and socioeconomic system supported by the elite who brought them to power.

    Under totalitarian system woman President will be as totalitarian as a man in the same position, if not she/he will be replaced.

    There is no one single example in the history that women exercised power differently sought different outcomes than men and this is the only important factor in judging performance of women individually or women dominated institutions.

    The problem is not whose gender dominates academia.

    The real problem is that academia was financialized and fully corporatized and hence lost its critical social role and function to benefit of society and turned into corrupted profit machine producing worthless degrees engaging solely into for-profit scientific and technological research.

    Ivy League Schools as wealthy as top SP500 corporations returned 300 years old old tradition of prepping young morally retarded elites for their inherited corporate and/or government positions while thousands of lower social class graduates are jobless homeless living in poverty as they only inherited talents and work ethics and ethos.

    All Green science, technology, all green institutions including academia and UN IPCC is today controlled by fossil fuel and nuclear power industry, entire healthcare, medical education, research and development industry is controlled by big Pharma corporates many run by Women. Entire social (sociological) and economic institutions including government and academia are dominated by Wall Street gamblers and their cronies, men and women alike.

    The historical Patriarchy or Matriarchy is simply irrelevant to outcome of higher education to benefit society. The corporate strangulation is the only relevant thing as both P and M are simply organized ways to create or rather to procreate incessant corporate elites of cronies and to enforce advanced hi-tech neo-feudal hereditary caste system regardless of scientific merit.

    In last at least four decades produced and adopted by lapsed Marxist dominated academia ideas of Pseudo-Postmodernism, Intersectionality and their misguided outcrops like Woke anti-culture radicalism, soft fascism of Antifa and class division denying pseudo socialism or Cultural Marxism, critical theory of open society including Critical race theory, genderism etc., all based on mythology of subjective reasoning in terms of emotional subjective truths’ superiority over factual material, empirical reality, are often being unfairly attached to women or feminist agendas.

    In fact all serve society only in their benign to ruling power incarnations furthering hard corporate interests behind old Identity Politics of social divisions from which White Supremacy originated, as society is being cut into razor thin assemblages or multitudes of depoliticized, conflicted social event actors effectively begging for indulgence or privilege from ruling oligarchic elites who are being left as arbiters of social conflict beyond moral or political reproach.

    Historical ideas of liberalism such as freedoms money can buy turned into postmodernist freedoms small group of activists can aggressively nag to be granted to themselves.

    Today almost every young person who just graduated from academia suffers from paranoid schizophrenia underlain by anxiety and fear. Their rationally systematized worldview was destroyed to match new radicalism of capital rule and turned into complete chaos of objective subjectivity and social and political alienation where only extreme socioeconomic instability and moral uncertainty is certain.

    But none of that is because of fact that women dominate higher Education. It happened because ideology of unity and solidarity among entire human race living in equal, equitable and egalitarian societies was written off by corporate bosses of academia fromyoung peoples hearts, minds and language.

    1. Well written analysis. Ms Magazine was funded by the CIA. Gloria Steinam was an agent. The power structure did not want a repeat of MLK Jr.’s and Malcom X’s analysis of capitalism. Modern feminism never went after the basic contradictions of the hierarchy. You are correct. There was only superficial differences between Catherine The Great and othe Tsars.

      1. I agree that “Women’s Lib” was historically determined; and, proximally caused –patronized by the power elite principally to diminish “Black Lib”. Clearly Alan Dulles’ bloody shoes turned out a perfect fit for Gina Haspel. But the societal outcome has a complexity far exceeding political power. And, the classic “Sex-in-the-City” feminist paradigm, the deconstruction of motherhood and the nuclear family as the primal social institution has proved a/the worm at the root beyond the curative power of “hate-crime-law”.

      2. @Antisandman
        Most versions of feminism have it wrong anyway. Feminism should be about advocating that while girls and women are different than boys and men, they’re totally equal. Instead, most versions of feminism promote the idea that male & female humans are the same, which is idiotic, not based in reality, and totally wrongheaded. A good version of feminism would promote a radical restructuring of modern society by valuing female & feminine values as much as male & masculine ones, not by trying to make sure that girls & women can act like boys & men.

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