Monday, October 25, 2010

I Never Knew I Was A Victim

Our national newspaper has over the last week documented the indignities we males suffered and still suffered in the school system

I hope what I am going to say will be taken in the spirit that I have intended it.

As a male who "survived" quite nicely our educational system and as the father of two male children now attending university, I am glad that after 45 years this scandal has been unearthed (sarcasm).

I remember well elementary school. All the girls who showed up to class immaculately dressed while we boys wore whatever we found on the floor; who brought flowers for the teacher; their neat handwriting; their better artwork; how they could sit through 5 hours of class; they were smarter; often bigger; better coordinated (remember skipping in the playground, no boy could have mastered that). They never got sent to the principal's office, never got THE STRAP. Our teachers were all women until at least Grade 6; usually older unmarried women. It was a dark time to be a man.

All of us boys hated girls then. We knew we would eventually marry one but we really weren't sure why.

At the same time at least in the 1960s our mother was at home; our father worked, he was usually gone before we had breakfast, he showed up around supper. He controlled the household, he was the breadwinner. How were we going to go from our state of oppression in elementary school to our eventual destiny?

Somehow between elementary and high school gradually the tables turned. By Grade 12 boys were clearly in charge. Sure some girls got to be student council president but that was only because we let them.

Really not much had changed a generation later. My son actually had a male teacher for Grade 1 but it was clear that elementary school was not a friendly place for boys. I remember going to a play put on by my son's school and being amazed that even the male roles in the play were played by girls with boys playing only secondary roles. But just like when I went to school by high school the tables had turned and boys were at least equal.

The series of articles bemoans the lack of males in university. Actually females outnumbering males is not a new thing; it was the case prior to the second world war, even when I attended university the number were roughly equal. More interesting was the section on McMaster University where 75% of the class were female with the result that affirmative action for males had to be instituted. McMaster is by the way an interesting case, a medical school which from its inception committed to accepting students from a variety of backgrounds with less emphasis on academics with the result that females have for most of McMaster's time been the majority.

My medical school class was 3/8 female the highest percentage and absolute number in the history of our medical school. Once we got over the whole sexual tension of the whole thing (or realized that most of us had absolutely no chance with these intelligent hardworking women, many of whom had boyfriends) we were able to accept them as colleagues and friends and I think they really gave a positive tone to our medical school class. The class behind us which split evenly 50:50 generated 10 couples (as opposed to one from our class).

With our class and with the one a year later, there was much muttering about affirmative action for females. This was in my opinion rubbish. Most of the women who entered medical school in the that time entered with marks as good and usually better than the men, not to mention other intangibles such as personality, life skills etc. What should have been more of an issue was the affirmative action for children of doctors which was the case for not a few people in my class.

Likewise much has been made of how women doctors work less than do male doctors which may be true although many of the new generation of male doctors who want to work less hard than our generation. On the other hand I have trained with a number of female residents, interns or staff whose work ethic put mine to shame.

The bottom line is that while the education system may be a system that gives females an advantage, that advantage is solely limited to within that system and that both sexes are going to go out into a world that is still tilted towards men. It is probably a good thing that boys have to labour against sexism in the education system. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, besides how else would boys learn to write neatly, behave in public, read, and learn about music all skills that the female centric system forces on boys.

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