Reader L.M. e-mails another comment on my post on the huge and startling overrepresentation of young women among U.S. college undergraduates (see “The College Gender Gap–It’s Male Students Who Are at Risk,” Dec. 29, and the Mailbag for Dec. 30). One of the points that Weekly Standard writer Melana Zyla Wickers makes is that so few men are attending college nowadays that we aren’t graduating enough majors in the male-interest field of engineering. L.M. writes:
“Perhaps I should have mentioned that I used to be an engineer. I left the field in 1999 partly because I couldn’t find work. I earned a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from a university in 1994. I passed the eight-hour, state-administered fundamentals of engineering exam. It then took me a year to find a job, despite mailing hundreds of resumes. The classified ads for engineers at that time were about 3 inches long and listed qualifications of knowing software and systems that were definitely not part of the core curriculum in engineering school.
“So I am not suggesting that any company ‘run an engineering school.’ Another recent Wall Street Journal stated that things at some engineering companies had gotten so bad that some engineers were seeking to unionize. If there really is an ‘engineer shortage,’ I’m afraid I don’t feel much sympathy for the companies.
“I’m afraid that the ‘shortage of men’ in college really doesn’t raise an alarm for me, either. Again, if men were attending college in fewer numbers over time (as far as percentage of college-age men overall, not men compared to women), I’d be concerned. But I still don’t know if that’s the case. It may just be that more women are attending college than in the past.”
But doesn’t the question still remain: If the female-male ratio is 60-40 (and it’s close to that in many colleges) and the female-male ratio in the general population is close to 50-50, isn’t something off-base here? A significantly smaller number of young men rather than young women are choosing college. To me that suggests either or both of these two bad phenomena: 1) something is fearfully wrong with the way we’re educating boys; or 2) higher education is becoming alarmingly “feminized,” with course offerings specifically geared toward the interests of women, not men. In many universities entire liberal-arts fields, such as literature and the social sciences, have turned into branches of women’s studies, with highly ideological offerings taught from a highly ideological perspective. This has alarming implications, not just for the gender ratio but for the future of the liberal arts.