Friday, November 17, 2006

The New Underclass

Are White, working-class boys the new underclass? (Thanks Mercurior):

White working-class boys have become the new "underclass", a report by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, warns today.

Boys from low-income white families are bottom of the heap in school performance, trailing behind every other major ethnic group.

The report argues that family breakdown, parental breakdown and peer pressure that it is not "cool to study" are the key factors in the collapse in educational achievements. It also cites drug and alcohol abuse by parents.

Where do boys get the idea that it is "not cool" to study?


Blogger TMink said...

I wonder if part of the "not cool to study attitude" comes from male learning styles. We are throwers, movers, and doers, not sitters and listeners. In current educational appications we are best suited to dodge ball. Where we RULE I might add! (Joke alert for the overly sensitive.)

Probably it has more to do with the poor coming from overly stressed, single parent homes with no male to model for and contain them, and too many siblings for the overwhelmed single mom.

I tell all the lower income kids I see how to be poor. "Drop out of high school, get a ged, get married before 25, have several children with different partners, and use drugs and alcohol."

The kids get a weird look on their face and say "I don't want to be poor!" "Ohhhh, well then. Graduate from HS, go to college or tech school, get married at 25, have children only with one partner, and avoid alcohol and drugs like poison!"

God I hope it works.

As for the racial component, that one has me stymied. Is it because of a lack of white entertainers in the lives of these kids? They listen to and watch primarily african american entertainers. Now before you cry racist, remember how we worried about african american kids growing up without folks that looked like them in the media? Well, for poor kids, it is the same situation for the caucasians. There is one white Eminem and 15 Lil somethings that are black. I find the bitch and ho music disgusting myself, but the lower class kids are way into it.

I do not know, I am reaching.


10:05 AM, November 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a factor, albeit not the main one, in our decision to switch to private education. As early as third grade, our son was being mocked and even attacked on the playground for making good grades and showing up to school with his homework done. Peer group has a lot to do with performance in school. When they are in an environment, both at home and school, where academic achievement is respected, they are going to perform better. When we saw our son begin to intentionally perform poorly, we first corrected what we could at home, but ultimately saw that we had to get him into a different environment. It made a world of difference.

10:09 AM, November 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how new this phenomenon is. I grew up in a working class town in the 70's, and was heavily mocked for taking school seriously, and on one occassion, physically attacked.

On the other hand, one trend that is very real is the increase in out-of-wedlock births among whites. Our long-term (white) babysitter, who does a great job with our kids, just had a baby herself, despite being unmarried/unengaged. She is 22, and in many other respects very mature. When we ask if marriage is in the future with the baby's father, she kind of rolls her eyes (at least she is still dating him). But here is the kicker: All 3 of her siblings have had out of wedlock kids! WTF??? By the way, her parents were married (until her mom died of cancer), so she had some type of reasonable role model.

10:31 AM, November 17, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

There are probably a multitude of reasons but I wouldn't be surprised it similar results couldn't be found in the U.S. Back in April, I found by looking at these Census tabels that fewer white males 20-34 years of age have a high school degree or better than black males.

I'm sure family structure has a great impact. A single parent has less time to emphasize school when working, cooking, cleaning, etc. with no other adult to help.

The overwhelming majority of social programs for the last 30-40 years have focused on minorities and females also leaving white males who have little family support in the lurch. While so many are fighting for abortion rights, gay marriage, getting God out of whereever, etc., they have forgotten or ignore the value of an intact family and do not promote it.

11:20 AM, November 17, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

tables, tabels.

And spelling was one of my strong suits in schul.

11:21 AM, November 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A long trend toward taking glamor and entrtainers seriously and treating them decently in society hasn't helped any.

I include sports figures as entertainers in this. Playing up atheletes as "role models" is slow poison considering what they model. Playing up sports in a school setting doesn't help.

It doesn't help either that little boys naturally associate schoolwork and reading and compliance with authority with middle-aged faemles either.

1:05 PM, November 17, 2006  
Blogger SGT Ted said...

Where do boys get the idea that it is "not cool" to study?

It comes from the glorification of Black ghetto culture in pop culture.

3:22 PM, November 17, 2006  
Blogger TMink said...

Good point about female teachers Jim.


3:37 PM, November 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The claim that single-parent households are a primary cause of a lack of appreciation for study (or non-physical achievement, in general) is easily refuted by pointing to single-parent households in which the children do have an appreciation for learning.

The issue is cultural. While there may be a correlation to single-parent households, I would think it far more likely that the culture which disparages mental skills (and their consequences, such as understanding personal responsibility, accurate appreciation of reality, and the need to state and pursue values) tends to produce broken homes.

While the religious right tends to think that dogma is the appropriate means by which this culture may be defeated, I do not (although it does have some result in mitigating the symptoms.) However, that discussion is pointless until the attributes of the culture can be described as a unit, and some theory given to the root cause.

It certainly pre-dates hip-hop and the "Black ghetto culture". Whether it pre-dates the moral relatavism of the 60s is something that my elders could address.

3:57 PM, November 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's not cool to study" isn't exactly a new concept. Anyone remember Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn? The Teacher's Pet was a stock figure of ridicule in 18th and 19th century literature, too. Especially if the kid was male. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford both distrusted "book learnin'," too as I remember.

4:39 PM, November 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that, since roughly the beginning of Reagan's first administration, male figures in pop culture seemed to reverse themselves. Instead of liberal, feminized characters like Hawkeye Pierce, we got a sudden crop of "regular guy" heroes like David Addison from Moonlighting and Vietnam vet Thomas Magnum. If you'll recall, professional wrestling became very cool, as did The Honeymooners. Guys started wearing bowling shirts again. Look at the character A.L.F. - very male, very middle-American (although he came from another planet), very popular. Either it became OK to be a regular guy again, or Hollywood was making fun of the regular guy. Either way, I seem to remember him appearing everywhere back then. Stephen J. Cannell made a fortune creating TV shows for and about regular guys.

Simultaneously, you had the massive marketing of rap music and hip-hop culture that everyone has pointed out. Seems like heavy metal became more popular, and darker as well.

As these trends saturated popular culture they combined to form an image in young peoples' minds of "typical male" = lowbrow culture, not too bright, hyper-macho, physically aggressive, sexually aggressive yet misogynistic, possibly criminal, etc.

As usual, not sure whether the images drove the culture of vice-versa.

That's my phony-baloney theory, anyway...

5:25 PM, November 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good comments, JW. But remember this report is about schools in the UK, where you need to know that feminism rules the roost, especially at primary level where male teachers are a dying breed.

There is not just an absence of male role models in these boys' lives, but actual anti-male bias throughout the system. Female teachers will tell their charges that wars are started by men because they cannot control their dangerous agressive urges. The history of the British Empire is portrayed as an abomination of cruelty, exploitation and racism, and female teachers thoroughly enjoy telling their classes that white males were at the forefront of it. Female poets and writers are ranked alongside Shakespeare, the dead white guy. His race and sex are never given any emphasis. In English exams you might well be asked how Jane Austen's gender affected her writing and perception of life; but you will never have the same question asked of Shakespeare, or Chaucer, or Byron. Emotion trumps adventure and action; female teachers and female pupils quickly get on the same wavelength, while boys are left on the fringes.

What impression does all that make on the minds of young boys? When you are constantly on the reciving end of criticism, little wonder that you want to jack the system that is tormenting you.

And why should it be white boys particularly? Because in the UK, white males are the most vilified sector of society. We have a culture of diversity, the UK version of which I would define as "anyone except white heterosexual males". Seriously.

We are the only group that has no serious advocacy, no programmes for improvement, no Government funding. Look at the official websites of any UK Government Department, and you will see every other group in society depicted as users and beneficiaries of the largesse of the state. Blacks, women (especially black women who are the flavour of this and every month), girls, ethnic minorities of every hue, the disabled; but not white males. They are being airbrushed out of our own culture, and boys are the most vulnerable section of this group.

Deciding that school sucks is an inevitable consequence of putting them in such a hostile environment.

1:53 PM, November 18, 2006  
Blogger Mercurior said...

yup, as a poor white male.. myself in the Uk, i have seen this so many times. its not cool to study because the lessons they teach are not relevant to young boys. boys love to learn if its interesting, a little violent, i was forced to read of mice and men, and the grapes of wrath.. not the books i would have enjoyed, war books, science fiction.. boys are treated as second class citizens and no wonder when they see boys being treated bad by the system, they dont care anymore

and i have seen a lot of press saying that you can only be a decent human if you have kids..

i give to charities, i work for one, dealing with the elderly, people who have been left alone by their kids, and if they died no one would care.

3:32 PM, November 18, 2006  
Blogger Obernai said...

It is indeed a sad state of affairs...

Even the APAGS (grad student group for APA) touted the fact that the gender balance is currently at 75% female and only 25% male. Go ahead and pat yourselves on the back, but then think about the potential problems here -- where a helping profession has become so imbalanced and actually celebrates that imbalance! Men already have more difficulty pursuing psychological help, as the number of male psychologists dwindles, where will most of these men go for assistance?

Another issue is the lack of role models and mentors for potential male grad students. There are fewer and fewer males pursuing undergrad OR graduate studies in this field -- I know because I just completed my internship last year. Now I am a post-doc, one male among a group of 8 post-docs.

The lack of mentors or role models for young men is such an important issue. Here is a snippet I wrote for a friend about this:

To many of my generation, there is something absent in our lives as we struggle and grow in our personal character and professional development. Most don’t talk about this missing piece and many don’t even notice. What I am referring to here is the presence and effect of a role model or some might even say a ‘hero’ as an influential force that fosters a strong desire to grow in character and vision. In generations past, heroes were celebrated and younger folks would strive to adopt and emulate the accomplishments, characteristics, and qualities of their heroes. People like Charles Lindbergh, Helen Keller, FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jane Adams, and Neil Armstrong stood as heroes and role models to their generations. Unfortunately, today’s ‘heroes’ are singled out solely on success and sensationalism rather than the qualities that set them apart from the average person. In each chapter of my life so far, I can point to a person who stood as a beacon to me as I grew and strived to achieve my goals. These individuals are not ‘famous’ by the standard definition, but stand out as true mentors and role models for myself and many others.

3:36 PM, November 18, 2006  
Blogger kentuckyliz said...

There might be regional differences. Here in Central Appalachia, hard working men are respected and revered. I share that respect.

Skilled tradesmen and technicians are in high demand, earn good money, and most aren't offshorable. There is good white male participation and success in our technical programs at the college.

HS is deemphasizing developing technical skills and applied math/writing instruction, and pretending that everyone is bound for a Bachelor's degree. Sad, really, because many will think that's what they have to do, because that's how their teachers and counselors said the world is (because it paid off for those teachers and counselors--who know nothing about skilled trades and industry). However, most of those kids won't graduate from a four year college and those that do may well not get a job requiring a four year degree. They end up coming back for more college in our health and technical programs so they can get a good job! The Bachelor's didn't do it for them.

My family is very white collar oriented--teachers and accountants mostly. I have a lovely nephew who hates school, is likely ADD/ADHD, and is truly gifted in mechanical/technical skills. He fixes stuff constantly. The family pressure is on to go to a four year college, especially since mom gets tuition remission at her job at a four year private liberal arts college. That type of program would be utterly frustrating for the boy. I had a private conversation with him last Christmas--apart from his ongoing conflicts with family. He wants to run the family farm someday, he loves ATV's and wants a small business in that, and we talked about what types of opportunities off the farm in a rural economy are "necessities" and recession-proof and not offshorable. (He's too young to have witnessed the 80's farm crisis.) Recently I followed up with him--he's applying for diesel tech-agricultural equipment associate's degree and hopes to pick up a certificate or diploma in small business along the way, and training in small engine repair (such as for motorcycles, ATV, and marine). I respected his talents in his strengths area and talked to him realistically about what opportunities are out there for him, and he listened and took it to heart. He is probably building a more stable and successful and productive future than many kids his age. He has great capacity to grow into his responsibilities WRT maintaining the family assets, working the farm, and starting a small business and adding to those assets.

Skilled trades/technical/ industrial/productive occupations are invisible in our media and culture, but there is a lot of pride there, even though it's not popular. I believe John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin on Cheers) just came out with a book on this subject.

These types of occupations should become more popular...managerial, accouting, scientific/medical, and engineering tasks are being offshored. But you can't send your combine to Bangalore for repairs.

A lot of skilled trades are the best opportunities for self employment and starting a small business, not depending on the Man, but responding directly to the market. True capitalists and entrepreneurs. It doesn't take a Bill Gates.

Said nephew's snobby aunt and uncle will probably sneer at his choices...but I am utterly convinced of the wisdom of the path he is on. He knows where his genius lies.

My family have had a lot of various and sundry problems this year, and 98% of the "experts" and "fixers" we relied on were associate degree/technical diploma type people--the skilled technicians of this world. I am such an egghead, I can't fix a damn thing. I rely on these people...I just hand over my credit card, say it doesn't work, fix it, help me! And poof, things work again. God bless these folks.

8:46 AM, November 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girls study. Ick!!!

10:03 AM, November 19, 2006  
Blogger tomcal said...

I believe I read sowhere that while Bill Gates was at Harvard (I think one semester before he dropped out) one of his primary goals was to get straight A's while appearing to do nothing but play cards all day; a goal which he accomplished.

I went to a fairly well known California prep school, all boys, all boarders, at the time. Most of us had that same attitude, we wanted good grades but never wanted to look like we had to work for them. Some even hid the fact that they were studying so it would look like they were so smart they could excell without doing anything at all - that was the ultimate badge of honor. The guys who actually looked like they were studying were "boring nerds", and typically were being groomed for a slot in the family empire. The other group that studied openly and hard were 2 black kids (there were only 38 in our class) that were there on full scholarship. Both of them now run mega-enterprises whose names you would immediately recognise.

I realize that Helen's question was not about school situations like mine, my purpose is to point out my obvervation that the same dynamic plays out in some form among adolescent boys, no matter where you find them.

As an aside, I later learned that the goal in the jobplace (I worked for a while in a bank), was to look like you were working incredibly hard while in fact you were doing nothing at all! But that's another story.

10:30 AM, November 19, 2006  
Blogger tomcal said...

Clarification: There were 38 total kids in our class, out of those, 2 were black.

10:34 AM, November 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Paul Parmenter
"In the UK ...Female teachers will tell their charges that wars are started by men because they cannot control their dangerous agressive urges. The history of the British Empire is portrayed as an abomination of cruelty, exploitation and racism, and female teachers thoroughly enjoy telling their classes that white males were at the forefront of it. Female poets and writers are ranked alongside Shakespeare, the dead white guy. His race and sex are never given any emphasis. In English exams you might well be asked how Jane Austen's gender affected her writing and perception of life; but you will never have the same question asked of Shakespeare, or Chaucer, or Byron."


I have heard about some of this, though not as much as you mention. Do you have authoritative references for it or is it based on personal experience? If the former, please can you list some? - it helps me prove to folks that this really is happening. Thanks.

9:49 PM, November 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Medical Books:

6:35 AM, November 25, 2006  
Blogger Muriel Strand said...

It's not about gender or even money, it's about power and domination. We should be happy when kids don't want to emulate people who are mean to them.

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