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“One of the most important things in life is showing up,” the coach in ‘Hardball,’ the movie tells his team. As we start a new decade, that should become the mantra for us men—show up.
Recently, Tamar Lewin of The New York Times wrote an article entitled “Students not alone in struggle with grades.” The discussion centered on everybody getting A’s. In the article she quotes Andrew Perrin, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, saying, “If everyone gets an A for adequate completion of tasks, it cripples our ability to recognize exemplary scholarship.” It’s crippling our society today.
I go over in my head, where have we as a nation of experts gone wrong. I think some of the answers to this question go back to the initial comment, failing to show up. Whether it’s at work, at school, Congress, or even at home, many of us have just dropped the proverbial ball. Especially us men—we’ve allowed ourselves to become a footnote in the history of our country, especially our schools. How many teachers are men? The number is at a 40 year low with 14% of today’s teachers being men. And we wonder why men are grappling with their identity. There is hardly anyone to teach us who look like us.
How many men are in the workforce? For the first time in our history there are more women than men and the parity is shifting more and more toward women. Not only are women raising our families, women are becoming the more prevalent.
How many men are in schools? As an instructor, I see it every day. For every two college degrees earned by men, women will earn three, according to the article “The End of Men,” by Hanna Rosin. And in professions that once were dominated by men, and men were the chief breadwinning incomes for families, it’s changed. Women dominate. You see more women becoming doctors and lawyers than men. You already know that 86% of the teachers are women. Rosin’s July/August Atlantic Monthly article further tells us that of the 6 million jobs that were lost since 2000 most of those workers who joined the unemployment lines were men. Ever thought that the housing crash would have such a drastic change in the workforce, or change who was the principal breadwinner in America? Think again.
And the future? Of the 15 jobs categories projected to grow over the next decade, men dominate just two: janitor and computer engineer. Rosin has drawn a dark picture, but think about it. I ask again, how many of you men are teachers? How many of you have lost your job? How many of you have considered going to school or back to school as many women have done?
We all want to make an A. We all want to be considered successful. Maslow tells us in our climb up his hierarchy of needs to become self-actualized that belongingness is near the top. But belonging to what? What is our measure of success? Fancy cars? Big houses? Families that are proud of us? What is it dads? Answer that, then figure how do we get there?
It used to be easy. All we had to do was go to work, and things were simple. There was no competition except with other men. But as the canvas we have been placed on has changed; as the fabric we must deal with has been rewoven, we need to realize that only we can change it. That begins with showing up.
We need to show up at our schools, if not as teachers, then as mentors. Go to school meetings to find out what’s going on. For those us with young boys, start asking them where they plan to go to college, what jobs do they want, and how they are going to get there? For those of us with daughters, ask them the same questions, and not only of our daughters, but the fathers of daughters that our sons might marry. You can’t raise a family on love and fresh air.
The handwriting, unless we change it, is on the wall and men; we need to be aware that if we believe that we are to be partners in our families, we need to take a more concerted role in how to do that! It’s the economy! Rosin points out that “To see the future—of the workforce, the economy, and the culture—spend some time at America’s colleges and professional schools, where a quiet revolution is under way. More than ever, college is the gateway to economic success, a necessary precondition for moving into the upper-middle class—and increasingly even the middle class. It’s this broad, striving middle class that defines our society. And demographically, we can see with absolute clarity that in the coming decades the middle class will be dominated by women.”
Maybe that’s a good thing. I won’t answer that for you. I just know I see it every semester, weakened males who don’t know what they are going to do with their lives, hungering for validation. These are men with no hill to claim, because it’s been taken away from them by telling them they are useless. These are men with no moral imperative because women are showing the country they are totally capable of raising families on their own, and in some situations, the government has subsidized this moral decay. These men are lost, and those of us who’ve climbed hills, have some idea of what the end looks like, we need to mentor young men.
We have to wake up, men. As we begin a new decade, this imperative will be our legacy. As we begin this new decade, this imperative with be our ‘rite of passage,’ the torch we will pass. As we begin a new decade, we need to take note or adapt as Tom Mortenson, a senior scholar at Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. And we need to adapt by “getting the education they need to get along out there,” for a more affluent life.
Everyone should get what they earn. Earning an A is a validation of effort and men, if you want an A, first show up for class; listen and understand things have changed and remember most of all, God created Eve to complement not compete with us. Make a resolution to work toward being a better partner. Let’s show up and help each other this year!