An army of dunces

Byline: | Category: Blogging, Culture, Education | Posted at: Thursday, 24 May 2007

It’s interesting how different people can read the same thing very differently.  When that occurs over a blog post, it sometimes says more about the commenters than it does about what is being read.  Blogs as a virtual Rorschach, so to speak.

Earlier this week I posted about my experience at a recent high school graduation where I saw that women vastly outperformed men academically.  My post was strictly an observation.  There was no blame, no rant, no recommendations.

That’s not what some people read, however.  (Coincidentally, in fitting with the original subject matter at hand, at least if screen names are indicative of gender, we can also add reading comprehension to the list of subjects where men fall short–as the misinterpreters were predominantly male.)

I was struck by how much projection of one’s own worldview was misinterpreted into my view.  I did not call for “affirmative action” to remedy the inequality of outcome, nor did I view the inequality as an indication of some innately prejudicial system.

I did lament the lack of advocates for boys out there, but I did not call for boys to receive their advocacy at the expense of women, nor did I call for governmental programs to “fix” the problem.

Most of all what I was struck by was the zero-sum-game nature of many of the comments both on this site and at others discussing what I wrote (check the Technorati bug at the original post).  ”Roy,” for example, read into my writing that “success is actually finite, and the more women get of it the less is left for the guys.”  His comment was echoed by others who betrayed a zeitgeist that the advancement of one can only come at the expense of another.

Success in just about everything but sports doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.  However, the culture of victimhood has apparently inculcated within a number of people a reflexive response to want to push the successful down, when what is needed is to lift up the failing.  (Aside:  If you haven’t read Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron since grade school . . . or if you’re male, and you haven’t read it at all . . . it’s really worth a re-read, as it carries this phenomenon to a horrible extreme.)

Penalizing success is absolutely the wrong response since it does nothing to solve the underlying disadvantage.  It simply masks the problem by lessening the statistical distinction.  Yet, I was struck again and again how by simply bringing up the difference in academic achievement between sexes, it was automatically assumed that I was suggesting a remedial quota that would punish today’s achievers.

To be fair, it works both ways, as a number of commenters  argued that following rules, studying, and testing puts boys at a recent disadvantage–as if those haven’t always been a part of the American school system–even long before women began to outperform men.

If boys aren’t doing as well in school as girls, it is not because of what the girls are doing.  Nor is it the fault of what the system is doing for girls.  As the son of a mother, the husband of a wife, and the father of a daughter, I’m proud of the recent academic gains women have made, and wish not to see those reversed.  However, as the father of two sons, I want the system to work as well for my sons as it does for my daughter.

One other thing troubled me about some of the responses, not so much here, but on some other websites.  There was a definite air of gleeful schadenfreude in some comments.  They saw it as a “good thing” that boys were finally getting their comeuppance. 

It’s hard to know who anonymous internet commenters are, but I’d like to think that those writers don’t yet have children of their own.  Because it would be really sad if there was a group of parents out there who think that it’s alright to punish their sons for the sins of their fathers.

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10 Responses to “An army of dunces”

  1. brittney Says:

    Fantastic post, Bob. I commend you for speaking out against the sad displays of sexism I saw here on your site (by others, obviously).

  2. bob Says:

    “Sad displays of sexism” . . . from both sides.

    If you want to see the ugly mirror image of some of the comments you’re referring to, go to alicublog.blogspot.com (You’ll have to type the url in yourself; I’m not giving them free publicity.)

  3. brittney Says:

    Ick. I could only read three comments in.

  4. don surber Says:

    Very wise and profound on the commenters. “A virtual Rorschach” is indeed what it is. I seem to get libs who keep wanting to drag discussions off into space. As for anonymous comments, they are easily shrugged off

  5. Bob Krumm » The smallest minority Says:

    [...] A few commenters to this post (as well as other bloggers who linked to it) have some reading comprehension issues. More here. [...]

  6. Webutante Says:

    Great rejoinder, Bob. I couldn’t agree with you more on both posts. People who are more often than not lefties have a built in filter that interprets life by taking down a peg the achievers in favor artificially elevating the non-achievers. Hence the concept of tax cuts for the rich, dumbing down to the lowest common demoninator.

    We people always project on the level of our own(im)maturity and it always says more about us than it does about the other. I have seen it in all walks of life and professions. The worst offenders are often therapists who project stuff on their clients to their great discredit.

    So now we see how people like John Edwards or Hillary can get a leg up in the upcoming election–by pandering to these sad immature projections and promulgating victimhood again and again.

  7. Nashville is Talking » Projection, Much? Says:

    [...] I as happy to see this post at Bob Krumm’s place, a rejection of some of the sexist comments that came through on his original post: I was struck by how much projection of one’s own worldview was misinterpreted into my view. I did not call for “affirmative action” to remedy the inequality of outcome, nor did I view the inequality as an indication of some innately prejudicial system. [...]

  8. Slartibartfast Says:

    My comment at NiT was bascally “this is nothing new. Girls have been high academic acheivers at least since the 80′s”. So I guess the Rorschach says what we already knew: I’m old.

  9. Vol Abroad Says:

    your first link is dead – feel free to delete this comment

  10. bob Says:

    VA, Thanks. It’s fixed now.