Heaven help us, but Bobo has read another book. In “Why Men Fail” he ‘splains to us that a new book argues that the reason today’s women are having an easier time succeeding is because of their adaptability. Men are stuck in old mores. Right, Bobo. You keep on telling us what victims white men are. Mr. Cohen, in “Super Mario to the Rescue,” says one way to view Mario Draghi’s battle with the Bundesbank is this: A big idea (Europe) versus a smaller one (price stability). Mr. Nocera says “In Chicago, It’s a Mess, All Right,” and has a question: Will anything really change once this teachers’ strike ends? Mr. Bruni, in “Suffer the Children,” says in the Catholic Church and other institutions, old habits get in the way of preventing sexual abuse. Here’s Bobo:
You’re probably aware of the basic trends. The financial rewards to education have increased over the past few decades, but men failed to get the memo.
In elementary and high school, male academic performance is lagging. Boys earn three-quarters of the D’s and F’s. By college, men are clearly behind. Only 40 percent of bachelor’s degrees go to men, along with 40 percent of master’s degrees.
Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent. In Friday’s jobs report, male labor force participation reached an all-time low.
Millions of men are collecting disability. Even many of those who do have a job are doing poorly. According to Michael Greenstone of the Hamilton Project, annual earnings for median prime-age males have dropped by 28 percent over the past 40 years.
Men still dominate the tippy-top of the corporate ladder because many women take time off to raise children, but women lead or are gaining nearly everywhere else. Women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s. Twelve out of the 15 fastest-growing professions are dominated by women.
Over the years, many of us have embraced a certain theory to explain men’s economic decline. It is that the information-age economy rewards traits that, for neurological and cultural reasons, women are more likely to possess.
To succeed today, you have to be able to sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. You have to be emotionally sensitive and aware of context. You have to communicate smoothly. For genetic and cultural reasons, many men stink at these tasks.
But, in her fascinating new book, “The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin posits a different theory. It has to do with adaptability. Women, Rosin argues, are like immigrants who have moved to a new country. They see a new social context, and they flexibly adapt to new circumstances. Men are like immigrants who have physically moved to a new country but who have kept their minds in the old one. They speak the old language. They follow the old mores. Men are more likely to be rigid; women are more fluid.
This theory has less to do with innate traits and more to do with social position. When there’s big social change, the people who were on the top of the old order are bound to cling to the old ways. The people who were on the bottom are bound to experience a burst of energy. They’re going to explore their new surroundings more enthusiastically.
Rosin reports from working-class Alabama. The women she meets are flooding into new jobs and new opportunities — going back to college, pursuing new careers. The men are waiting around for the jobs that left and are never coming back. They are strangely immune to new options. In the Auburn-Opelika region, the median female income is 140 percent of the median male income.
Rosin also reports from college campuses where women are pioneering new social arrangements. The usual story is that men are exploiting the new campus hookup culture in order to get plenty of sex without romantic commitments. Rosin argues that, in fact, women support the hookup culture. It allows them to have sex and fun without any time-consuming distractions from their careers. Like new immigrants, women are desperate to rise, and they embrace social and sexual rules that give them the freedom to focus on their professional lives.
Rosin is not saying that women are winners in a global gender war or that they are doing super simply because men are doing worse. She’s just saying women are adapting to today’s economy more flexibly and resiliently than men. There’s a lot of evidence to support her case.
A study by the National Federation of Independent Business found that small businesses owned by women outperformed male-owned small businesses during the last recession. In finance, women who switch firms are more likely to see their performance improve, whereas men are more likely to see theirs decline. There’s even evidence that women are better able to adjust to divorce. Today, more women than men see their incomes rise by 25 percent after a marital breakup.
Forty years ago, men and women adhered to certain ideologies, what it meant to be a man or a woman. Young women today, Rosin argues, are more like clean slates, having abandoned both feminist and prefeminist preconceptions. Men still adhere to the masculinity rules, which limits their vision and their movement.
If she’s right, then men will have to be less like Achilles, imposing their will on the world, and more like Odysseus, the crafty, many-sided sojourner. They’ll have to acknowledge that they are strangers in a strange land.
Here’s Mr. Cohen, who’s back in London:
Germany’s Mannschaft has always been a formidable soccer team. Its chief quality has been a tenacity and tempo capable of overcoming all odds. This is not to say that Germany has failed to produce great footballers — Gerd Müller, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Franz Beckenbauer come to mind. It is merely to say collective power has trumped individual prowess.
But against one team Germany always breaks down as if caught in a web. It pushes, it presses, it pounds — and it flounders. That team is Italy, whose 2-1 victory over the favored German side in this year’s European Championship extended a long run of major-tournament domination over Germany. Italian malleability and artistry are too much for German diktat.
All of this comes to mind as I watch Super Mario undo Germany with a series of feints that have left hardline Bundesbank bruisers looking as nimble and effective as beached whales. (With a battle cry of “You will not short me!” Super Mario has also gone mano-a-mano with the hedgies betting against the euro, but that is another story.)
Little by little, Mario Draghi, the Italian president of the European Central Bank, has taken an institution whose overriding mission was to keep inflation in check — the obsession that built the Deutsche Mark — and turned it into a lender of last resort prepared to throw everything into buying the distressed euro-zone sovereign debt of countries like Spain and Italy and so preserve the euro. “Whatever it takes,” Draghi says. He means it.
Many Germans are not happy, convinced an inflationary southern rot is setting in, but Draghi is right. Europe is irreversible; for that, at this point, the euro must be, too. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution speaks of “a more perfect union.” The founding European treaties speak of “ever closer union.” For neither has the road to union been devoid of battles between north and south. But the cause has been worth the fight on both sides of the Atlantic: There simply is no greater one. For Europe the approaching centennial of the outbreak of World War I should be sufficient reminder of that.
But people have short memories. They think the euro is a dispensable experiment, a technical construct or a hedgie’s plaything, when it is the solemn gage of German commitment to a united Europe — a project that, like most great undertakings, comes at a price.
For both Germany and Italy, the European Union was a way out of post-war devastation and shame. For Italy, in addition, it was a way “to scale the Alps,” to tie itself to the more developed parts of Europe and resist the chaotic tug of its southern half. Now a united Germany views Europe more as actuary than supplicant. In Italy, by contrast, a certain European idealism endures. One way to view Draghi’s battle with Jens Weidmann and the Bundesbank is this: A big idea (Europe) versus a smaller one (price stability).
But what good is a Europe where the treaty-stipulated role of the central bank is being finessed by Super Mario, where Germany becomes the permanent subsidizer of debtor nations like Spain and Italy, and where depression and unemployment become the enduring lot of poorer countries unable to regain competitiveness through devaluation?
The answer is that this is not a good Europe. The immediate future will be very tough, but it is a lot better than the tumultuous alternative of Europe’s unraveling; and in this crisis the seeds of ever greater European integration are being sown. (If the E.C.B. is now the Fed, what must the European Union become?) The euro was a hasty marriage precipitated by the end of the Cold War, the quid pro quo of Germany’s anxious neighbors for its unification. This crisis is a belated post-bubble reckoning with the implications of that act.
And so the push is now on toward necessary conditions of a shared currency like fiscal union — Draghi’s unlimited purchase of bonds is conditioned on tough fiscal adjustment programs — and a banking union built around a new euro-zone supervisor. The path to both will be rough. Politicians’ interests are at stake. Economies are shrinking. But whatever the howls it is clear enough this far into the euro crisis that “ever closer union” is an obstinate idea that has entered the European consciousness, even if it goes unmentioned.
Certainly, it is present in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mind. She lived under Communism in a Germany divided by the consequences of fascism and so knew the two great scourges of 20th-century Europe. Slowly, cautiously, falteringly she has moved in the right direction and deserves credit.
Draghi the Jesuit has helped her, with his elliptical phrases and very Italian capacity to zigzag to the objective. It is tempting to compare him to Alexander Hamilton at the time of the U.S. assumption crisis. But I prefer to see him as Andrea Pirlo, the Italian midfielder with 360-degree vision, never hurried, always assured, master of the short and the long pass, bane of Germany, a fantasist who hits the target with precision.
Next up is Mr. Nocera:
“This is going to be a hot, buttery mess.”
It was April 2011. The new man was Jean-Claude Brizard, who had cut his teeth working with one of the country’s best-known school reformers, Joel Klein in New York City, before becoming superintendent of schools in Rochester. There he promoted charter schools and merit pay, pushed for performance standards — and so infuriated the teachers’ union that it overwhelmingly gave him a vote of no confidence two months before he left for Chicago.
In naming Brizard, Emanuel was sending a clear signal: He was going to push the same kind of aggressive reform agenda as Mayor Michael Bloomberg had in New York. And Emanuel has — lengthening Chicago’s notoriously short school day, backing charter schools and promoting tougher evaluations of teachers. He has not done this with any particular finesse. The move to extend the school day had even many parents complaining about how it was handled. Then again, neither did Bloomberg.
Yet, even in Bloomberg’s New York, where the pushback from the teachers’ union was fierce, the teachers never went on strike. Across the country, teachers complained of being unfairly vilified, and unfairly scrutinized, but, in general, they grudgingly accepted that there was too much momentum to stop things like charter schools and performance standards. Democrats and Republicans alike supported them.
In Chicago, on Monday, Lewis and her 26,000-member union appear to have drawn a line in the sand and said: We’re done with reform. Though the Chicago school district is expected to have a $3 billion shortfall over the next three years, according to Reuters, the issues that separate the teachers and the Emanuel administration have very little to do with money. They almost completely revolve around reform: whether the teachers will agree to the performance standards the city wants; whether teachers who lose their jobs when a school closes can have first dibs on new openings; whether pay should be based on merit or seniority. I don’t know how hot or buttery it is, but it sure is a mess.
As regular readers know, I have been somewhat skeptical of the reform movement. For those disadvantaged students who get into a good charter school or land in a program that can help them succeed, that’s wonderful. In the grand scheme of things, though, the number of students who get that kind of attention is small. There really isn’t much evidence that introducing choice and competition — an important rationale for charter schools — has forced the big-city public schools to improve. Until somebody figures out how to create reforms that work for all, and not just the lucky few, American public education will continue to suffer. The reform movement hasn’t come close to that goal.
On the other hand, the status quo, which is what the Chicago teachers want, is clearly unacceptable. In Chicago, about 60 percent of public school students graduate from high school. The percentage who graduate from college before the age of 25 is appalling: somewhere around 6 percent. In a meeting with Emanuel, according to Jonathan Alter, who profiled the mayor for The Atlantic earlier this year, Lewis “derided the longer day as ‘baby-sitting and warehousing.’ ” On Sunday night, when she announced that the teachers were going on strike, Lewis said that teachers should not be at risk of losing their jobs over new evaluations that rely heavily on standardized test scores, which don’t account for outside factors like poverty and homelessness. Reformers have long complained that teachers’ unions too often use poverty as an excuse for poor performance. Lewis’s remarks would seem to justify that complaint.
What is frustrating about this strike, with its powerful national undercurrents, is that it is unlikely to change much. What both sides are doing is completely understandable. Like unions everywhere, the Chicago Teachers Union is trying to hold on to what it has, while management is trying to impose new work rules. However it is settled, teachers will still feel under assault, while reformers will continue to feel as if the union is the enemy. It’s a little like the battles in the 1970s and 1980s between unions and industry, with the two sides fighting each other so fiercely that neither noticed that imports were on the rise and globalization was making their squabbles irrelevant.
Students in other countries now regularly outperform American students. We are truly in the midst of an education crisis — one that won’t be solved until we completely rethink the way we offer public education. For starters, teachers and school administrators need to start working together instead of fighting each other. What the strike in Chicago mainly illustrates is how far we are from that goal.
Last but not least, here’s Mr. Bruni:
Just how flagrant does a pedophile need to be before the people around him contact the police? Just how far beyond seeming to force himself on a boy in a shower or loading up his laptop with photos of little girls’ crotches does he have to go?
In the first instance I’m referring to Jerry Sandusky, whom Penn State officials allowed to continue working with children even after they were told that something was seriously amiss. In the second I’m referring to the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a Catholic priest in Missouri whose superiors acted no less despicably.
In May 2010, the principal of a parochial school next door to the parish where Father Ratigan served sent a memorandum to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, as Laurie Goodstein reported in The Times. It flagged his odd behavior, including his habit of instructing children to reach into his pockets for candy.
In December 2010, hundreds of troubling, furtively taken photographs were found on his laptop, according to court testimony given too long after that fact. One showed a toddler’s genitals.
In what jail or prison cell, you might ask, did Father Ratigan spend the first half of 2011? None.
After the photos were discovered, he attempted suicide, received counseling and was reassigned by Bishop Robert W. Finn, the head of the diocese, to a new post as a chaplain to an order of nuns. There he was allowed to celebrate Mass for youth groups and host an Easter egg hunt, and he was caught taking a photograph under the table, up the skirt of the daughter of parishioners who had invited him into their home.
In May 2011, a diocesan official finally told police about the extent of Father Ratigan’s cache of child pornography. He was convicted of possession of it in August 2011. And last week Bishop Finn was convicted of failing to report him to law enforcement authorities, and got two years of probation.
He’s the first American bishop to be found criminally culpable for his inaction in the face of suspected child abuse. It was a long time coming. Over the last quarter-century there have been hundreds upon hundreds of cases of molestation by Catholic priests. And one of the galling leitmotifs of this crisis, which was the subject of a 1993 book that a colleague and I wrote, has been church leaders’ refusal to treat priests as criminals rather than abashed penitents and to let them be prosecuted in ways that might keep them away from kids.
But I’m less interested in the grim milestone of Bishop Finn’s conviction than in the crucial lessons his story reiterates.
One is that institutions have a potent impulse to avoid public scandal, and do an execrable job of policing themselves. To protect their reputations or simply to avoid conflict, they minimize even the most destructive behavior. They convince themselves that they can handle it on their own. And they persuade themselves that their mission, be it the inculcation of religious faith or the scoring of touchdowns, trumps the law’s mandates.
Another is that for all the lip service that we pay to the preciousness of children and the importance of their futures, they remain the most voiceless members of our society. Many don’t know or understand what their rights are; many don’t have the maturity or mettle to exercise them. They depend on the vigilance and good faith of adults, which is to say they depend, all too often, on a fiction.
And a third is that we’re as likely to turn away from sexual pathology as confront it. It confounds and discomfits us.
These problems transcend the Catholic Church. Penn State is in part the parable of an institution that didn’t want to be distracted or humiliated and traded away the welfare of children, a shortsighted calculation with long-term wreckage.
The Boy Scouts of America covered up sexual abuse in its ranks. A recent Los Angeles Times review of files dating from 1970 to 1991 identified more than 125 cases of alleged molestation by men whom the organization had previously had reason to suspect of abusive behavior. “In some cases,” The Times noted, “officials failed to document reports of abuse in the first place.” In others, it failed to involve the police.
Over the last two decades the Catholic Church has spelled out stricter policies, including the prompt notification of law enforcement officials. And its defenders have complained that newly revealed instances of wrongdoing are usually old cases that predated better awareness of child sexual abuse, better education about it and a toughened resolve.
But the case of Father Ratigan postdates all of that — by many, many years. It suggests the tenacity of willful ignorance and deliberate evasion, even when the price is nothing less than the ravaged psyches of vulnerable children.