Where have all the young men gone?
The recent series of full page ads advertising the public and private high school ‘graduates’ shows a solid national fact. The fact is non-controversial, and neither the ads nor I make any overt accusation against any racial group. The ads just show, and I simply see, a national fact.
Look at the whole accumulation of all the faces on display. Count them. In particular, count the genders. Count the graduating boys. Count the graduating girls. Add them all up.
You’ll see an unnatural disparity. What’s unnatural is that seventeen and eighteen years ago, as is entirely natural and predictable, the number of boys born roughly equaled the number of girls born. There was no great disparity then.
Yet seventeen and eighteen years later, in the numbers advertised as graduating, there is a material preponderance of girls. So far more girls ‘graduate’ than boys. Girls are graduating out of proportion to their numbers in their birth-group or age cohort.
So what happens to Bermuda’s non-graduating boys?
Before graduation, do boys die in disproportionate numbers on our roads? Certainly they die, but not in such large numbers. So no, it’s not that!
Before graduating, do they die or disappear fighting some war in some far-off dusty land? No!
Pre-graduation, do they, in large numbers, waste away from some dreaded male only disease? No!
Do young boys emigrate to other countries while young girls stay home? It seems not!
So what causes this visible disproportion in boy/girl high school graduation rates?
Is there something in our Bermuda water or food supply that only affects Bermuda males? Are there facts and realities and ‘somethings’ in our family and social and educational structures that have a strong, negative, and particular impact on young Bermudian men?
Certainly, a large number of young men are missing from this year’s crop of ‘graduating’ high school students. But in most of the media reports of crimes and illicit activity, young men predominate.
From media reports, it appears that the gun-men involved in the recent ‘drive-by shooting’ were all male. It seems that the snatchers involved in the ‘ride-by’ bag snatching are all male. It looks as if the people involved in the flag-burning and violent attack fracas at the Docksider Pub were all male. The shooter as well as the people shot in the Spinning Wheel shootings were reported to be male. There were no girls involved in the machete melee at Wellington Oval. So males are active. They exist.
Of course there’s nothing to say that all the males I’ve just mentioned are recent high school non-graduates. I haven’t said that. But they do appear to be all male. Similarly, males greatly outnumber females – is it as high as eight to one? – in Bermuda’s national prison system.
So there’s the national imbalance. There’s the gender imbalance.
At the time of high school get-your-picture-in-the-paper graduation, males are a distinct minority. In crime and in the prison system, males are a distinct majority. Even allowing for the importation of guest workers, males are still the minority – but by a smaller margin – in Bermuda’s national workforce.
Why? Why? Why?
Part of the reason does lie in a national failure – first – to recognize, accept, and then vigorously address this gender and results issue with a clear plan to resolve it. The second lies in the reality that the continued increase of single parent absent father households is probably a factor that feeds the problem. The third reason lies with a national educating system that does not address, and that has not addressed, actual critical national issues in a timely and professional manner.
Overall, the young male problem that currently exists in Bermuda is a problem that is larger today than it was when I first wrote – way back in July 1992 and then re-wrote five years later in July 1997 – of the existence of a ‘Hidden Army in our midst’.
Back then, the ‘Hidden Army’ that I wrote of hadn’t yet taken to drive-by shooting. Nor had it indulged in ‘knee-cappings’. Now, it has, and the Hidden Army is still being added to. It’s still growing.
Are we still denying it? Or are we now about to admit – as a first step in combating it – that it actually does exist?