Richard Reeves gives ‘Of Boys and Men’ lecture at BYU Wheatley Institute

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Richard Reeves gives the keynote speech for the annual Wheatly Roundtable on Family. (Derek VanBuskirk)

Richard Reeves gave a keynote speech for the annual Wheatly Roundtable on Family about solving the “crisis of boys and men” on Nov. 1.

Reeves, a Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brooklyn Institution, recently published “Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It.”

Reeves shared why he wrote the book and said the issue is important to him because he is a father of three boys and that they would discuss these issues a lot. Upon further research, Reeves said he learned that things were worse than he thought, especially among men of color and working-class men.

Reeves suggested that “the problems of boys and men are usually characterized as a problem with boys and men.”

Reeves also said this is an issue on both sides of the political divide and conservatives might say that men just are not masculine enough, while the left may suggest that men are too masculine to the point where it’s toxic.

Reeves also said he feels the over-emphasis on individual responsibility distracts from the policy changes that he believes need to be implemented. “To be clear, I am a big believer in individual responsibility, but we have to be honest about the structural constraints that people face,” he said.

Throughout his speech, Reeves covered three different topics: (1) education, (2) the labor market and (3) family life and shared graphs and statistics that showed the direction of progress for men and women over time.

Reeves showed trends in the gender gap in the acquisition of 4-year degrees starting in 1971, a year before Title IX was passed. Back then, men were 13% more likely to get a 4-year degree than women.

Now, it’s 15% more likely that a woman will get a 4-year degree than a man. “The gender inequality in US higher education is wider today than in 1972 when Title IX was passed,” he said. “It’s just the other way around.”

Richard Reeves demonstrates the switch in the gender gap between men and women in receiving a 4-year degree. (Derek VanBuskirk)

Reeves also said longstanding trends in which men rank lower than women in high school GPA, the lack of male teachers in early education and how teenage adolescence affects boys and girls differently.

Although there has been a push for women to enter careers in STEM, Reeves said there has not been an equal push for men to join what he describes as HEAL jobs, careers with a focus on health, education, administration and literacy.

While Reeves said the women’s rights movement did a fantastic job of completing its goal to make women financially independent enough to make marriage a choice, he said, “it has come with profound consequences, at least for men. And it is our responsibility, even when there are positive social changes, to take seriously the second round effects on other groups.” 

Reeves advised delaying school entry for boys for a year, adding 1,000 new technical high schools and one million more apprenticeships, a mass recruitment drive of male teachers, subsidies for men entering HEAL training and jobs, independent paid leave for fathers and mothers and more legal rights for unmarried fathers.

BYU freshman Joey Tolman said he came to the keynote speech after seeing it on the BYU events page. “I thought it was just interesting,” he said of the lecture. “I haven’t considered that before.”

New mother Marissa Smith was also in attendance. “I’ve been going back and forth between the ‘should I work or stay home’ thing because I graduate in August,” she said. “I’ve been leaning towards working, but now it’s kind of pushing me back towards staying home until he starts kindergarten.”

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