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Boys Left Behind

Gender Role Changes in Alaska

Judith Kleinfeld and Maria Elena Reyes

The gender gap in college enrollment and completion has become a concern in many nations. The phenomenon is extreme in Alaska, particularly among indigenous people. Semi-structured interviews with 162 urban and indigenous students graduating from high school, and in addition, two single-gender focus groups, suggest that many young men do not see a college education as necessary to financial success and do not expect to assume the gender role of sole family provider. Young women tend to see a college degree as essential to changed gender roles where women are expected to attend college, pursue a career, and not be dependent on a man for financial support. Many young men withdraw from the demands of a verbally-saturated high school curriculum, which they find unenjoyable. Both young men and young women tend to label male withdrawal from school as “male laziness,” an essentialist interpretation rather than an interpretation based on the school environment and changing gender roles.

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Martin Ashley, Jürgen Budde, Andrew Calimach, Heather Ellis, Pauline Farley, Stephen T. Graef, Diederik Janssen, Amanda Keddie, Bertha Mook, Peter Redman and Maria Elena Reyes

For this, the sixth issue of Thymos, which will conclude its third year of publication and with a lively plan of upcoming issues already in place, I asked the members of our editorial board and all past contributors to Thymos to informally respond to this question: “As someone who has written about ‘the boy’ and ‘boyhood’, how do you conceptualize and define these terms as you begin to study and write about issues facing ‘boys’, in the cities, in rural settings, in schools, in various contemporary cultures?” I also suggested that the meaning of “the boy” and “boyhood” may, in fact, be the central issue of boyhood studies at this point. The question elicited eleven remarkably different responses, which follow.